Official websites use

A website belongs to an official government organization in the City of Boston.


Secure .gov websites use HTTPS

A lock or https:// means you've safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Last updated:

Unlawful Camping Ordinance

The Coordinated Response Team supports an interagency collaboration to ensure unsheltered constituents receive shelter, storage, substance use treatment, and other services to support their stabilization and preserve accessibility and safety of public spaces for all.

Boston strives to ensure the safety and wellbeing of people who may find themselves unsheltered or staying in places not meant for human habitation. In this effort, the city recently passed an ordinance that bans individuals from setting up tents and tarps on public property. This ordinance also outlines a process, details below, on how to ensure that individuals in these encampments have access to housing and recovery services.

About Encampments

Unsanctioned temporary structures (such as tents and tarps) are sometimes referred to as encampments. They undermine the City’s ability to maintain adequate access to public property for individuals of all abilities, an unobstructed path of travel, and a safe and hazard-free environment for all individuals.

Encampments are often fire hazards that hinder fire personnel and first responders in the event of an emergency, create visual barriers that make it difficult for outreach workers and first responders to deliver public health and social services, and limit access or conceal criminal behavior. This all directly impacts public safety and diminishes the Boston Police Department’s ability to respond to individuals in need or directly address criminal activity.

Report an Encampment

When facing emergencies or situations requiring urgent help, please call 911 for immediate assistance. 

For most encampments, the best course of action is contacting 311 by submitting a ticket through the 311 app or directly calling their hotline. This 311 request notifies the city about the encampments and will be assessed as soon as possible. 

Boston will use a combined public health and public safety approach to address the complex issues of homeless encampments. Coordinated public health and public safety teams will provide outreach and service offerings to any person staying in an encampment prior to requesting or requiring its removal.

City Response When Shelter is Available

This ordinance only applies to encampments located in public space maintained by the City of Boston when emergency shelter space is available. The protocol does not apply to federal, state or private property.

The Site Resolution Protocol When Shelter is Available will consist of three steps, coordinated by the CRT:

  1. Offer of Shelter
    1. City employees will provide an offer of available Emergency Shelter Space to individuals, and must inform individuals that transportation to the Emergency Shelter is available.
  2. Storage of Property
    1. City employees will offer and provide storage for personal belongings, consistent with the City Storage Program Policy. If property at a Campsite is not claimed by any person, City staff will assess whether it is abandoned or temporarily unattended and shall store temporarily unattended eligible property. 
  3. Removal of the Encampment
    1.  Once the City has engaged an individual with an Offer of Shelter and Storage of Property, the City will remove any Campsite and/or camp materials that are not removed by the individual.

City Response When Shelter is Unavailable

If emergency shelter is unavailable, a Campsite or use of Camping materials must comply with existing state and local laws to ensure the public health and safety of those in and around the Campsite. City officials will be maintaining a list, updated daily, with available shelter information.

Back to top