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Mass and Cass: Showing What's Possible

Working to better serve unsheltered individuals with substance use disorder centered in the Mass and Cass area. 

The “Mass and Cass” area in Boston gets its name from the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard. In recent years, the opioid epidemic, the housing crisis, and the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to an increase in those experiencing unsheltered homelessness in Mass and Cass.

To address these intersecting crises, the City led a vital effort to transition people from the streets into low-threshold transitional housing and shelter. In May 2022, Mayor Wu shared the City's latest updates:

  1. a Warm Weather Plan, to prioritize public health and public safety in the neighborhood, and 
  2. a Long-Term Public Health Strategic Outlook, to guide City initiatives.

Jan. 2022 - Public Health Emergency Response

To respond to the humanitarian crisis in the Mass and Cass area, the City took a public health-led and equity-focused approach.  The City worked to transition individuals from tents to low-barrier shelters and housing. These “low-threshold” spaces are more supportive for individuals with a substance use disorder. They also practice harm reduction and offer a range of critical services and referrals.

Key Terms Definitions
Low-Threshold Programs Programs that do not have strict entry requirements related to abstinence or engagement in treatment and services.
Harm Reduction An evidence-based practice that reduces harm from drug use and engages people in care.
Understanding the unsheltered community at Mass and Cass

The Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) conducted a survey from December 6 to December 9, 2021 to:

  1. better understand the needs of the neighborhood's unsheltered individuals, and
  2. ensure equal and fair access to resources across race, ethnicity, and gender.

220321 Mass and Cass

Low-threshold Transitional Housing and shelter Sites

From November 2021 to January 2022, the City worked with our partners and the state to open six low-threshold sites, totaling 200 beds. These new transitional shelter and housing sites provide critical supportive services. They also help individuals transition to long-term housing and/or treatment. 

Each site is equipped with staffing and security, and aims to connect guests to: 

  • medical care, including primary care
  • psychiatric and mental health care
  • housing navigation services, and
  • substance use disorder care and treatment, counseling, and education.

Learn more about the Sites 

Ways to Help

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