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Fact sheet: Boston homeless encampment liaison protocol

Review a fact sheet on Boston’s approach to encampments.

These points summarize the revised encampment protocol finalized on October 28, 2021 as part of the Executive Order Establishing a Coordinated Response to Public Health and Encampments, issued on October 19, 2021. This Executive Order will:

  • establish a central coordinating structure
  • implement procedures and social service interventions to address public health crisis created by tents or temporary shelters
  • identify shelter for immediate placements
  • establish clear and clean streets and walkways, and
  • increase crime/violence control and enforcement.
Boston’s Approach to Encampments

Boston strives to ensure the safety and wellbeing of people who use substances, have mental health needs, or are unsheltered in places not meant for human habitation. 

Encampments present significant public health, infectious disease, public safety, sanitation and fire safety challenges for unsheltered people, outreach workers, and first responders. 

Our approach to encampments focuses on:

  • Assessment and support: The City will assess the unique needs of each person.
  • Agency and opportunity: The City recognizes the importance of providing choices, whenever possible.  

Every unsheltered person is at risk and in need of assistance. 

Standard Site Removal Protocol

Sites that are determined to be an imminent risk will be subject to the Immediate Site Resolution Protocol. The Standard Site Removal Protocol will consist of five steps, coordinated by the Coordinated Response Team:

  • A. Notice of Removal to Unsheltered Individuals
  • B. Notice to Medical Care Providers
  • C. Outreach Regarding Services
  • D. Removal of the Encampment
  • E. Post-Removal Notification

A. Notice of Removal to Unsheltered Individuals

City employees will provide at least 48 hours verbal and written notice to affected individuals, prior to requiring removal of tents from public property.  Notices will include:

  • Date and time of required tent removal
  • Free personal property storage details
  • Abandoned property disposition details
  • Social service phone numbers
  • Shelter and housing phone numbers 

B. Notice to Medical Care Providers

City staff will also notify medical providers who care for individuals at the encampment site, to allow continuum of care coordination for patients and ensure individuals are not disconnected from care.

C. Outreach Regarding Services

City staff will provide service outreach at least twice to each person: at the time of notice, and again at least one day prior to tent removal.  Each person will be offered:

  • Drug treatment services, including inpatient detox
  • Access to shelter, including any available shelter bed or other low-threshold housing or shelter
  • Transportation (including vouchers) to shelter or treatment
  • Free personal property storage
  • Assistance contacting family members to support reunification

D. Removal of Encampment

No unsheltered individual will be required to remove their tent, unless shelter, housing, or treatment is available. 

People with barriers to compliance with certain housing and shelter rules must be offered any available low-threshold housing or shelter, inpatient detox, or other drug treatment before being required to move.

Individuals who refuse to move tents on public property may be considered disorderly and subject to enforcement of existing laws. They remain free to leave (i.e., not subject to arrest), with or without removing their tent

E. Post-Removal Notification

Following site clean-up, posted notices will indicate where temporarily stored items can be retrieved and provide social service contact information.

 Because every unsheltered person is at risk and in need of assistance, outreach workers will continue to engage unsheltered individuals and attempt to connect them with services.

Implementation

The new encampment protocol is now in effect, led by City of Boston public health agencies with other City, County, and State officials. The pace of encampment protocol operations will align with efforts to secure all available shelter, housing and/or treatment bed options and make appropriate placements for each person.

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