BOSTON (CBS) – A Suffolk Superior Court judge denied a bid by the ACLU to stop the city of Boston’s sweep of the homeless encampment known as Mass and Cass Wednesday.
“Those elected to represent us perhaps have the greatest interest in making sure that in this interim period, those at Mass and Cass are treated with dignity and respect,” said Judge Janet Sanders.
Suffolk Superior Court Judge Janet Sanders denies the ACLU’s request for a restraining order on the city of Boston’s dismantling of tents at Mass & Cass. She says she presides over “a court with little expertise in the areas of housing and mental health.” #wbz
— Christina Hager (@HagerWBZ) November 17, 2021
The ruling came a few hours after Boston’s new Mayor Michelle Wu had already promised to pause the dismantling of tents until court proceedings are finished. Despite the upset in court, ACLU attorney Ruth Bourquin said she was encouraged by Mayor Wu’s announcement earlier in the day. “That was very encouraging. Time will tell,” she said.
But the ACLU wanted it to come officially from a judge, through a temporary restraining order. “They’re being told they can’t even put a tent over their heads to protect them from falling snow and rain,” Bourquin argued in court.
Most of the tents have already been cleared from the original spot that Boston’s former Acting Mayor Kim Janey called a public health emergency, but many have now moved a few blocks over to Newmarket Square.
Boston’s city attorney told the judge crews are not taking down tents without offering people alternative shelter first. “One hundred twenty-six people have gone into drug treatment, 39 have gone into shelters. …There are still hundreds of people out there because they’re still coming,” said attorney Lisa Maki. “The more they come, and the longer the encampments stay, the more public safety risk.”
ACLU attorneys say group living is not an option for some. “They’ve had experience there. They know how triggering they are. One of the main plaintiffs is a victim of sexual assault,” said Bourquin.
The state has announced plans to put some temporary sheds on the grounds of the Lemuel Shattuck Hospital in Jamaica Plain next month.
At City Hall, Mayor Wu said she had plans to meet with the governor to talk about the issue Wednesday. “It’s life or death for our residents unhoused living on the streets. We need to move quickly to find solutions,” said Wu.