Outrage as Illegal Immigrants Get Housing Priority Over Boston's Longstanding Homeless Camp
Outrage as Illegal Immigrants Get Housing Priority Over Boston's Longstanding Homeless Camp

By Alice Giordano

Just a few miles from the ivory halls of Harvard College and blocks from some of the most expensive real estate in the country is a deplorable out-in-the-open encampment of wandering drug users, a plethora of homeless Americans including U.S. veterans and people with mental illness, suspected human trafficking, and heaps of scattered trash that looks more like a staged scene in a movie on the ghetto district of downtown LA than upscale Boston.

The South End/Roxbury neighborhood, known as “Mass and Cass” for its location at the corner of Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue, has for a long time been in this condition. “Ever since I can remember,” retired Massachusetts State Trooper Daralyn Heywood, who served as the first female commander of the state police of the South End barracks, told The Epoch Times.

Mrs. Heywood, a Republican, made an unsuccessful bid for state Senate last year. She now works as a private investigator.

She and others familiar with Boston politics are outraged by an unintended hypocrisy born out of a recent power grab over the troubled neighborhood—one they say underscores just how far gone the American government is when it comes to taking care of illegal immigrants “over their own.”

“It’s just disgusting. We have Citizens of the United States, some veterans, in desperate need of help in a right-to-shelter state, yet we are buying up hotels for illegals,” said Massachusetts State Republican Rep. Peter Durant.

The unwitting hypocrisy brought on by government officials began a little over a week ago when Boston City Council President Ed Flynn, son of legendary Boston Mayor Ray Flynn, became acting Mayor during a 10-day vacation taken by Boston Mayor Michelle Wu.

Three days into Ms. Wu’s vacation, Mr. Flynn declared public outrage over Mass and Cass, released an open letter calling for its cleanup, and brought along local press for a walkthrough of the neighborhood.

Mr. Flynn told the Boston Herald, “It was worse than I expected,” and told a local podcast that it was so dangerous that outreach workers had to be pulled from the area. Mr. Flynn suggested a warrant sweep.

Not long after Mr. Flynn’s public decries, Wu’s press office issued a public statement indicating that “while she is physically unavailable,” she would “still be making all major decisions that need to be made” relevant to the neighborhood.

Her office also said there would be no warrant sweep.

The “mayoral miff,” as termed by one national media outlet, fell in the same week Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey declared a state of emergency over what she called a crisis in a shortage of housing and public services for the “rapidly rising number of migrant families arriving in Massachusetts.”

Weeks earlier, it was revealed Ms. Healey had allocated millions of taxpayer dollars across the state to secure entire hotels and other housing for thousands of illegal immigrants.

But neither she, Ms. Wu, nor Mr. Flynn has made any moves to declare a state of emergency for the people of Mass and Cass. “It’s hypocrisy at its highest level,” said Mr. Durant.

In May, Mr. Durant filed a records request with Ms. Healey’s office asking for an exact figure of the money being pumped into housing for illegal immigration and also for a list of the specific hotels that she was securing with the money.

He made the records request after learning Ms. Healey had secured housing in 28 towns for 3,853 illegal migrants, with more entering the state daily.

Ms. Healey denied Mr. Durant’s request, claiming that the “Office of the Governor is not subject to the Massachusetts public records law.”

Mr. Durant and Mrs. Heywood and others, including an on-site social worker who spoke to The Epoch Times on the condition of anonymity, questioned why Mr. Flynn, Mayor Wu, and  Gov. Healey aren’t declaring state of emergencies for the estimated 200 people that make up the Boston encampment.

A patrol officer who worked for a private security company hired by the City of Boston walks through a homeless encampment in the city’s South End district (Photo by Alice Giordano)

Mrs. Heywood said years ago, when the population at Mass and Cass was much higher, police were at least able to bring some of the worst cases from there to the government-run mental health facilities, but she said they have since been defunded and closed.

“If they are spending millions on housing immigrants and really concerned about humanitarian needs, why not for their own?” asked Mrs. Heywood.

She said while there is definitely a mixture of violent criminals, heavy drug users, and people with what she called “hardcore” mental illnesses, many also just need housing and outreach services, like those currently being provided to illegal immigrants.

Despite his push for public attention to the Mass and Cass plight, Mr. Flynn did not respond to repeated inquiries from The Epoch Times.

The only move so far to fix the problem was to take away the tents and other makeshift shelters, including a construct of cardboard boxes and tarps, which was done under Ms. Wu’s administration and Mr. Flynn’s watch as head of the Boston City Council.

Ms. Healey was still serving as Massachusetts attorney general at the time.

A Jan. 12, 2022, picture that ran in Politico shows a bulldozer scooping up their only means of housing along with furniture and other items that made up the place they called home.

Since then, a whole new landscape of such makeshift housing has returned.

Fueling the allegations of hypocrisy against Mr. Flynn, Ms. Wu, and Ms. Healey, all of whom have promoted the Black Lives Matter slogan, is the neighborhood’s backstory as a place meant to symbolize an improved life for laborers, minorities, and the less fortunate.

Melnea Cass Boulevard, the epicenter of the squalid district, is named after a local civil rights activist and co-founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a union for African-American employees who worked for local railroad car manufacturer The Pullman Company.

Mr. Durant said there is “just no excuse not to at the very least house the people, especially the veterans who served this country, alongside immigrants at the hotels being paid for by taxpayers.”

Mrs. Heywood called it the “ultimate government betrayal” and questioned why the hypocrisy isn’t angering the public more.

Meanwhile, the situation has proven to be a double-edged sword for businesses that contend with the residual effects of the Mass and Cass community.

Last year, business owner Domingos DaRosa told CBS News that his property is not only riddled on a daily basis with used needles, but some of the residents are starting to use them to threaten property owners who kick them off their property.

Mr. DaRosa, who was later issued a court summons in 2020 for taking some of the used hypodermic needles from Mass and Cass and dumping them on the lawn of then-Gov. Charlie Baker’s house in Swampscott, an oceanfront community about 15 miles north of Boston.

“What about OUR community? Who cares about the safety and inhumane conditions of our community impacted by this humanitarian crisis?” Mr. DaRosa asked in a Facebook post. He was later cited for harassment and ordered to stay away from Mr. Baker’s property.

The People of Mass and Cass

On Saturday, Aug. 12, the day Ms. Wu was scheduled to return from her vacation and take back the reins, The Epoch Times walked into the zone of Mass and Cass with no police escort and spent the day talking to many of the hundreds of people who call the squalid encampment home.

One resident, a 27-year-old white man wearing a Red Sox hat who landed in Mass and Cass after he and his mother got evicted from their home, offered up a bottle of water, saying, “I know you must be hot standing out here all day.”

The young man, who asked to remain anonymous, told The Epoch Times that he knows “everyone thinks we’re all strung out druggies here, and we’re not.”

Another resident that spoke with The Epoch Times was Michael Banks, a tall black man who spoke especially articulately. Until just a few months ago, he lived in an apartment in nearby Roxbury until alcoholism, he admitted, “got the better” of him.

Mr. Banks, lucid and clearly not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, spoke about the disgust he felt about the way the city officials and media have portrayed the area, noting that when Mr. Flynn did his “media walkthrough,” he didn’t stop to talk to a single person living on the streets of Mass and Cass.

He said the same goes with the media, which has been running stories almost daily about the Flynn-Wu controversy alongside the stories about all the services being offered “unconditionally” to illegal immigrants.

“Nobody has bothered to come and talk to us,” he said. “You’re actually the first.”

Mr. Banks talks about how the media chooses to write about the smell of human urine, the scattered needles, and people having sex in public—as if “we want to live in this.”

He said the encampment had been used as a “political freak show” and that he and others have talked about how degraded they feel over the “well-publicized priority” their own government officials are giving to illegal immigrants over them.

He said of the illegal immigrants, “They’ve complained about food and scratchy sheets, and we’re American citizens quite literally sleeping on the pavement.”

Asked about three recent stabbings reported there recently by the Boston police and even a stolen dog recovered near the encampment, Banks responded, “Yeah, of course, there’s some bad people here.”

“That’s what happens when you put all your homeless people, from people with severe drug addictions to people who just shouldn’t be out on the streets, in one spot with no bathrooms and no privacy,” he said.

He pointed to one man standing alone, talking to himself with his eyes closed, and rubbing his arms seemingly uncontrollably. The Epoch Times also observed many disabled people, including a man who was missing a foot and was confined to a wheelchair.

“Where are Flynn and Healey’s concerns for him?” he asked.

Until recently, Danielle Boyle, one of the dozens of women who call the encampment home, worked at a local Dunkin’ and lived in a trailer in nearby Revere.

Ms. Boyle said when the property was sold, she was told to leave because the trailer was being moved.

The 39-year-old admitted she had a troubled life and struggled with an addiction to cocaine and heroin. She spoke fluently with The Epoch Times for more than an hour, in large part about all the attempts she has made to get housing and being told “there was a waiting list.”

“I’d kill to be in any hotel room and be able to take a private hot shower,” said Ms. Boyle, who grew up in nearby East Boston and said she once attended medical school.

Ms. Boyle said she often wonders if illegal immigrants “really are just being handed everything like it seems” when American citizens have to” jump through so many hoops” to get basic services.

She said she has been arrested twice and charged with shoplifting for stealing food to eat and clothes to wear. “I know it wasn’t right, but then I hear about the crimes illegal immigrants are committing, some far worse than shoplifting, and that the prosecutors are letting them go,” said Boyle with tears streaming down her cheeks. “It just hurts. I’m a human being too.”

Others expressed similar feelings to The Epoch Times about the disparity between the help America’s homeless are receiving versus the help illegal immigrants are receiving.

One resident who has been living there for almost five years said that when he and another Mass and Cass resident helped carry someone from the encampment to an area hospital, there were “whole families” of illegal immigrants sitting in the emergency room, “yet we were told we had to leave.”

The man, who works for DoorDash, told The Epoch Times he ended up in the encampment after no rental in the city would accept his dog, a pit bull.

The friendly medium-sized dog had a healthy coat and appeared to be in excellent condition. He also appears to be popular among many people in the encampment, with some stopping by to give him pats and belly rubs.

Many also talked to The Epoch Times about the deplorable conditions inside the shelters and outreach centers.

There is a men’s shelter opposite the row of tents and a women’s shelter several blocks away. Ms. Boyle said she was so afraid after the first night that she never went back. “I would rather sleep behind a dumpster than in there,” she said.

During the day on Saturday, The Epoch Times was denied entrance to the shelters and also into the outreach center, leaving those who don’t have a spot in the shelters with no place to go to the bathroom.

Ms. Boyle said she has tried to use restrooms of fast food restaurants but has been kicked out every time and even threatened with arrest if she returned.

A city official walking around the encampment from Boston Public Health Commission told The Epoch Times that there used to be porta-potties on site, but that they were taken away.  The official, who was wearing a badge attached to a lanyard around his neck, asked not to be named by The Epoch Times.

When asked what he thought about Gov. Healey’s crisis call for housing for illegal immigrants, he shook his head and said, “There are U.S. veterans here, including some who are disabled.”

How Illegal Immigrants Are Treating America’s Handouts

The scene at Mass and Cass has striking similarities to scenes described recently by Lady Gaga’s father, Joe Germanotta, in an Upper West Side neighborhood in New York City where Boston’s government counterparts recently secured the Stratford Arms Hotel building to house illegal immigrants.

Mr. Germanotta, who has lived in the neighborhood for 35 years, told the New York Post that there are “hookers coming and going” around the clock to the illegal immigrants’ hotel, that neighborhood children have been inappropriately propositioned by some of them, and that residents are subjected on a nightly basis to a gang of illegal immigrants playing loud music in the streets and racing unregistered motorbikes.

“They’re guests in our neighborhood, and they have basically taken over,” Mr. Germanotta said.

New York has also declared a state of emergency for housing for illegal immigrants.

In May, a Queens couple told Channel 4 in New York that just weeks before their wedding at a city hotel, they were informed that all 37 rooms they had booked for the occasion were instead given to illegal immigrants.

Female workers at yet other New York hotels have told the media they have been sexually harassed by illegal immigrants housed there by the U.S. government.

Mr. Germonatta’s recent account is also reminiscent of a scene described in a January news article by the New York Post about massive amounts of food provided at taxpayers’ expense being wasted by illegal immigrants being housed near Times Square. It also ran photos of hotel rooms littered with empty beer cans and other trash.

During his conversation with The Epoch Times, Mr. Banks asked how such problems in the Mass and Cass encampment were any different than the behavior by illegal immigrants.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, The Boston Herald ran a story about the Roxbury community being upset that the ills of Mass and Cass are preventing the use of the Clifford Playground and concerns it will stymie a planned $7.2 million makeover.

The article focused mostly on the discovery of needles in the eight-acre park and the potential safety risks it poses for children using the park.

It also described the discovery of human feces around the park and observations of people having sex there.

The daily newspaper also ran a related story about the no-show of Boston City Councilors at a tour of the park scheduled for Saturday, around the same time The Epoch Times visited the Mass and Cass encampment.

According to the Herald article, not one of the 13 councilors showed up—including Mr. Flynn.

In other related developments, Boston officials recently proposed tax breaks for businesses around the Mass and Cass encampment.

Amid Mr. Flynn’s public outcry over Mass and Cass while Ms. Wu was away, the mayor also issued a statement heralding funding garnered by Boston to reopen an addiction recovery center that is reachable only by bridge. The bridge, known as the Long Island Bridge, was torn down years ago.

Wu said the funding will also be used to rebuild the bridge and projected the project would start sometime in 2024 and take about two years to complete.

To the residents of Mass and Cass, some of who joke about learning how to speak Spanish so they get quicker help, the news was not exactly welcome.

“I don’t think I can hold it for three years,” said Ms. Boyle, alluding to the lack of proper bathroom facilities at the encampment.

Both Mrs. Heywood and Mr. Durant pointed out that “state of emergency” means immediate—and that Boston’s homeless shouldn’t have to wait for a bridge to be built to get the same services extended to them that are being immediately extended to those who are illegally in the country.

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