Breaking down “Operation Clean Sweep”

How do you balance public safety and neighborhood quality of life concerns with support for the most marginalized people in a community?

Those issues exploded into public view with the recent arrests of homeless people and drug users as part of “Operation Clean Sweep,” a set of Boston police actions centered on the streets near Newmarket Square where the city’s South End, Roxbury, and Dorchester neighborhoods converge. 

But the issues are nothing new to state Rep. Liz Miranda and her constituents. She grew up in the shadow of Newmarket Square in a tight-knit Cape Verdean enclave of Roxbury, and says residents have been dealing for years with problems stemming from the concentration of drug treatment facilities and homeless shelters on their doorstep. The situation has gotten dramatically worse, she said, since the 2014 closing of the city’s shelter and addiction treatment facilities on Long Island.

For the former community organizer who is serving her first term in the House, the controversy that boiled over earlier this month brought some satisfaction that attention is finally being paid to the problems, mixed with concern over the approach city officials took, and questions about why longstanding community calls to deal with the deteriorating situation had gone ignored until now.

This “is a community that’s been speaking up pretty loudly for the last couple of years saying we need help,” Miranda said on The Codcast. “There’s a clear saturation of services at this corner that I don’t see another city or town or even another neighborhood being able to withstand.”

“This is a statewide problem,” she said. “Boston cannot solve it alone.”

Miranda was joined by Yawu Miler, senior editor of the Bay State Banner, who wrote about the issue in the paper’s current issue.