A Morning on Methadone Mile

Inescapable hopelessness is a heartbreaking sight to witness. The daily struggle for survival and the constant battle for a better life is evident in the tired eyes and worn-out expressions of those that call Methadone Mile home. For many drug users, it’s the end of the line.

Located near some of the best medical centers in the world, the streets of Mass & Cass are littered with drugs and mental illness. City officials are at an impasse on how to solve the “problem”, but few are willing to respect this humanitarian crisis enough to view it at the individual level.

Many of the people that live on Mass & Cass are dehumanized daily. Some of them feel like they are living in a zoo or in an episode of a “Black Mirror” experiment while others are subject to endless tragedy resulting from addiction.

Make no mistake, Methadone Mile is an extremely dangerous place. Atkinson Street is referred to as Boston’s skid row and entering this area without a bullet proof vest or approval from the local drug dealers isn't recommended. Testimonies of thefts, stabbings, murders, sexual assaults, and human trafficking are all too common.

Women on the Mile are especially vulnerable and susceptible to the dangers that lurk within the community.

Tanya, 38, has been living on the dangerous streets of Boston’s Mass & Cass for over 5 years. Her story is one fueled by a life of tragedy and entrapment. She lost a public housing voucher and moved into a friend’s house to get back on her feet. When she couldn’t afford to pay for $500 in drugs, she was held down by four men and gang raped. Tanya contracted HIV through an addiction to crack, crystal meth, and dope (heroin/fentanyl). She has tried to get clean several times, but rehab didn’t fully address her struggle with addiction, and she was quickly thrown back out on the street. Tanya feels safer on the street protected by her group of friends than in shelters where she has encountered numerous sexual assaults.

Becca, 26, moved from Georgia to Mass & Cass over 5 years ago and has struggled with deep depression and addiction since she was 14 years old. She is the mother of two children, one through rape, and both she is no longer able to see. Her emotional trauma gives way to the visible scars on Becca's body, which is the result of a hard life on the streets and being jumped in the staircase of a parking garage and set on fire. Unlike some of the homeless living on the Mile, she still holds a section 8 voucher, but is struggling to find permanent placement and help with addictions to crystal meth and heroin.

Amongst the those that live here, drugs are the morning and afternoon “snack” - that's what the drugs dealers call it as they make their morning rounds. "Its going to be a long day, get your snacks now."

It’s easier to find drugs on Mass & Cass than it is to find a bathroom. The universal smell of homelessness sticks to your clothes and the smoke of crystal meth floats through the air. Theft on the Mile is rampant.

A man from Ohio explained how he couldn’t leave Boston because he didn’t have identification. His social security number had been stolen and every time he was able to save up enough for a bus ticket home, he was robbed, "That's how they get you, they steal from you when you sleep. In the shelters, if your shoes aren't tied to your body, they will take them from you, and even then, maybe they will cut them off your feet."

If you don’t have money, a mailing address for basic paperwork, and the willpower to just walk away, you’re stuck in the halfhearted cycle of government empathy and addiction.

Shared misery on Methadone Mile is as deep as the addiction. Drugs are plentiful, hope is all, but none.

Photography is not welcome on Mass & Cass - Testimony from Methadone Mile is from those that wanted their voices heard and capturing these images and stories encompassed the full respect and permission from these individuals on August 12, 2023. Aerial imagines includes pre-authorized of flight path using LAANC.

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