Mother of slain addict fights for clean streets

Collaborator: Danielle Saitta
Published: 11/09/2020, 6:07 PM
Edited: 03/11/2021, 10:22 AM
(BOSTON, Mass.) Former addict Ashley Tenczar told VNN she believes it’s time for Boston public officials to clean up their act, and clean up their streets. “It’s shameful because some parts of this city you think, this is Boston?” Tenczar said. “It’s crazy. People are trying to get to their appointments in Boston Medical Center and people are stepping over hypodermics, and there’s dead people overdosed, slumped over or almost dead. It’s not right.” Tenczar believes the solution to clean streets is to start with clean sheets in recovery centers. Services like detox beds were the reason why she personally came to Boston back in 1996. The city is home to 26 different recovery centers—three of which Tenczar was admitted to to get clean for herself and her son, Damien. “My son grew up with my parents in the suburbs of Westborough,” Tenczar said. “They were raising him because I couldn’t I was in treatment and struggling myself. I couldn’t give him a good home.” At age 15, Damien started using heroin. “He never would admit it to me he was using heroin, he said everything else, ecstasy, mushrooms, pot,” Tenczar said. “I think he always looked to me for my approval.” As a teenager, Tenczar said Damien got into trouble at school and did time in Worcester County Jail for car theft and non-violent drug-related offenses. In 2013, Damien’s grandfather and male-role model passed away. After her father’s death, Tenczar asked Damien to come to Boston to seek out services unavailable in the suburbs. “We sat down with a social worker, case manager,” Tenczar said. “We did this a lot together. Sometimes, he would get in somewhere and then other times it was like, call back later. Call back tomorrow and addiction doesn’t work like that. You have a moment of clarity and you either get well then or it passes you by.” Unfortunately, Damien would never get to seize that moment of clarity. “I got a nice knock from the homicide detectives telling me my son was dead,” Tenczar said. “I always knew there was a possibility of an overdose but murder?” On July 31, Damien Hughes was killed on Methadone Mile—a strip of various drug treatment centers, halfway house and homeless shelters in Boston. At 7:30 in the morning, the 27-year-old was stabbed in the neck and died within 20 minutes, suffering a massive cardiac arrest in an ambulance. Police apprehended the suspect, 34-year old Cesar Valentin of Chelsea, whom Tenczar said Damian did not know prior to his violent attack. The area of which Damien died was a short distance from the City’s Engagement center, a large isolated tent set up by the city of Boston where people can find refuge off the streets and sidewalks. According to Tenczar, the tent does more harm than good. “People can go there to get warm, eat something, then there’s a comfort station where you can go and shoot up heroin,” Tenczar said. “Nurses will watch your blood pressure and make sure your things don’t get stolen.”
Tenczar is one of many who believe the city needs to stop enabling their citizens and start paying attention to the spread of this epidemic. “If they think it’s going to stop, it’s not,” Tenczar said. “Where there is drug dealers, there’s always going to be violence and they’ve added tents. They’ve added Porta-potties. It’s like they are throwing pebbles at a tsunami. That’s why they say beds, not Band-Aids. That’s what they need. Help.”


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