Western Mass City Leaders Say: We Need Help Addressing Homeless, COVID-19 Challenges

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West Massachusetts city leaders have called on the state to operate Quality Inn in Northampton as a homeless shelter and center to quarantine and isolate people with COVID-19.

They made this request in writing to Marylou Sudders, Secretary, Executive Office of Health and Social Services.

The Northampton City Council licensed the hotel, located at 117 Conz Street, for this use on April 16, and for a time the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency operated it earlier this year.

On April 17, Gov. Charlie Baker’s office released a press release titled “Baker-Polito Administration Outlines Current Steps to Address Homelessness During COVID-19,” which outlines a course of action.

The statement titled “Establish Isolation and Recovery Sites for Homeless COVID-19 Positive” said in part: “The administration has opened five state-run isolation and recovery sites across the country. ‘State to provide regional solutions to homeless people who need a safe place. to isolate and recover after testing positive for COVID-19. Statewide, these sites have a capacity of 550 beds and are staffed with 24/7 security and nursing staff, and are located in Everett, Lexington, Northampton, Pittsfield and Taunton.

The recent letter signed by city managers in western Massachusetts urging the state to help with homelessness and COVID-19 issues indicates that currently the only facility open right now is in Everett.

“Our public health officials in the region have expressed deep concern that many homeless people are likely to refuse to be tested or to self-quarantine – in fact, refuse shelters – for fear of be relocated so far from their home community if they test positive or have been exposed to COVID-19, ”said the statement from city officials.

It is signed by the Mayor of Northampton David Narkewicz, the Mayor of Springfield Dominic J. Sarno, the City Manager of Amherst Paul Bockelman, the Mayor of West Springfield William Reichelt, the Mayor of Chicopee John L. Vieau, the Mayor of Holyoke Alex Morse, Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle, South Hadley City Administrator Michael Sullivan, Greenfield Mayor Roxann Wedegartner, Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer and North Adams Mayor Tom Bernard.

“Specifically, we are seeking the release of The Quality Inn in Northampton for a combined purpose: isolation / quarantine (I / Q) for the western region of MA and in a separate area, shelter for people who are not COVID positive. -19 but who are otherwise. extremely vulnerable due to life outside. As you know, at present the only isolation and quarantine hotel available for homeless people is located in Everett, MA, about 200 miles round trip from Northampton, their letter to the Sudders States.

“Finally, it should be noted that in addition to space requirements, every region of the state is facing a shelter workforce crisis and western Massachusetts is no exception. Shelter providers are already experiencing staff shortages and are extremely uncertain how they will meet staffing demands in the coming months. This challenge can only be met through a state-wide two-part plan that supports a sufficient number of I / Q sites and hotels with staff sponsored by the State if necessary, ”city administrators told Sudders in the letter.

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