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- Mayor Daniel Rivera announces today, after weeks of planning, two emergency shelters for the housing insecure and teetering on homelessness who are affected by Coronavirus (COVID-19) and do not have a safe place to self-quarantine or isolate per Center for Disease Control and Massachusetts Department of Public Health Mandates. “These emergency shelters will go a long way in helping us to stop the spread in Lawrence while also giving a safe space to shelter for our most vulnerable population,” said Mayor Rivera. The first site, which will include 80 rooms, will be up and running on April 10, will be used as emergency shelter for individuals or families who live in single room occupancy facilities or those who qualify for homelessness services & shelter placements, such as homeless shelters, or those who have qualified by Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance for the State Emergency Assistance (EA) program, who have been exposed to Coronavirus (COVID-19) and as a result, need to quarantine and practice safe distancing. We are working to help Lazarus house with help to keep their family shelters open at this site.
The second site, which will be up and running within the next two weeks, will be used for individuals who test positive for Coronavirus (COVID-19) and do not have anywhere to go to isolate, per the required course of treatment. Both sites will be staffed by City of Lawrence Community Development staff, case managers and community volunteers as well as RN’s LPN’s and CNA’s. Additionally, the City of Lawrence is conducting outreach to local emergency shelters and supportive housing programs to assess their needs at this time, with the goal to provide them the financial resources needed to help prevent the spread of the virus, including supplies, furnishings, equipment, and staffing support, as needed. A regional site in Lexington has been established by MEMA and is being used as a regional quarantine site for homeless patients that have tested positive for COVID-19. Currently, the site is housing 13 patients, with the potential of adding additional rooms and patients and is being staffed by MEMA officials and nurses hired by MEMA. Transportation to this site is available through MEMA.
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency has offered to provide the City a tent to help with social distancing for the chronically homeless, but with no staff and no resources. The location of such a tent would put in jeopardy an already dense City where one of the many shelters sits between a 150+ family public housing project and two 12+ story elderly housing buildings. “A tent with no staff, no dollars, and no assurance that it will not put other people in danger is not helpful,” said Mayor Rivera. “The City of Lawrence is doing all it can with the small resources we have to address the housing insecure and those teetering on homelessness; especially the families in our Public School system.”
“I want to thank the office of Community Development and our partner organizations in these efforts, under these unprecedented circumstances, but I want to be clear; we cannot do this alone,” said Mayor Rivera. “We need a regional approach to help stem the spread among this population; the responsibility cannot fall solely on the City of Lawrence, in the City of Lawrence. We are willing to play a role and to even facilitate Federal and State money to a joint effort, but it is time to branch out and setup emergency housing throughout the Merrimack Valley- not just in the densest community in the area; it’s a matter of environmental justice and equity. Contrary to popular belief, unlike other cities in the Commonwealth, Lawrence neither has the space nor the resources to put up and staff a large facility like you are seeing elsewhere.”
The need for long the term chronically homeless are long term treatment beds and support for those struggling with addiction, and mental health facilities and clinical support for those struggling with mental health issues. “Their needs will only be made worse by a tent. The tent would fail to get the social distancing done because these populations do not comply with general guidelines in times when there is no emergency, never mind during a pandemic,” said Mayor Rivera. “I have been doing this 6+ years and there are plenty of people who don’t live in Lawrence with opinions on what we should and shouldn’t do about this, but few are willing to open their home communities to create space for the chronically homeless; and the REAL resources to deal with these populations has also been lacking.”
1. Cor Unum Meal Center, 191 Salem Street, Lawrence, MA
2. Daybreak Shelter, 19 Winter Street, Lawrence, MA
3. Lazarus House, 412 Hampshire Street, Lawrence, MA
4. Lawrence Public Schools: Monday-Friday 11am– 1pm *Now available for all Lawrence residents ages 1-18*
5. Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence, 136 Water Street, Lawrence, MA
6. Elder Services
7. Greater Lawrence Community Action Council (GLCAC), 305 Essex Street, Lawrence, MA
8. YMCA Lawrence, 40 Lawrence, Street, Lawrence, MA
9. Food For the World, 516 Essex Street
Food Pantry, Wednesdays 9am to 11am