FAQ - Emergency Shelter for Families Experiencing Homelessness
The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) intends to locate an Emergency Family Shelter at the Best Western on 740 Elm St. in Concord. The family shelter meets a critical need of Massachusetts families experiencing homelessness. The Town of Concord is working with the DHCD to understand the impact on various town services and identify key supportive needs in preparation of welcoming these vulnerable families.
This FAQ was developed to address questions and concerns that have been raised because of this news. The FAQs will be updated as more information and details are developed. Rep. Simon Cataldo released a related statement on February 7, 2023, which may be of interest and can be found here.
Updated correspondence from the Office of Simon Cataldo dated February 27, 2023.
FAQ (Updated 3/27/23)
What can we do as a community to support these families?
What is the updated arrival of families to the Best Western?
Families arrived for medium and long-term stays at the Best Western the week of March 13th. Most of the school-aged children who will be staying at the Best Western will be transported to their home school districts outside of Concord for the duration of their stay. A minority of the students will be enrolled at Concord schools. The school district is coordinating with the on-site service provider to ensure that every students’ educational needs are met as quickly as possible.
Some of the rooms at the Best Western will be used for transitional stays of a maximum of 5 days. School-aged children in this group will not be enrolled in Concord schools or transported to their home districts.
The Town Manager, Superintendent of Schools and town staff; including Fire, Police, Human Services, Health, and the Town Manager's Office, met with representatives from DHCD and DESE on Friday, February 24, 2023 to get an update on plans for the emergency family shelter at the Best Western. Also in attendance were Reps. Barrett and Cataldo. Updates of note include:
- Facility to serve as an "in-take" shelter, with families transitioning to more permanent housing within 3-5 days. Over the long term, the facility may also serve as medium term housing until longer term housing is identified.
- Initially DHCD estimates there will be up to 50 families housed on an emergency basis. The greatest need in the area is for young, single women with infants and/ or other young (preschoolers).
- The 9 parties who have been living in long-term residence at the Best Western were given the opportunity to stay. Six will stay and 3 have chosen to relocate. The parties who have elected to stay will be located to one wing of the motel.
What is an "in-take" shelter?
Once a family identifies as unhoused and qualifies for the Emergency Assistance program managed by DHCD, they are offered emergency shelter. While at the in-take facility, needs and services are assessed and appropriate longer-term housing is identified. Currently, at the Devens facility this is typically a 3-5 day process from arrival to transition to more permanent housing. The Devens center will be phased out over the next several weeks, with in-take services transitioned to the Best Western. Advantages of the in-person in-take model is ability to get to know clients, form relationships and better assess and meet their needs.
Why is an emergency family shelter necessary?
What is DHCD’s plan for the Best Western in Concord?
Who will be staying at the family shelter?
What is “Right to Shelter"?
What is the DHCD’s role in addressing family homelessness?
How long will families stay at the shelter?
DHCD shelters meet three needs:
- Provide temporary housing for 3 - 5 days while more permanent housing is located.
- Provide temporary housing for 2 – 4 months when more permanent housing isn’t readily available; and
- Provide temporary housing for pregnant women and infants.
How is the family shelter managed?
Every DHCD shelter has an on-site service provider. In this case, the on-site service provider is MOC (Making Opportunities Count) The on-site service provider will have a 24/7 presence and provide clients with case management, connections to resources, housing search assistance and the coordination of direct care. Horizons for Homeless Children is coordinating play spaces for the children, which will be staffed by volunteers trained in trauma informed-informed areas of play.
How is the family funded shelter funded?
The Emergency Assistance program is fully funded by the state. Governor Healey has made affordable housing her first legislative priority. She filed H.47 with the legislature which seeks additional funds for emergency shelters across the state. For those interested, more can be read about this here: https://www.wgbh.org/news/politics/2023/01/30/healey-emergency-aid-depleted-family-shelters-at-capacity, or her signing statement.
Will the children attend Concord Public Schools?
While some of them may, others will not. Some children at this family shelter site will not be school-age and others are already enrolled in other school districts in Massachusetts and will continue to attend those schools. The Concord Public School Department is working with the DHCD to be prepared to support any incoming students who are unhoused.
How will meals be provided?
DHCD is working with local vendors to provide food service for family shelter residents. Snacks and other necessities will be provided.
Are there building code requirements that the Best Western must comply with for the purpose of housing beyond thirty days? (updated 2/25/23)
In order to use the Best Western for medium-term housing, the Town is requiring DHCD to conduct a building code review and address any deficiencies. If any are identified, a building permit will be required. The Building Commissioner raised a question about the construction of the building as it relates to the definition of residential uses. The request for a Code Review of the existing structure by a qualified architect is based on the fact that the International Building Code notes that 310.3 Residential Group R-1 occupancies containing sleeping units where the occupants are primarily transient in nature includes Hotels and Motels. Within that description, there is a statement that “If a hotel offers rooms for short-term housing (i.e., more than 30 days), the facility must comply with the provision for both Groups R-1 and R-2 (see Section 302.1).” The Building Commissioner does not know if the current hotel (constructed circa 1960) meets the requirements of both provisions of the State Building Code as now required, or whether it’s necessary to bring the building up to the R-2 code if needed, hence the request for a Code Review by a qualified architect.
Does a municipality have the authority to refuse a shelter?
How is the housing situation for current long-term residents at the Best Western being addressed? (updated 2/25/23)
The DHCD is working with Best Western management on a case-by-case basis to resolve the housing needs of current long-term residents. All nine parties were offered the opportunity to stay. Six accepted the offer and will stay in a wing separate from the families in the Emergency Assistance program. Three relocated to other places.
How is the community kept informed about this issue and others?
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