New housing dedicated to Boston's first responders, shelter staff, and veterans
Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the City has secured 334 dedicated beds at various locations to facilitate social distancing and reduce the further spread of COVID-19 among Boston's first responders, shelter staff, and veterans living in group homes. This announcement builds on the City's work to expand care and housing capacity for people exposed, suspected or diagnosed with COVID-19, ahead of the Massachusetts' peak in hospital resource use estimated by public health experts for April 20, 2020.
"We're entering the most crucial point in the outbreak and the beginning of a surge in cases that will be very difficult for our city," said Mayor Walsh. "That's why we are doing everything we can to be prepared, and increasing our medical and care capacity for vulnerable populations and hospitals. Today, we're ramping up resources for our first responders and frontline workers to make sure they have the support they need as they care for our city."HOUSING FOR FIRST RESPONDERS
Hotel Boston in Brighton will be available for members of Boston Police, Boston Fire and Boston EMS who have tested positive for COVID-19 or may have been exposed to a coworker with COVID-19, and are unable to effectively isolate themselves at home. The hotel has a capacity of 74 single-occupancy rooms with a private bathroom and kitchenette. The setup of the hotel is ideal for self-isolation because all rooms have ground-level access and no common areas.
Additionally, Northeastern University is providing one of its dormitories with single-occupancy rooms to Boston's first responders who live with someone who might be at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, such as older adults and people who have serious underlying medical conditions. Northeastern will provide 135 rooms with beds, private bathrooms and kitchenettes at their West Village dormitory.
"In times of crisis, we must join together as one community and offer each other support and assistance," said Northeastern University President Joseph E. Aoun. "We are honored to provide safe space for first responders, and we stand ready to offer additional help to the state and the city as needed. I applaud Mayor Walsh for his leadership through this difficult time."
Mayor Walsh recently announced the City of Boston started testing Boston's first responders for COVID-19 at Suffolk Downs in East Boston. The operation of this testing facility is led by the Boston Public Health Commission and the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center. First responders are screened to see if they meet the state criteria for testing.HOUSING FOR SHELTER STAFF
Boston University will be providing 75 rooms to Pine Street Inn's shelter staff who have been working on the frontlines of the COVID-19 public health emergency caring for people experiencing homelessness at their shelter facilities.
"We're pleased to provide space to the Pine Street Inn to support their critical work during these unprecedented times for our city and the nation," said Boston University President Robert A. Brown. "I'm grateful to the Boston University facilities teams that worked tirelessly to ready the space. We will continue to work closely with the City to be helpful where we can be."
"On behalf of the entire Pine Street community, I want to express my deepest gratitude to Boston University President Robert Brown for this kind offer of dormitory space for our front-line staff," said Lyndia Downie, Pine Street President and Executive Director. "Many of our staff members are working extremely long hours and unable to make it home between shifts, so it means so much to have a place where they can rest and regroup. And of course, I also want to thank Mayor Walsh and the City of Boston, who have stood by us during this challenging time. We feel extraordinarily lucky to be part of a community that cares so much."
The City of Boston has been working on increasing its medical and care capacity for vulnerable populations and hospitals during the COVID-19 public health emergency. Mayor Walsh recently announced expanded capacity to help reduce congestion and increase social distancing in homeless shelters, adding 172 new beds at a Suffolk University dormitory, 75 new beds at 1515 Commonwealth Avenue in Brighton, and 55 new beds in the South End near City shelters.
In addition, Boston Medical Center's Newton Pavilion will have a capacity of 250 beds for medical care and the BCEC Medical Center will have 1,000 total beds for patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 (500 beds dedicated to patients struggling with homelessness and the 500 for other patients); six acute care suites; a physical therapy suite; 52 nurses stations and 48 bathroom facilities.
Screenings led by Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program have been happening at shelter sites to identify guests with symptoms or exposure to COVID-19. If needed, guests are referred for observation and support while awaiting test results and/or needing isolation. Collectively, the partners have tested approximately 704 individuals and have identified 201 positive COVID-19 cases.
The City of Boston coordinates a network of shelters for individuals experiencing homelessness, including Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, Boston Public Health Commission, Pine Street Inn, Boston Medical Center, St. Francis House, have been communicating daily to ensure that Boston can continue to operate its emergency shelter system safely and care for those needing observation, quarantine or more serious levels of care, and any additional supports needed. Shelter staff have been working with guests with imminent housing offers to move out of shelter and into housing.
The City coordinates a network of street outreach teams that work to engage with people who are not currently engaged in services, less likely to seek shelter, and may be in need of information, assessment and assistance. Street outreach teams are equipped with supplies such as hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes and gloves, and are escorting individuals in need of care to medical sites.ALTERNATIVE SITE FOR VETERANS HOUSING
In order to reduce living area density and enable increased social distancing in Boston's Veterans housing, the New England Center and Home for Veterans (NECHV), which offers short and long-term supportive housing and intensive human services for women and men who have served our nation and have experienced or are at risk of homelessness, will temporarily relocate as many as 40 to 50 confirmed COVID-negative Veterans to a former nursing home facility in Brighton.
"This will allow us to serve all of our Veterans more effectively and ensure continuity of services to these men and women who have all served our nation. We are grateful to the City of Boston for assisting us in this endeavor and to the Brookline Development Corporation, the owner of the building, for allowing the Veterans who call the New England Center and Home for Veterans home to temporarily utilize their building in Brighton," said NECHV President and CEO C. Andrew McCawley.
The former nursing facility has been dormant for a year, to prepare the building for this temporary use by these Veterans, the new property owners worked to restore power and water services and make necessary repairs. He is undertaking these measures and providing the facility at no cost to the NECHV.
"As the number of COVID-19 cases in our community kept on growing, we started identifying our assets and felt that it was a service to our city to help in any way we could," said property owners Jeff Feuerman and Michael Argiros. "We reached out to the Mayor's Office to offer this former nursing home in Brighton, and we worked together to get it to optimal living conditions. We are thankful to be contributing to the wellbeing of our community and to be working with the City as part of their efforts to address the COVID-19 public health emergency."
The Mayor's Office of Veterans Services has been making wellness calls to all veterans connected to their office and continues to process Chapter 115 payments for current clients. The office also continues to support veterans with new Chapter 115 claims via phone and assistance with filing Veterans Affairs claims. In an effort to expand their reach and capacity to check on and engage Boston's veterans, volunteers have been helping deliver food from pantries to veterans and participating in a new pen pal program that connects veterans, particularly seniors and disabled vets, with volunteers who will regularly make contact via phone or virtually.
Resources and information about COVID-19 are available on boston.gov/coronavirus. Resources available on boston.gov and through City departments include support for renters and homeowners; small businesses; free meals for Boston students; free toiletries for Boston students; emergency childcare centers -- including 40 centers in Boston -- support for older residents; information on homeless shelters; transportation options for health care workers; resources for those in recovery or those who have a substance use disorder; and mental health resources.
For additional questions or programs, please visit boston.gov/coronavirus or call 3-1-1, Boston's 24-hour constituent hotline. Text BOSCOVID to 99411 to receive text alerts on a regular basis, available in six languages.