I read the press release below with great pleasure knowing that the Harvard Square Business Association (HSBA), its members and community partners played a role in making this happen.
Sometime in mid-February of 2018, I met with Yanira Burgos, the Director of Community Relations and Nicole Breslin, CEO and President of Youville House/Youville Place an assisted living facility located at 1573 Cambridge Street. After joining them for lunch and a discussion about them becoming a member of the HSBA (which they did), they gave me a tour of their facility.
I could not contain my excitement or my surprise when I realized just outside stood the old Holy Ghost Hospital, eventually renamed, Youville Hospital where my mother worked for nearly 20 years. I immediately inquired about the building and discovered it was not being used.
Since then, whenever possible locations for shelters were mentioned, I would promote that building to anyone who would listen. I suspect that many of them, including Marc McGovern, Denise Simmons, and other councillors were listening and have been working hard toward the same goal.
This past May, I mentioned the building to Commissioner Branville Bard and Deputy Superintendent Rob Lowe. Commissioner Bard brought the idea to City Manager, Louis DePasquale and just about 12 weeks later, these gentlemen brokered a deal. Their leadership, empathy and desire to help those in need furthers my pride in our fair city. Cambridge is a special place; one where the needs of the people in our community are always the priority. We witness the nurturing of these priorities daily, but particularly so, we’ve witnessed these efforts during the COVID 19 crisis. Food, shelter, medicine, and basic needs like public toilets, showers, electricity, hand-washing stations and face masks were almost immediately made available to our unhoused population. These things don’t happen without true leadership and an unwavering sense of duty. I could not be prouder of Commissioner Bard, and the men and women of the CPD and Lou DePasquale and his extraordinary team.
I am also proud of and grateful to the Harvard Square Business Association board of directors, officers and members. The resources and breadth of our mission allows us to create partnerships and participate in community-building activities that, to some, might seem outside the scope of a business association. However, our officers and directors through example and means, ensure that our mission and tagline of “caring for the Square and the people in it” are carried out.
Marie Marguerite d’Youville founded the Sisters of Charity of Montreal, known as the Grey Nuns, in 1737. When my mom was about to retire, there was a bust of “Mother Youville” that was to be discarded. My mom asked permission to take it, which was granted. My dad trekked down to 1573 Cambridge Street with his pickup truck and promptly installed Mother Youville in our backyard in Somerville. When they retired to my dad’s beloved Vermont, they took Mother Youville with them. She is firmly ensconced at our family home in the hills of central Vermont…halfway between Montreal and Cambridge.
The picture of Mother Youville in the snow was taken in February of 2018. Her devotion of ministering to the poor in body, mind and spirit lives on.
City of Cambridge to Relocate Temporary Emergency Shelter at War Memorial Recreation Center to 1575 Cambridge Street
New East Wing Emergency Shelter at Spaulding Hospital will open following renovations
Cambridge, MA, August 10, 2020 – Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale announced today that the City of Cambridge has entered into an agreement with Spaulding Hospital-Cambridge, Inc. to create a City-funded temporary emergency homeless shelter in the east wing of the facility located at 1575 Cambridge Street.
This new temporary 57 bed shelter will replace the shelter currently located at the War Memorial Recreational Center and will serve as an adult homeless shelter for non-COVID-19-infected guests. The first and second floors of the presently empty east wing will undergo renovations to prepare the site for the new temporary shelter which is expected to open in November.
The War Memorial emergency shelter, which opened in April 2020, helped the City address the urgent needs of Cambridge residents who were experiencing homelessness during the rapidly evolving COVID-19 public health crisis that emerged this spring. The shelter was built with three distinct services areas, which included a quarantine area, isolation area, and shelter area for non-symptomatic persons experiencing homelessness who do not have access to day or overnight services. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts now provides quarantine and isolation facilities, and only the shelter for non-COVID-19 infected guests is currently being operated at the War Memorial site.
“The War Memorial location was highly desirable due to its extensive space, proximity to the Cambridge Hospital, and ability to be quickly converted into a shelter. However, this space was always intended to be temporary and returned to the school department for academic use,” said Cambridge City Manager Louis A. DePasquale. “I want to thank Spaulding Hospital for leasing the City part of its facility on Cambridge Street so that we can relocate the temporary emergency shelter from the Cambridge Rindge and Latin School campus. I want to especially recognize and thank Maureen Banks, President, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital Cambridge and David Storto, President, Spaulding Rehabilitation Network. Their commitment to this initiative and the Cambridge community were critical to reaching a successful agreement that will allow the City
to continue supporting our most vulnerable populations for the duration of the pandemic.”
“We have enjoyed a high degree of cohesiveness and community safety during operations of the War Memorial emergency shelter and we look forward to a seamless transition to Spaulding Hospital, where we remain committed to working with all stakeholders to ensure we maintain the highest overall levels of community safety,” said Cambridge Police Commissioner Branville G. Bard, Jr.
The War Memorial emergency shelter was set up to allow existing shelters to reduce overcrowding to make guests in all of Cambridge's shelters safer and to provide a site that guests who were leaving the shelters could move to. The War Memorial also provided important shelter for guests who had been served by seasonal shelters that were closing such as the Warming Center and Harvard Square Homeless Shelter.
“We are grateful to Bay Cove Human Services and to Healthcare for the Homeless who have provided a high level of services to our homeless guests and who will be continuing to provide the onsite services as the emergency shelter moves to Spaulding,“ said Assistant City Manager Ellen Semonoff.
As part of the agreement between the City and Spaulding Hospital, the first and second floors of the east wing located at 1575 Cambridge will be leased, renovated and converted into a shelter space by the City. The City of Cambridge will fund the entirety of the shelter operation. This project is CARES Act funding eligible and the City expects to submit approximately $ 3.4 million for reimbursement to support this critical initiative. The City Manager and Commissioner of Public Health have issued an emergency order temporarily suspending enforcement of the Cambridge Zoning Ordinance at Spaulding Hospital to allow the space to be used as a homeless shelter.
“By continuing to provide a Temporary Emergency Shelter for Cambridge residents experiencing homelessness, we will help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among our most vulnerable residents,” said Dr. Assaad Sayah, Commissioner of Public Health for the City of Cambridge. “The more we can do to keep all residents safely distanced, regardless of where they call home, the greater chance we have to prevent increased illness due to this epidemic.”
As this new initiative gets underway, the City will be creating a dedicated webpage, phone number, and email address to respond to community questions or concerns. For more information and updates on COVID-19, please visit the City’s dedicated information page: https://www.cambridgema.gov/covid19.