State Expands Daytime Access to East Cambridge Family Safety Net Shelter


Last week, Governor Healey welcomed me, Senator Sal DiDominico, Cambridge City Manager Yi-An Huang, and Cambridge's Housing Liaison, Maura Pensak, to her State House office for a meeting with Lieutenant Governor Driscoll, General Rice, and other members of the Administration who are running the state's network of "overflow" Safety Net Family Shelters.

I had requested a meeting with the Administration following several reports of problems with the operation of the Safety Net Family Shelter in the Middlesex South Registry of Deeds Building in East Cambridge. The main problem that had been reported in recent weeks was a lack of weekday-daytime access to the shelter, particularly for families with children in our local schools.

In response to our collective advocacy, I am very pleased to report the state has implemented a comprehensive set of improvements. To wit:

  • Implementing greater flexibility for families and hours of operation, including weekday access to the shelter for families with children in our local schools.
  • AMI, the shelter's staffing contractor, is now scheduling a staff member to be on-site from 8 am until 8 pm on weekdays specifically to accommodate families that need access to the shelter during weekday-daytime hours.
  • Weekday shelter hours of operation are currently 6 p.m. to 9 a.m. Monday through Friday (which has expanded since opening due to our advocacy and concerns). The shelter is also open 24/7 on weekends, holidays, and, as needed, on snow days.
  • If a child staying at the Safety Net Shelter does not feel well and needs to leave early from school due to their sickness, they now have the option of returning to the shelter to rest and recover. If symptoms require isolation, they would be transported and accommodated at the Family Center in Quincy. Coordination is being conducted with school nurses and the shelter service provider AMI.
  • A parent can now enter the shelter following their work shift, as long as they demonstrate proof of work. Similarly, parents may now come back later than the final check-in, if they attend a school or after-school related event.
  • Providing at least three different options for weekday-daytime services and activities, including:
  • Opening a day shelter at La Collaborativa in Chelsea, which has been providing transportation and day services for approximately one-third (20) of families staying at the East Cambridge shelter.
  • The Somerville YMCA is also offering daytime services and opportunities to shelter families and their children.
  • Other families are now receiving services at the Immigrant Family Services Institute (IFSI) in Boston.
  • Contracting with a new food vendor and security company.

Meanwhile, the City of Cambridge continues to prioritize support for families, particularly during weekday daytime hours:

  • Cambridge continues to coordinate with the State Operations Team and AMI to ensure that all families are connected to a full-service day space, which will include case management services and access to resources.
  • The Haitian Services Coordinator at the Multi-Service Center and the Cambridge Economic Opportunity Committee (CEOC) are continuing to work with families to provide immigration support, and the Community Learning Center and Community Engagement Teams continue to connect with and serve as primary contacts for families.
  • Libraries have been set up to warmly welcome and accommodate students and families. Translated materials outlining library details, expectations and directions have been distributed directly to families and provided to shelter staff.
  • The Center for Families in the Department of Human Service Programs (DHSP) continues to offer play groups for families on Wednesday and Thursday mornings from 9 a.m. – noon at the Frisoli Youth Center. They have also just started Family Literacy classes for the parents of the children attending the group.
  • There is continued coordination with DHSP and the Cambridge Public Schools for summer programming and children not yet old enough for school. As part of this, families were assisted in going to a summer resource fair on March 2.
  • The Cambridge Health Alliance and Public Health Department are working to ensure that any new families placed at Family Shelter are offered immunizations and on-going access to healthcare.

I am grateful to the Healey-Driscoll Administration, Senator DiDomenico, and everyone at the City of Cambridge and the City Manager's Office for their collaboration and willingness to address concerns that emerged in recent weeks. I will continue to work with these and other partners as we welcome and support families at the East Cambridge Family Safety Net Shelter and all those who are experiencing homelessness in our community.