Isolation hotel in works to protect homeless during surge

Coronavirus Local Impact

BOSTON (SHNS) – Massachusetts could soon make more beds available for homeless people who need a safe place to isolate while recovering from COVID-19, Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders suggested.

“We should have another isolation recovery hotel, west of Worcester — we lost of couple because of some local concern — this week, which will be like another 88, 100 beds to ensure that people are not on the streets and safe,” Sudders said while testifying before the Legislature’s COVID-19 committee Tuesday. Sudders was responding to comments from co-chair Sen. Jo Comerford.

“At this time when people who are experiencing homelessness are staying in shelters that are operating beyond their capacity and the challenges of winter are upon us — today is a perfect example — and we have not enough, I know you know this, emergency isolation and quarantine beds in the commonwealth, and so there’s quite a lot of strife in local communities,” Comerford said.

Sudders has been Gov. Charlie Baker’s health secretary since he took office in 2015 and was previously state mental health commissioner. She said homelessness does not fall under her secretariat’s purview but is “an issue that just speaks to my heart and when I’m not in public service will be the community I go back to.”

The Massachusetts Coalition for Health Equity ahead of the hearing called for the administration to provide emergency housing “for the unhoused, especially during the winter surge, and state-supported isolation beds for COVID-positive individuals.” “As the weather gets colder, and COVID-19 infection rates continue to spike because of the Omicron Variant, unhoused people in our state face a brutal choice: stay on the streets and risk dying of exposure, or try to get into dangerously overcrowded shelters and risk dying of COVID-19,” said coalition member and Disability Policy Consortium Executive Director Colin Killick.

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