WORCESTER, Mass. – A 60-bed emergency winter homeless shelter at the former RMV location in downtown Worcester is opening Tuesday.
The shelter will be for single adults experiencing homelessness. The South Middlesex Opportunity Council is committed to staffing the site 24/7 through the end of April, providing showers, meals, support services and a security detail.
SMOC chief of staff Tania Diduca said the organization has extensive experience in working with the city's homeless population. They've been running the Queen Street shelter for more than 20 years.
"Being able to open this shelter, we're able to replicate some of those and adopt some of those same processes and protocols," Diduca said. "And really it will be able to allow us, since we're the same organization, will be able to work between both between both sites very easily."
Worcester City Manager Eric Batista said opening the centrally located shelter downtown is a result of a culmination of efforts.
"To put something like this together requires a number of folks coming together to make it happen," Batista said. "We needed a state, we needed a city family, we needed the nonprofit community and we needed contractors and developers to kind of get everything going right away. And so, all of those things need to happen in a very timely and also, people need to be willing to do it with an intention to make it as quickly as possible."
Batista said it will cost is a little more than $1 million to operate the shelter. The city has a request in to the state for funding, but they're looking at other avenues, including ARPA money, if necessary.
District 5 City Councilor Etel Haxhiaj said the shelter will help for the winter, but Worcester’s unhoused population needs more permanent solutions.
“It's 60 beds of emergency shelter - obviously, it's a band-aid," Haxhiaj said. "It's good, it's going to save lives for the time being. But I just want to underscore that we're far from providing more tangible supports for people experiencing homelessness. You know, we are short of 200 shelter beds. Folks are still sleeping in encampments.
"And I do think that the permanent supportive housing projects that have been coming online slowly are hopefully going to be part of the solution, but we still have ways to go to provide a permanent home for everyone experiencing homelessness - and that's the bottom line, that is the solution.”
According to the Central Mass Housing Alliance, as many as 363 single adults might require emergency shelter on a peak demand night this winter in Worcester. Without the new RMV site, city's shelter capacity was at 166, leaving a nearly 200 bed shortage.