City Manager Louis DePasquale announced tonight that the city will convert the War Memorial Recreation Center and garage at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School into a temporary shelter for the homeless - one large enough to be split into three areas, one for people with confirmed Covid-19 diagnoses who don't need hospitalization, one for people who are showing symptoms but have yet to get test results and a third for symptomless people who want to get off the street.
DePasquale said that Harvard and MIT have agreed to let the city use rooms there should students at the adjacent Cambridge Rindge and Latin School return before the end of the school year and need classroom space.
An emergency city task force concluded the new shelter would help protect both homeless residents and first responders and case workers from the rapid spread of the virus.
Exclusive space will be dedicated to individuals that need to be isolated due to confirmed tests or symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Separate physical space will be made available for individuals that need to be quarantined due to possible exposure to someone who is a confirmed case; unique to this site is the ability to provide quarantine space without entering the building, as individuals will be housed in a temporary setting that will be constructed and located in an underground parking area that allows easy access to care and transport. ...
Additionally, the overall complex has ample physical space to accommodate residents without symptoms or for those who may not have access to daytime services or an overnight shelter and are seeking to mitigate exposure. The City has secured a commitment from Bay Cove Human Services, as well as the Cambridge/Somerville Healthcare for the Homeless program, to provide staffing and logistical support at this location, once approved. Operationally, the activation of the shelter will occur in phases in order to ensure the safety and quality of the care and services being provided during this crisis.
The task force added that the center's design makes it easy to secure - both with private security and with a dedicated Cambridge Police team to protect the surrounding neighborhood - and that it can be quickly restored to its primary use as a rec center once the crisis has passed:
The War Memorial requires only minimal construction of temporary clinical structures in the facility’s sub-level/garage area that are easily removable. Also, deep cleaning of the entire facility can be conducted quickly to comply with environmental cleaning and disinfecting standards as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.