Northampton opens emergency shelter at high school 

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  • A trailer from the University of Massachusetts Amherst Emergency Shelter Support Unit was parked outside the Northampton High School gymnasium on Saturday morning, March 28, 2020. A new 70-cot shelter has been set up at the high school. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

  • A 48-cot emergency shelter is now in place at the Northampton High School gymnasium. Photographed on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Fire Chief Jon Davine and Northampton Director of Public Health Merridith O'Leary work in the cafeteria of the high school where meals will be served for those using the emergency shelter now in place. Photographed on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Fire Chief Jon Davine talks with the media before the opening of a 48-cot emergency shelter in the high school gymnasium on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Fire Chief Jon Davine uses hand sanitizer as he exits William Feiker Gymnasium at Northampton High School shortly before the opening of a 48-cot emergency shelter there on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Director of Public Health Merridith O'Leary enlists the help of Zach and Drew Davine, left and center, ten-year-old twin sons of Fire Chief Jon Davine, to hang signs at the 48-cot emergency shelter in the high school gymnasium on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The 48-cot emergency shelter in Northampton High School at 380 Elm Street is accessed through the entrance to the gymnasium on the right side of the school as viewed from the street. Photographed on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A 48-cot emergency shelter is now in place at the Northampton High School gymnasium. Photographed on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Each cot is furnished with a blanket and an inflatable pillow. Photographed on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A 48-cot emergency shelter is now in place at the Northampton High School gymnasium. Photographed on Wednesday, April 1, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Northampton Fire Chief Jon Davine takes a phone call in the 48-cot emergency shelter in the high school gymnasium just before its 3 p.m. opening on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 4/1/2020 1:34:38 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A 24-hour emergency shelter opened Wednesday afternoon at Northampton High School, the city announced on Wednesday morning.

The Grove Street Inn and the Interfaith Shelter — downtown shelters run by ServiceNet — are closing, and guests will instead go to the emergency site. There are 48 cots in the makeshift shelter, according to the city’s fire chief Jon Davine. 

“ServiceNet has been working tirelessly to keep the residents of its two overnight shelters safe since the onset of COVID-19,” a statement from the Mayor David Narkewicz’s office reads, “but current sleeping spaces within those two facilities are inadequate to allow for proper social distancing.”

Guests and shelter workers will be screened. “Upon entry of the shelter, staff and shelter residents will be screened by a predetermined set of health questions,” the statement says, “and if any markers for illness are present they will not be allowed into the shelter and will be directed for medical evaluation and isolation at an alternative location.”

Many people experiencing homelessness told the Gazette for a recent article that with the shutdown of businesses and other public buildings such as the library, it’s much harder to find places to hang out, warm up, sit, rest, and go to the bathroom. 

The city announced Friday that it was looking for volunteers for a shelter at Northampton High School. It is still looking for volunteers, according to Wednesday’s statement, and donations can be made online at northamptonma.gov/COVID19 or by dropping off a check at the municipal office building behind City Hall. 

Additionally, the statement said, “ServiceNet is urgently in need of staff to support the emergency shelter and is hiring. If you or anyone you know is interested in this critical work, please visit www.servicenet.org/jobs.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.

With reporting from Kevin Gutting.




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