Sharp Building Emergency Shelter FAQs
Massachusetts is a Right to Shelter state and the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is obligated to find shelter for eligible families. Per Section 30 of Part I, Title II, Chapter 23B of the General Laws: “the department shall administer a program of emergency housing assistance to needy families with children and pregnant woman with no other children. The department shall administer the program throughout the commonwealth at locations that are geographically convenient to families who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness and shall administer the program in a fair, just and equitable manner.”
DHCD is currently planning to use the Sharp Building, located at 288 Lyman Street, as an Emergency Assistance (EA) shelter for homeless families. Town officials are working with DHCD to gain an understanding of the Town’s role in supporting the State’s goals for the shelter as well as the impact it may have on existing local services.
DHCD currently has approximately 3,600 shelter units across the state, nearly all of which are currently occupied. While DHCD is seeking to expand its portfolio of more traditional shelter settings – including opening a shelter at Salem State University - the agency has needed to use motels/hotels more frequently, including two Extended Stays in Westborough, though this is not a desirable option for families. As a result, DHCD has been working with the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to renovate and repurpose the Sharp Building in Westborough into an EA shelter.
The following is a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) developed from resident inquiries in recent weeks. This list will be updated as more information and details become available.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
If you have additional questions that are not answered in the information below, please contact the Westborough Town Manager’s Office at 508-366-3030
How has DHCD been in communication with Town Officials?
Town Officials became aware of the shelter when state officials contacted permitting departments regarding the renovation/upgrades to the Sharp Building. Town officials reached out and asked for a meeting with state officials which was held on February 8, 2023 and was attended by members of the legislative delegation. DHCD has committed to holding recurring meetings as this plan progresses.
Where will families be sheltered?
Families will be sheltered at the Sharp Building, located at 288 Lyman Street. The building was formerly a Department of Youth Services facility and a part of it is currently under renovation for use as a permanent Emergency Assistance shelter.
How many families will be in sheltered at the Sharp Building?
DHCD is planning to place approximately 20 families starting in May 2023, pending completion of construction/renovation.
Who will be staying at the shelter?
Families who have qualified for the Emergency Assistance program managed by DHCD will be staying at the shelter. In order to be considered eligible for an Emergency Assistance Family Shelter, families must meet a number of criteria, including Massachusetts residency and having at least one child under 21 (or being pregnant). Placement priorities would be for families with ties to the Westborough area, to allow students to remain in their schools. DHCD works to place families as close to their home community and school of origin as possible.
Are there any permit or zoning requirements that the shelter must comply with for this purpose?
Town departments are currently assessing what requirements will be necessary for the Sharp Building to accommodate a shelter.
How is the family shelter managed?
Families will receive case management and housing search services from South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC), a local provider. This includes a 24/7 on-site presence.
What is “Right to shelter”?
Massachusetts has a “right to shelter” law for pregnant women and families with children. DHCD has an obligation to provide shelter to eligible families.
Will children at the shelter attend Westborough Public Schools?
SMOC and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) will work with Westborough Schools to enroll any school-aged children not already enrolled in area schools.
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (McKinney-Vento Act) guarantees that homeless students have the right to remain enrolled in their school of origin and receive transportation where feasible or immediately enroll in the school district where they are temporary residents. Any placement determinations must be based on the best interest of the student. These determinations weigh factors such as impact of mobility on achievement, education, health, and safety of the student, and school placement of siblings. Priority is given to the request of the parent, guardian, or unaccompanied youth.
Will the State provide funding?
The Governor’s latest supplemental budget includes additional school funding as well as per pupil funding from Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).
Associated transportation costs for students living outside of their enrolled school district are shared between their enrolled district and the district where they are sheltered. These costs are eligible for reimbursement through DESE.
Can a town refuse a shelter?
DHCD does not require local approval to site a shelter.
How can I support those housed at the shelter?
Please contact Michael Devlin at SMOC via email at email@example.com or by phone at 508-620-2300. Visit the SMOC website at https://www.smoc.org/