Sharp Building to be converted into homeless shelter

2018

Sharp Building to be converted into homeless shelter
The Sharp Building on Lyman Street will welcome up to 20 families this spring. (Photo/Maureen Sullivan)

WESTBOROUGH – The Sharp Building at 288 Lyman St. will soon welcome up to 20 homeless families.

During the Select Board meeting on Feb. 14, Town Manager Kristi Williams said that several town department heads and members of the local legislative delegation have met with officials from the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to discuss the plans for the shelter.

Williams added that priority for placement would be for families with ties to the Westborough area to allow students to remain in their schools.

“Massachusetts is a ‘right to shelter’ state, meaning that DHCD is obligated to provide shelter to eligible families. To be considered eligible, families must meet a number of criteria, including Massachusetts residency and have at least one child under 21,” she said.

According to Williams, some homeless families have been housed in hotels in the area, but “that’s not a desirable option.”

Specifically, the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act guarantees that homeless students have the right to remain enrolled in their school of origin and receive transportation or immediately enroll in the school district where they are temporary residents, according to a frequently asked questions published by the town.

“Any placement determinations must be based on the best interest of the student,” the town wrote.

This weighs the impact of mobility on the student’s safety, achievement, education and health as well as where their siblings are placed for school. The priority is given to the request of the unaccompanied youth or their parent or guardian, according to the town.

Governor Maura Healey’s latest supplemental budget calls for additional school funding as well as per pupil funding from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), and transportation costs for students that live outside of their district are shared between the districts they are enrolled and sheltered in. The latter costs are eligible for reimbursement through DESE.

Sharp Building to be renovated

According to the FAQ, Westborough officials became aware of the shelter when state officials began contacting town departments involved in permitting about upgrades and renovations to the building.

The town and its legislative delegation had a meeting with state officials earlier this month.

The Sharp Building is part of a facility operated by the Department of Youth Services. A portion of that building will be renovated to house these families.

Once housed, the families will be assisted by the South Middlesex Opportunity Council (SMOC) and other agencies. There would be a 24/7 on-site presence.

Details are still being worked out, said Williams.

Town departments are assessing what requirements would be necessary for the building to accommodate a shelter, including long-term stay, health and fire codes.

The FAQ noted that the department doesn’t require local approval to site a shelter.

According to the FAQ, DHCD plans to begin placing the families in Westborough in May, though that’s pending the completion of the work at the Sharp Building.

SMOC and DESE will work with Westborough Public School Superintendent Amber Bock to enroll any children who aren’t already enrolled in area schools.

If you have additional questions that are not answered in the FAQ, please contact the Westborough Town Manager’s Office at 508-366-3030. To support those in the shelter, contact SMOC at 508-8724853 or visit www.smoc.org.

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