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Springfield Puts Up Medical Tents For The Homeless


   The city of Springfield, Massachusetts has put up large tents that will be used if the coronavirus spreads to the city’s homeless population.

  Over the weekend, 12,000-square-feet of tents were erected in a parking lot across the street from the Friends of the Homeless shelter.  By the end of the week, the tents will be stocked with medical supplies and equipment, toiletries, and food and staffed around the clock.

   Mayor Domenic Sarno called it “a precautionary and proactive” measure to stay ahead of the spread of the virus.  He said the plan was coordinated by city officials with help from the local medical community and social service providers.

   "This is a very vulnerable population and we have to make sure they are properly treated and to make sure we can contain and isolate any situation that might arise," Sarno said.

   As of Monday, no cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in the city’s homeless population.

   City crews erected the tents, which will have segregated space for testing, quarantine and treatment.   

    The tents will be fully functional once electric and sewer utilities are connected in the next few days, according to Patrick Sullivan, the city’s director of buildings and grounds.

   "Each tent will have hot water with sinks, refrigeration, washer and driers in each tent,"  explained Sullivan.  There will be a commissary kitchen on site for staff.

    Plans call for the facility to be staffed by at least two people at all times, according to Springfield’s Commissioner of Health and Human Services Helen Caulton-Harris.

   "We anticipate that one will be an RN and one will be a caretaker and we will strive to have an MD doing rounds as well," said Caulton-Harris.

    Dr. Robert Roose, Chief Medical Officer at Mercy Medical Center in Springfield, commended the city on its preparations for caring for the homeless during the pandemic.

   "We are grateful to be collaborating in this way and we too are focusing efforts on those impacting by this who are often marginalized from routine care; persons in nursing homes and homeless individuals," said Roose.

   Gov. Charlie Baker last week said the state would reopen a former health care center to provide additional services to Boston’s homeless population. Additionally, Suffolk University is converting a dormitory into a homeless shelter with 172 beds.



Paul Tuthill is WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief. He’s been covering news, everything from politics and government corruption to natural disasters and the arts, in western Massachusetts since 2007. Before joining WAMC, Paul was a reporter and anchor at WRKO in Boston. He was news director for more than a decade at WTAG in Worcester. Paul has won more than two dozen Associated Press Broadcast Awards. He won an Edward R. Murrow award for reporting on veterans’ healthcare for WAMC in 2011. Born and raised in western New York, Paul did his first radio reporting while he was a student at the University of Rochester.
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