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Emergency Tornado Shelter Closes

By Paul Tuthill


Springfield, MA – Springfield Massachusetts has marked another milestone in the recovery from the June 1st tornadoes. The Red Cross, Wednesday, closed the shelter it had operated at the downtown convention center since the night the storms hit. WAMC's Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports..

At its peak, over 300 people were housed at the shelter. The men, women and children, who stayed there had lost the roofs over their heads and in many cases all their personal belongings. Red Cross spokesperson Terry Bischoff, says the closing of the shelter signifies the end of the emergency response to the tornadoes.
Bischoff said about 30 people who had not found apartments at the time the shelter closed would move to motels or other temporary housing. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and local non profits will assist them..
The shelter provided cots for people to sleep on, and three meals a day. Bischoff said the Red Cross and its volunteers had the resources needed to operate the shelter for a month thanks to local businesses, faith based organizations and individual donors.
Michael Lynch's apartment building in Springfield's South End was heavily damaged by the tornado and later condemned. Except for a few days when he stayed with a friend, Lynch said he spent the last month at the Red Cross's shelter in the convention center..
Lynch said he has been unable to find another apartment he can afford because he has a disability and is unemployed.
The tornado destroyed more than 500 housing units in Springfield. Community activists are worried that low income housing won't be rebuilt. Springfield's mayor, Domenic Sarno was asked about the city's plans for low income housing.
For a more detailed response, the mayor deferred to Gerald Hayes, one of the two local leaders, Sarno has tapped to direct the city's rebuilding effort. Hayes said a strategy on low income housing would be part of the master plan.
Hayes said they hope complete the master plan for rebuilding Springfield within 6 months. The actual rebuilding will take years and cost hundreds of millions of dollars.