The Best Western Hotel off Route 2 will house homeless families. Photo by Jennifer Lord Paluzzi

Concord Best Western to open rooms for emergency shelter

By Jesse Floyd Correspondent
February 9, 2023

The Best Western Hotel facing Route 2 will soon become the site of an emergency shelter for families.

The lease is signed for March 1, but according to a Department of Housing and Community Development spokesman, that does not mean people will move in on day one.

A notice on the town website states that all 105 rooms at the hotel will be leased annually.

The website says a meeting between the state and Concord representatives was held Tuesday, Jan. 31. More meetings are planned in the coming weeks.

According to the DHDC spokesperson, the need is generated by the growing housing crisis in Massachusetts. With few rentals available, prices go up. DHCD is in charge of all state-run shelter units, and “there is a critical shortage of shelter beds, particularly in our area,” the Town notice says.

On the website, Massachusetts is listed as having the third-highest rent in the nation, with a two-bedroom apartment in western Worcester county averaging $976 a month; the same apartment costs, on average, $2,336 in the Concord area.

Many leases require a first/last and security deposit arrangement, often out of reach for struggling families.

There are 25 families from Concord and the surrounding area housed at an emergency shelter in Devens, according to the town.

According to a WGBH story, published in late January, Gov. Maura Healey is moving to provide more cash to the emergency shelter program, filing a $282 million supplemental spending bill. Of that, $85 million is earmarked for shelters.

Support in place

The DHCD spokesperson was clear: Using hotels as emergency housing is a less-that-ideal practice, and one largely abandoned. At one point, fewer than 10 families statewide were being housed in hotels.

But with the growing rental crisis, that number has changed. The state has contracted with Best Western for up to 105 units, but that will not be filled immediately – and the goal is to use far fewer than budgeted.

Each emergency shelter will have a support system in place, offering help finding more permanent housing, ensuring people are on the appropriate waiting lists, etc. DHCD said an on-site service provider will have a 24/7 presence and provide clients with case managers and coordinate direct care.

Local impact

Concord has held meetings with the state to determine impacts on local services and more are planned in the coming weeks.

One possible pressure point: schools. Federal law mandates children be connected to education as soon as possible.

In some cases, they may be transported back to their home district. In a hypothetical example, if one family is moved in from Acton, their child could be transported back to that district until the close of the school year. If that is impractical, they will attend Concord schools. Meetings with the district are in the works.