Those experiencing homelessness are still at higher risk for contracting the coronavirus, even as cities and towns vaccinate their populations.
Last spring, roughly 30% of people who were staying in the Father Bill’s and MainSpring shelter facilities were infected. According to president and CEO John Yazwinski, the rate dropped to less than 1% once the organization moved residents and families into more permanent, socially distanced housing.
Yazwinski said de-populating shelters is crucial to protecting these communities, often made up of people who are older and more vulnerable.
That's why he is pushing for underutilized hotels and motels, ravaged by the pandemic, to be purchased and converted to permanent housing. Father Bill’s and MainSpring has purchased an old motel in Brockton to do just that. Once converted, Yazwinski said, it will reduce the homeless population living on city streets and shelters by 50%.
"Across the Commonwealth, we are filled up," he said. "You know, in a non-pandemic year, we have people sleeping on our floors. We have people sitting in chairs so that they're not outside. And so, by being able to separate people, we got to see that infection rate go down drastically ... We should never go back to packing these buildings with people. We should really look at more permanent housing solutions and ... non-congregant type of emergency housing in the future."
We also spoke with Cambridge artist Cicely Carew, whose new art installation, "Ambrosia," is currently on display at the Prudential Center. The seven massive sculptures take up roughly 5,000 square feet. They can be viewed from inside and outside the center's atrium.
Click on the audio player above to listen to the full episode.
John Yazwinski - 2:21
Cicely Carew - 18:48