Wet shelter to close Oct. 16 Thursday, September 28
D. Craig MacCormack 508-626-4429 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- The region's largest social service agency announced yesterday it will close its controversial downtown wet shelter Oct. 16 and move all residents to other housing across the region.

In a letter to Town Manager Julian Suso, South Middlesex Opportunity Council Executive Director Jim Cuddy announced the plan, which he said is the first phase of SMOC's quest to end homelessness in the region.

"If people are going to begin to deal with their issues and try to become independent, having a decent, safe place to live is a critical first step," SMOC Planning Director Gerard Desilets said yesterday.

At the Common Ground Shelter, 105 Irving St., clients sleep on cots in a converted warehouse, said Desilets.  There are about 20 people in the shelter every night, although the number changes daily.

Those clients will be moved to one of SMOC's 20 other residences across the region, said Desilets.

Cuddy, in his letter, said SMOC will also open a resource center that will help its clients deal with finding permanent homes, health care, jobs and education to eliminate their reliance on SMOC.

"This gives us the ability to do individual assessments and to find out what each person needs," Desilets said.

The Common Ground Shelter is called a "wet shelter" because it accepts homeless people including those who are actively using drugs and/or alcohol.

Cuddy asked Suso to help SMOC in its quest to secure the money it needs for its efforts, but said the shelter closure was unconditional.

"I commend SMOC for their decision," said selectmen Chairman Dennis Giombetti   "I always felt it was in the best interest of the town, SMOC, the neighbors and the downtown merchants to close that shelter."

Suso agreed, saying in a press release the closure "will help to decrease crime in downtown Framingham.  Further, closure of the wet shelter will facilitate downtown revitalization and redevelopment, a major policy goal of the Board of Selectmen."

In the release, Suso promised to continue working with SMOC, saying the relationship between town officials and the agency's leaders is strong.

Giombetti sees the closure as another example of the teamwork that has become evident between state and local agencies.

"This demonstrates how things can work," he said.

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