Peter Reuell 508-626-4428
Framingham wet shelter agrees to reform Tuesday, September 27, 2005
Metrowest Daily News
Framingham officials and the town's largest social services agency last week agreed to a series of reforms at a downtown homeless shelter, but exactly how the changes will work has not been determined.

Several key reforms outlined last week, such as keeping closer tabs on sex offenders who live at the shelter and checking shelter residents for outstanding warrants, will require improved communication between police and the South Middlesex Opportunity Council, the agency running the shelter.

The details of how that communication will work are still to be determined, said Rohey Wadda, SMOC's MetroWest shelter team manager.

"We're starting to implement the changes...(but we) didn't get to the specifics," she said.  "That's been ongoing all along.  What we need now is to formalize it and work out all the details."

When those details will come is unclear.

"As soon as possible," Wadda said yesterday, when asked when the process would begin.

With Police Chief Steven Carl and Deputy Chief Ken Ferguson, both of whom would participate in the process, attending a conference out of state, those discussions likely will not begin until later this week at the earliest.

Officials from the Police Department were not available to comment on the changes today.

A "wet" shelter, which takes in people who are drunk or high on drugs, the downtown facility has in recent years become the target of a raft of resident complaints.

Partly to address those complaints, town and SMOC officials met in recent weeks to hammer out recommendations to improve shelter operations.

Along with closer communication with police about sex offenders and shelter residents wanted on warrants, the improvements include a requirement that shelter guests produce identification when arriving at the shelter.  Those who do not have an ID will have seven days to get one.

The agency also agreed to screen people better when they are referred to the shelter by outside agencies.

Whether the improvements ultimately pan out remains to be seen, Town Manager George King said.

"Ultimately, that's going to be something we're going to have to make our judgments about," he said.  "I'm confident it will get results.  This will help.  If it doesn't, we'll have to take further steps."

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