The Emmaus organization has installed a temporary 1,100-square-foot tent that can accommodate up to 10 people as part of the Haverhill homeless shelter's fight against the coronavirus. 

In partnership with the city and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, Emmaus set up the tent last week in the parking lot of the organization's family shelter at 150 How St. Fully permitted, lighted and heated, the tent includes hand-washing stations and portable toilets. To promote proper social distancing, each bed inside the tent has 110 square feet around it, according to Emmaus Development Manager Margot Regan.

The agency hopes to have the tent fully operational this week, Regan said.

Emmaus CEO Jeanine Murphy stressed that the tent is not used to house COVID-19 positive residents, but rather serves as a place to isolate and screen people for the disease before they enter the Mitch's Place shelter, which is typically an overnight shelter but now allows people to stay around the clock. Those seeking shelter at Mitch's Place will first be isolated in the tent for 14 days, Murphy said.

“It will be a new normal that will allow for us to provide shelter and essential services without risking the lives of others during this pandemic," Murphy said. “The fear of introducing someone into the building who may be carrying the virus is of critical concern for both our guests and our dedicated staff."

Murphy said the tent's installation was made possible with help from Mayor James Fiorentini and his staff, Director of Inspectional Services Richard MacDonald, Fiorentini's Chief of Staff Allison Heartquist, Police Deputy Chief Anthony Haugh, Fire Chief William Laliberty and the Emmaus staff. 

“We are lucky to be part of a community with compassionate leadership,” Murphy said.

The emergency tent is the latest step Emmaus has taken in its fight to keep Haverhill's homeless population safe from COVID-19. Since mid-March, Murphy and her team have worked to secure backup housing for residents in case the virus were to strike the shelter. An unused wing at the Best Western motel has been secured for residents who may need to isolate, though Murphy says she is still hopeful additional housing opportunities will become available.

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