Amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, Boston University opened its Fenway Campus housing units to Pine Street Inn employees last week, as announced by the university Thursday.
Pine Street Inn is a Boston organization dedicated to helping the homeless population in Boston, according to its website. Despite the widespread closures the pandemic has forced throughout the state, Pine Street Inn employees have been continuing their work.
Barbara Trevisan, vice president of marketing and communications at Pine Street Inn, wrote in an email that the housing arrangement was organized to help employees in need.
“In the last couple of weeks,” Trevisan wrote, “Pine Street Inn has been working closely with the city of Boston to identify spaces for Pine Street staff, many of whom are working long hours and unable to go home between shifts.”
Colin Riley, a BU spokesperson, said that BU has not decided how long the housing arrangement is set to last.
“While they have a need,” Riley said, “we’ll have to see how we can accommodate them as we are able.”
He also said that the Fenway units were empty before Pine Street Inn workers moved into them. Riley said it made sense to have the employees occupy those spaces, rather than residences on the Charles River Campus, as the units are all singles.
“That residence is empty and was designed [to] fit the particular needs of having single rooms, single bedrooms, single rooms and bathrooms,” Riley said.
Trevisan wrote that collaboration with BU has been essential to keeping staff involved, subsequently allowing Pine Street Inn to continue helping Boston’s homeless population.
“Working with homeless men and women at Pine Street’s shelters is especially stressful at this time, as our guests are fearful and nervous about the current situation,” Trevisan wrote. “Like hospitals and other ‘essential’ institutions, Pine Street’s shelters and housing must remain open. People experiencing homelessness who come to Pine Street Inn have very few options, so it is critically important to maintain our staffing to support them.”
Riley said there is an added pressure to working with the homeless during a pandemic, as the risk of spreading the virus is uncertain.
“[Pine Street Inn employees] are dealing with having to go home [after work],” Riley said, “and they want to be sure that they weren’t putting their family members at risk.”
Trevisan wrote that the institution is thankful for the help from BU.
“Pine Street Inn greatly values the generosity of the community, and it means so much to have this kind of support,” Trevisan wrote. “It is wonderful to see how [BU] and other institutions around the city have stepped up to provide these resources.”
Hannah Gorman, a sophomore in the Sargent College of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, said she is glad to see BU stepping up to help others amid the COVID-19 situation.
“When all of this started happening, it definitely felt like [BU was] throwing us all into the deep end,” Gorman said. “I don’t think there’s too much that they could have done about [classes and housing issues], but the fact that they’re seeing a situation that they can do something about and taking that opportunity to positively impact the community, I think it reflects really well on them.”
She also said that it’s important for everyone to help their community if they are able.
“I think that [BU is] doing a good job leading by example to hopefully get other universities to do similar programs in association with potential workers that need a place to stay,” Gorman said.