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Universities in Boston area to house health care workers, first responders during the COVID-19 crisis

A cleaning company employee inspects a bed in a dorm unit. Universities in Boston to house health care workers, first responders, and recovering COVID-19 patients. Northeastern University turned over its West Village E Hall to the city for EMS and police personnel officers to live in during the coronavirus pandemic. About 135 of the hall's 145 rooms will be available to house these first responders. Only one person will be allowed to live in each room.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Universities in the Boston area are opening up their residence halls to house those working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced Thursday that Boston University has made 75 beds available for employees of the Pine Street Inn, a homelessness shelter in the South End, while Northeastern University will have 135 rooms available to Boston first responders who need a place to stay and self-isolate when they’re not working.

“Today, we’re ramping up resources for our first responders and front-line workers to make sure they have the support they need as they care for our city," Walsh said.


Renata Nyul, a Northeastern spokeswoman, said Boston police and EMS personnel will stay in Northeastern’s West Village E Hall and could move in as early as this weekend.

“We’re part of the Boston community, so we’re happy to help out,” said John Malone, associate vice president of facilities at Northeastern.

The city will provide food to the first responders and will pay Northeastern’s cleaning service and laundry vendors to continue their services.

Northeastern’s hired cleaning company will follow CDC guidelines for sanitizing the building while first responders live there, Malone said.

Cleaning company employees clean a living space in a dorm unit at Northeastern University. David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

“My son’s a police officer in Wakefield, so I understand [the first responders’] concerns during this,” Malone said. “Providing these first responders with this habitat will relieve stress that they won’t bring the virus into their homes.”

A dorm at Emerson College will house about 100 medical professionals who are working at Tufts Medical Center, said Peggy Ings, a spokeswoman for the college.

Ings said the hall will give medical workers a chance to rest after working long shifts at the hospital.

“Some folks who are here helping can't get back home and a lot of them don’t live near here, but they need to sleep,” Ings said. “We're very pleased to be able to house this population, especially now as things are getting more intense.”


The hospital will provide residents with food and bed linens during their stay and will take over cleaning the building, Ings said.

At the Tufts University Medford/Somerville campus, university officials have been working with the Cambridge Health Alliance to prepare 1,600 beds for health care workers, the university announced in a statement Monday.

Beds will also be available to recovering COVID-19 patients and on-campus apartments will be open to first responders who need to isolate, the university said.

The Tufts downtown campus will have housing available for workers at Tufts Medical Center, which is a separate entity from the university.

“We are ready to accept people as soon as needed,” said Patrick Collins, a spokesman for Tufts University.

Harvard University announced last week that the Harvard Square Hotel will house Cambridge first responders and health care workers at the Cambridge Health Alliance.

Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have also each donated $250,000 to support Cambridge’s temporary emergency homeless shelter during the crisis, Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui said in a statement Monday.

Sarah McDonnell, an MIT spokeswoman, said two residential halls at the school will house Cambridge first responders.

At Emmanuel College, the New Residence Hall will have beds available to medical professionals working with Beth Israel Lahey Health, according to Molly Honan DiLorenzo, spokeswoman for the school.

Massachusetts College of Art and Design residence halls will house about 150 medical staff during the crisis, according to a statement from MassArt. Officials said parking lots next to the residence halls will have 140 parking spaces available for these workers.


Walsh announced on March 29 that Suffolk University’s Nathan R. Miller Hall would house homeless people in Boston during the crisis. Suffolk spokesman Greg Gatlin said Suffolk has reached out to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and is “prepared to try to offer housing for health care workers.”

Caroline Enos can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CarolineEnos.