DEVENS — The Baker-Polito administration announced in a recent press release that a central intake center would open in Devens this month, established and operated by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, or MEMA.
The move is in response to a “substantially increased demand” for emergency shelter assistance, state wide, according to the press release, which states that the set-up will be “temporary.”
Housed in the Bob Eisengrein Community Center, the new facility is slated to be open for four months.
With $139 million in the fiscal 2023 supplemental budget dedicated to addressing emergency shelter needs across the state, $20 million of that money is to establish and maintain the intake center.
MEMA’s mission there will be to assess the emergency shelter and human services needs of up to 60 families served by the state’s shelter system, or 125 individuals at a time, while also providing a place to stay “for a few days” while the assessment process moves forward.
The goal is to arrange appropriate transfers to other facilities or to more permanent housing.
Bob Eisengrein, for whom the Community Center is named, might have applauded the move.
Locally known as a community activist, he advocated for causes he believed in, and as a founding member of the Devens Committee, he helped petition the legislature to make Devens a town. It didn’t happen, however, despite support from Sen. James Eldridge who was then a state representative.
A New York native, former New Hampshire state legislator and retired electrical engineer, Eisengrein moved with his wife, Bette, from Acton to Devens in 2001.The community was brand-new then.
The Eisengreins were among the first to buy and move into one of the renovated former military residences in Devens after the Army base closed . According to his wife, he became an unofficial community ambassador, personally welcoming new families as they moved into the neighborhood.
When the community center was dedicated in 2013, a year after Bob Eisengrein died, Mass Development’s then-CEO, Marty Jones, described him as “a friend to all … to everyone at Devens.”
Bette Eisengrein said her husband would have been “thrilled” by the honor. “He was all about the community,” she said.
Originally envisioned as a neighborly gathering place with its own event calendar, the community center might not have become the hub of activity some had hoped it would, but the building has hosted many groups and events over the years.
Today, Devens is home to about 950 residents and 100 businesses, nonprofits and government organizations. MassDevelopment, the quasi-state agency charged with its redevelopment after the base closed, operates Devens and serves as its temporary government.