FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2018
Media contact: John Guilfoil
Email: [email protected]
Town of Andover Provides Update on Alternative Housing Options for Residents Impacted by Gas Crisis
ANDOVER – The Baker-Polito Administration, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, Mayor Rivera, Town Managers Maylor and Flanagan and Columbia Gas today announced that alternative housing is being made available to customers impacted by the Sept. 13 gas line incident who choose not to stay in their homes as the weather turns colder.
The housing program, which includes hotel rooms, apartments, travel trailers, and combination warming centers and shelters, is being coordinated by Columbia Gas with support from local and state agencies and other partners. Impacted customers will be able to stay in alternative housing until service to their homes is restored.
For customers calling today (Oct. 5), hotels and apartments are available. Travel trailer options will be available in the coming days, and the congregate shelter will be open on Monday, Oct. 8. Columbia Gas has announced that it aims to restore gas service, including heat and hot water, to all homes by Nov. 19. In addition to housing options, congregate shelter locations will be available for residents to use as an overnight option and for daytime use for hot showers and warming centers.
“We are pleased to announce housing options, especially for our most vulnerable residents, to make this recovery process a little easier and provide essential services as the days get cooler. Since tragedy struck thousands of residents in the Merrimack Valley leaving them without heat and hot water in their homes, the team has been working around the clock to make repairs and offer services,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “Our administration will keep working to ease the frustration and obstacles brought to families and businesses until the restoration in complete.”
“As the weather will become colder before gas service is fully restored, we are taking significant steps to make sure that thousands of impacted customers have warm alternative housing options,” said MEMA Director Kurt Schwartz. “MEMA has worked closely with Columbia Gas and the communities to make these housing options available for those who need them in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover.”
“As we finalize the plan to restore service to the greater Lawrence area, we are focused on meeting our customers’ critical needs,” said Pablo Vegas, Chief Restoration Officer, NiSource, parent company of Columbia Gas. “We are taking steps to make temporary housing options available to customers before the colder weather sets in.”
“We are going to continue to work to provide the necessary resources to help our residents through the recovery and restoration process,” said Andover Town Manager Andrew Flanagan. “Housing alternatives will be critical as the weather gets colder and I am pleased that we have been able to mobilize an inventory of options that will be available to our residents and families that have been affected and are in need.
- All residents in the impacted area currently without gas service are eligible for housing support until their natural gas service in their home is restored.
- For customers calling today (October 5), hotels and apartments are available. Travel trailers options will be available in the coming days. The congregate shelter will be open on Monday, October 8th.
- Columbia Gas will be proactively reaching out, beginning October 8th, to its most vulnerable customers, including the elderly, families with young children, and people who have access and functional needs or medical conditions, and to residents whose homes will not have their gas service restored until after November 1st to assess their needs and offer to facilitate alternative housing assignments.
Impacted Columbia Gas customers who choose to be placed in alternative housing should call Columbia Gas’ Claims line: 1-800-590-5571.
A member of the Housing Assistance Team will gather information from the customer, including information about access and functional needs, size and family makeup, and individual and family needs. This information will be used to identify housing options for customers.
If qualified, approval of temporary housing will be provided during the call and the information will be passed to a housing assignment team who will call you with your placement.
Transportation arrangements will be provided for residents staying in hotels and apartments who do not have their own means of transportation, including Uber and Lyft rideshare services. Information will be provided to residents during the placement process.
Columbia’s Housing Assistance Claim Team will offer customers one of the available housing options:
- Hotels–Over 3,000 hotel rooms have been reserved by Columbia Gas through mid-November for use by its customers. The participating hotels are all within approximately 30 miles of the three impacted communities. Transportation arrangements will be provided for residents who do not have their own means of transportation, including Uber and Lyft rideshare services.
- Apartments – Over 150 one, two, and three bedroom apartments have been leased by Columbia Gas for use by customers. The apartments are within approximately 15 miles of the impacted communities. Transportation arrangements will be provided for residents who do not have their own means of transportation, including Uber and Lyft rideshare services.
- Travel Trailers – 360 new travel trailers have been leased by Columbia Gas to be used as temporary housing for families, and will be located in each of the three communities. The trailers in Andover will be located at Recreation Park. The travel trailers are 30’ in length and include kitchens, bathrooms with showers, and sleeping accommodations for up to 8 people. Each trailer site will have around the clock management, maintenance and security personnel. The trailer sites will be operational next week. Residents must contact Columbia Gas to coordinate housing placements, and will not be assigned to travel trailers on site.
- Congregate Sheltering – a combination warming center and congregate shelter will be located at IndusPAD Mill, formerly Malden Mills, at 46 Stafford St. in Lawrence. Initially, the shelter will have an overnight capacity of 250 people, but it will scale up to 1,000 people if the demand increases due to cold weather. Columbia Gas customers can also visit the shelter during the daytime for hot showers, and to use as a warming center. The overnight shelter will be used to meet short-term demand due to cold weather.
Housing needs will continue to be assessed throughout the recovery process and additional options will be coordinated as necessary.
For additional information and slides, see: Greater Lawrence Housing Options
These housing alternatives, and other recovery programs, are in response to the Sept. 13 incident that impacted Columbia Gas customers in Lawrence, North Andover, and Andover, and left approximately 10,000 households without heat and hot water. The housing assistance program, which will remain in place until gas service is restored for residences, is being paid for by Columbia Gas.