METHUEN — The controversial Days Inn homeless shelter, scheduled to be shut as of May 1, will remain open another 60 days, according to city officials.
City Councilor Mike Simard said he spoke with the owner of the hotel, Ashok Patel of Jamsan Hotel Management, on Thursday about the state’s plan to keep 35 rooms available for homeless individuals at the 159 Pelham St. facility until July 1.
“The owner informed me (Thursday),” Simard said, adding that the state Department of Housing and Community Development would continue to fund the emergency shelter.
Patel did not return calls or texts for comment as of Sunday afternoon. State officials did not return phone calls or emails, either.
The hotel has come under scrutiny by city officials and residents for years, but most recently for problems they say have been created by the large population of homeless people staying at the hotel.
West District City Councilor Allison Saffie, who represents the area of the city where the hotel is located, said she and others have found hypodermic needles on the ground in the vicinity of the hotel. She added that calls for service from the police and fire departments are way up over the past year, which is costing the city’s taxpayers while also taking emergency equipment out of service for other possible emergencies.
City Councilor Joel Faretra said homeless people have approached customers waiting in the Dunkin’ drive-through, asking for change.
Saffie said that while she appreciates the communication and cooperation from the hotel owner, she is frustrated by the lack of information coming from the state.
Beginning in the early days of the pandemic, hotels around the state were used to house people without homes because local shelters were considered breeding grounds for the disease.
In hotels, individuals and families have had their own space to quarantine, avoiding shelters with shared facilities such as bathrooms, dining and sleeping areas. They have also received medical care, COVID testing and vaccinations for the disease.
The problem, Saffie said, is that the state has not been forthcoming about the program, even failing to notify anyone in the city that the homeless shelter would remain open for another 60 days.
“The hotel owners told Councilor Simard,” she said. “I appreciate that he (Patel) is giving us updates. As city officials and residents, we want accountability. We want to know what’s going on.”
Despite repeated calls to various people working for the state, she said she has been stymied by a lack of concrete information.
“I feel like me and the mayor and other councilors are asking for the bare minimum — we just want updates,” she said. “We don’t even get those. Trying to get information from them is like pulling teeth.”
Saffie went so far as to try to convince the state auditor’s office to conduct a probe into the cost and management of the state program.
While the auditor’s office rejected the idea, they did put Saffie in touch with several key state officials. On Thursday she emailed Ryan Ambrose, policy development director and legislative liaison for the Department of Housing and Community Development, asking for clarity about the program.
“This extension is odd timing,” she wrote. “Monday, a man wanted for murder who was considered an armed and dangerous fugitive from justice, was captured by the Methuen police at the Days Inn.”
German Reynoso, 57, of Manhattan, New York, was wanted in connection to the murder of his wife in Washington Heights on Friday, April 23. He was captured last Monday morning at the Days Inn hotel in Methuen.
Methuen police Capt. Randy Haggar said the arrest of Reynoso had nothing to do with the homeless shelter, and that he was a paying guest at the hotel.
Nonetheless, city officials said the arrest was part of a pattern of problems at the facility.
“We are talking about issues going back a decade,” said City Council Vice Chairman D.J. Beauregard. “We’ve got a guy who (is accused of murdering) his wife and where does he go? The Day’s Inn in Methuen. I don’t know why, but this hotel is a magnet for problems. It’s indisputable. It’s the truth.”
Ambrose did return Saffie’s email, offering to hold a Zoom meeting with her and other officials to answer their questions.
Saffie said she wanted answers in writing first.
She sent a lengthy list of questions. She had not received a response as of Friday.
“I have nothing against what they do, but this is getting out of control,” she said. “The failure is on their part.”