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Bates Complex to be Used as Temporary Housing for Families

A message to the Salem State community from President Keenan

Dear Campus Community,

The need for shelter in Massachusetts has reached crisis levels. Recently, the Commonwealth contacted Salem State seeking to use the vacant Bates Complex on South Campus as temporary, emergency housing for families experiencing homelessness. Today, we formalized an agreement with the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) for this use. Centerboard, a community-based organization in Lynn, has been contracted by DHCD to operate the space.

Below is a press release sent out by the city of Salem today, which includes information for those looking to support these families.

Salem State closed the Bates Complex earlier this year as part of our long-planned efforts to sell South Campus. While this sale is still underway, the timeline allows us to offer this space during this moment of elevated need. As the Commonwealth’s civic engagement university, we are happy to do our part to help alleviate a humanitarian crisis.

Thank you,

John D. Keenan




November 14, 2022

City of Salem, DHCD, Salem State University Partner on Temporary Housing for Families Experiencing Homelessness

Salem, MA – Today the City of Salem, Salem State University (SSU), and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts through the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) and its contractor Centerboard, jointly announced a plan to temporarily utilize the vacant former residential units in the Bates Complex on SSU’s South Campus as transitional housing for Massachusetts families experiencing homelessness, including both existing Massachusetts residents and new arrivals to the Commonwealth.

“Salem is a welcoming and compassionate community,” said Mayor Kim Driscoll. “We’re working closely with our state partners, with SSU, and with our School Department and other community stakeholders and agencies to help welcome these families and ensure they receive the support they need.” 

"As the Commonwealth continues to see an influx of new arrivals and families experiencing homelessness, we have a statutory and moral obligation to create adequate family shelter capacity," said Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy. "We are incredibly grateful for our partnership with Salem State University and the City of Salem as we address this crisis together."

“Serving our community is central to Salem State’s values,” said President John D. Keenan. “This vacant space allows us to help alleviate a humanitarian crisis, and we are happy to do our part in collaboration with the city of Salem, the Commonwealth and Centerboard.”

"Salem Public Schools is committed to educating all young people who live in the City of Salem." Says Dr. Stephen Zrike, Superintendent of Schools, "We are ready to embrace these incoming families into our community, schools, and classrooms and provide the support necessary for a successful transition. We are excited to welcome our new students who will most certainly enrich our school communities!"

Why is this space needed for temporary housing?

Massachusetts has seen an influx of families that are new arrivals over recent months. This fact, coupled with the lack of affordable housing for existing housing insecure families in Massachusetts, has put a strain on the Commonwealth’s emergency shelter program, which does not have sufficient capacity to meet this demand. As a result, the Commonwealth is working with communities to temporarily house families - both migrant and existing unhoused residents - in need at alternative housing sites until the system can stabilize and, where possible, permanent housing options can be secured for families in need.

When will this take place?

DHCD anticipates starting with a small number of families in late November 2022 and slowly increasing the number to approximately 50-60 families in all.

How long will the Salem State University Bates Complex be used for this?

The agreement for this temporary use lasts from late November 2022 until March of 2024. The sale of the South Campus property is expected to close in spring of 2024.

Who will manage the site?

DHCD has contracted with Centerboard, a North Shore-based nonprofit, to manage the daily operation of this site. Centerboard will maintain a staffed, on-site office at the Salem State University Bates complex for the entire duration of this use.

What is Centerboard?

Centerboard is a community-based organization that has supported North Shore families and young people through housing, access to employment, education, and financial empowerment for 33 years. They work with local residents, businesses, and officials to increase economic opportunity in the community. Through these efforts they serve over 2,000 people each year. Centerboard believes that communities thrive when you invest in people and places.

What will Centerboard provide?

Centerboard has been retained to ensure families have food and necessities met, to provide case management and connection to resources, to assist with housing searches, to oversee contracted security at the site, and to provide maintenance of the site.

Who is paying for Centerboard and for facility costs like utilities and maintenance?

DHCD will pay costs related to the operation of the site.

Will all the children from these families be enrolled in Salem Public Schools?

While some of them may, many will not. Many children at this temporary site will not be school-age and many others are already enrolled in other school districts in Massachusetts and will continue to attend those schools. The Administration is working with partners to ensure that there is funding available to school districts that are educating new arrivals and incoming students who are unhoused. 

Why is the Bates Complex on South Campus vacant? 

Salem State closed the Bates Complex earlier this year as part of long-time plans to sell South Campus and concentrate programming in the University’s campus core. In accordance with SSU’s plan, DCAMM conducted a request for proposals this year for redevelopment of the property and announced the selection of a development team in September 2022.

How will this impact SSU’s plans to sell South Campus?

The use of the Bates Complex for temporary housing fits within the timeline for the sale of the property, and therefore the sale will not be impacted. The proposed redevelopment project will move forward as originally scheduled with a closing in 2024. 

What do these residential units in the Bates Complex include?

The units are single or two-floor townhouses with various bedroom layouts.

How can I help support these families?

Those interested in helping welcome families to the Salem State University Bates Complex are invited to contact Centerboard at



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