The women, some of whom had been asked to leave the shelter because of inappropriate conduct or because they had stayed longer than the 12 weeks the shelter was intended to provide, also sought assistance in Housing Court, where a judge took the position that they were entitled to the same protection as any tenant being evicted from a residence.
The DCF investigation found the abuse and retaliation claims to be unsubstantiated, according to accounts of the report provided by spokeswomen for HAWC and the DCF.
The report also recommended that the agency retrain staff members, develop an improvement plan and clarify termination policies for residents of the shelter, the spokeswomen said.
HAWC has declined to release its copy of the report.
The Salem News last month requested a copy of the DCF report under the state public records law; Isaksen said the agency will release it after its lawyer completes a “redaction,” or blacking out the names of individuals in the report.
The shelter stopped accepting new residents last spring, amid the request for investigation. The last resident moved out in October, Waldron said.
Waldron told editors in a meeting at The Salem News that HAWC wants to reopen the shelter but that state officials would not allow it because of the uncertainty over the agency’s ability to remove shelter guests who don’t want to leave. She said DCF wanted to use Salem as a “test case” on the issue of whether the facility is considered housing, which would subject it to the same requirements landlords face in an eviction proceeding, or a clinical program, which would allow the organization to remove individuals more quickly.
But in an email in response to questions from the newspaper, Isaksen disputed that, saying, “The Department of Children and Families does not intend to use, nor has it been using HAWC as a ‘test case’ for any practice.”