Howe told family members at the Fernald League's annual meeting that it hasn't yet been decided whether to keep the Warren building open permanently for homeless families. She said that decision won't be made by DMR, but rather by the Department of Transitional Assistance, a separate agency under the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.
So, despite all the talk that Fernald is too expensive for the state to continue to operate, it may well not be closed after all. It will just be closed to the people who have called it home for 50 or more years in many cases—the current residents with mental retardation.
Howe denied that major renovations were underway in the Warren building, but confirmed that some renovations have been made to “make the building habitable on a temporary basis.” One Fernald family member noted the irony that the state appears to have been purposely allowing the currently occupied buildings to deterioriate “in order to give us all a push out the door.”
If the administration does indeed intend to keep Fernald open as a center for the homeless (there are already three shelters for homeless families on the campus already), there can no longer be any doubt about how the administration views the current residents with mental retardation. The administration doesn't really view these residents as too expensive to continue to care for at Fernald. On the contrary, they simply represent too lucrative a market to stay there. The state and federal governments will continue to pay for their care, but they will be handing over the money to the operators of private group homes who have been clamoring for this business for years.
Once Howe had confirmed the news about the homeless families and the Warren building, everyone in the room knew that the Patrick administration has decided to pit two deserving groups against each other at Fernald—the homeless and the mentally retarded, and has decided to evict one to make way for the other.