‘We do not have enough space’ in Massachusetts shelters, Gov. Healey says
Massachusetts’ emergency shelters are “on the brink of capacity”, and Gov. Maura Shealey’s government is implementing limits on shelter capacity while demanding additional federal support.
According to data from the state, forty families entered the Massachusetts emergency shelter in the last 24 hours. The total number of families now in the system has reached nearly 7,000.
Healey announced Monday that the number of families will reach 7,500 by the end the month.
According to the state, approximately half the families that are in emergency shelters are new arrivals. Healey stated that the families included expectant mothers and more than 50% of them were children.
Healey stated that “the trend continues to be driven primarily by families who are new immigrants to our country.” They are legally here. “They were allowed in with our federal government’s knowledge and consent.”
Healey announced on Monday the appointment of a director for an emergency shelter and said that the state was taking steps to increase access to housing, and to help people find work. She demanded support and assistance from the federal government.
“Our shelter system can’t expand indefinitely.” This level of demand cannot be sustained. Healey stated that the federal government is responsible for the ultimate cause of the problem and needs to provide urgent assistance.
Healey has chosen retired Lt. General Scott Rice as the new administrator of the shelter system. Rice was previously the director of the Air National Guard, the Adjutant-General and Commander of Massachusetts National Guard.
Rice, who has lived in Southampton for decades, said: “It’s important to me that we succeed in meeting this humanitarian crisis.” “I will bring my values and everything I have learned to bear on the crisis.”
Massachusetts’ “right to shelter law” requires the state to provide housing for homeless families. The state has rented a number of hotels and motels in recent months to house the growing number families.
We don’t have the space, services or money to expand safely beyond 7,500 families. Healey stated that they expect to reach this limit by the end the month. From that point forward, we won’t be able guarantee the placement of new families in shelters.
Steven Xiarhos is a Republican state representative from the 5th Barnstable District. He wants to suspend and amend the law on the right to shelter. He says that priority should go to Massachusetts residents and U.S. Citizens.
We must focus on our people. Xiarhos stated that there are people in need throughout the Commonwealth. “(The law was) passed in 1983. I don’t believe anyone intended or had the vision to say: “Wow, in 40 years, thousands of people will be coming from abroad.” ‘”
Gov. Maura Shealey declared a State of Emergency in August due to a severe shortage of shelters. In September, she activated 250 Massachusetts National Guard members to provide services to the families in several makeshift shelters.
Healey stated that the state was working to provide work-eligible residents jobs. She also said that her administration would be working with the Commonwealth Corporation Workforce Agency on a job training program specifically targeted at shelter residents without work authorization.
Healey said, “We want them to be ready to go to work the moment their permits arrive.”
On Sunday’s “On The Record” on WCVB, Speaker of the House Ron Mariano expressed concern that the $250 million requested for the system by Healey would not be sufficient to fund it long-term.
It won’t solve the problem. Mariano stated that it may not get us even to the end the month. “We don’t think this will stop at the end this month.”
He pointed out the dysfunction of Congress by saying, “Calvary doesn’t lie on the other side.”
Mariano explained, “There is a ship without rudders that controls the spigot to get the help we need.”
Healey stated that “we need to see action from Congress.” We need Congress act to fund the Biden Administration’s supplemental budget request that would give us more help, more funding, for the issues we face. The states didn’t create the problem, but we have to pay the cost.
After weeks of pressure by the state and Congressional delegations, members of a Department of Homeland Security team visited Massachusetts last week to view the shelter system.
We want to see action taken because we have been communicating directly and clearly, for months, through multiple meetings and requests, the needs that we have in this state. Healey said, “We need work authorizations.” We’ve identified regulatory and guidance changes as well as improvements in logistics that would help families become more independent more quickly.