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Mass. Emergency Shelters to Reach Capacity in October

By Tom Marino | October 16, 2023
Last Updated: October 16, 2023

BOSTON – Governor Maura Healey announced today that the emergency shelter system for families without housing will reach capacity by the end of October. According to Healey, the state will not be able to expand its capacity to provide emergency shelter to more than 7,500 families, or more than 24,000 individuals. As of Oct. 16, there are nearly 7,000 families that include children and pregnant women in emergency shelter. About half of the individuals in shelter are children.

Healey has previously stated that the emergency shelter system faces significant strain by migrants legally admitted into the United States but waiting for work authorization processing by the federal government.

Starting on Nov. 1, families unable to be placed in emergency shelter will be placed on a waiting list. Placement will be prioritized by needs such as health and safety risks.

“For months now, we have been expanding shelter capacity at an unsustainable rate to meet rising demand,” said Healey. “Despite the heroic work of public officials, shelter providers and the National Guard, we have reached a point where we can no longer safely or responsibly expand.”

Healey announced several steps her administration is taking to deal with the crisis on Monday.

Governor Appoints Emergency Assistance Director

Healey named Lieutenant General L. Scott Rice the Emergency Assistance Director.  Rice will oversee oversee management and coordination of the emergency shelter system, including leading the administration’s Incident Command Team, which includes representatives from multiple state agencies

Rice’s responsibilities include implementing state policy on emergency shelter, direct coordination with stakeholders and officials at the local, state and federal levels, and report directly to the governor on daily developments.

Rice is a retired and disabled veteran of 50 years with the United States Air Force and the Air National Guard. From 2016 to 2020, Rices was director of the Air National Guard. In his prior role as Adjutant General of the Massachusetts National Guard from 2012 to 2016, he lead emergency response and post-disaster recovery efforts for Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Irene, the Boston Marathon Bombing and ice storms.

Prioritizing Transition to Stable Housing

Healey also announced the state will increase efforts to transition families into stable housing. Those in shelter for more than 15 months will receive enhanced priority.

To enhance transition to stable housing, support for rapid rehousing and rental assistance initiatives are being increased. One program receiving increased support, HomeBase,  helps eligible homeless families pay their first/last month’s rent and security deposits, moving expenses, stipends to help with ongoing housing costs, and other costs that can help families stabilize

Family Welcome Centers will also received additional support. These centers include staff to assess families for basic needs, offer assistance filing for public benefits through the Department of Transitional Assistance, and receive necessities like diapers, formula, and hygiene products.

Connection to Job Opportunities

A state partnership with Commonwealth Corporation Foundation will pilot a program in Salem to connect individuals in shelters awaiting work authorization with opportunities for on-the-job-training and skills development.

Healey also reported that the initial phase of a new program connects MassHire Regional Workforce Boards and career centers to 15 shelter sites across the sate. Employers and businesses can inquire about these efforts that can help with their workforce needs by contacting [email protected].

Seeking Federal Assistance

Last week, a team from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was in Massachusetts and to meet with the governor and her team. The DHS team also visited shelter and a Family Welcoming Center.

Healey has appealed to the DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas for federal funding and improvements to worth authorization protocol. The governor also me with the White House Chief of Staff in August.

MassHealth has requested federal funding for up to six months of temporary housing assistance and other supports for families and pregnant individuals, including newly arrived immigrants, who are enrolled as MassHealth members, in emergency shelter. These supports include case management and referrals to medical, social, and educational services.

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