BOSTON (AP) — Advocates scrambling to find shelter for homeless migrant families newly arrived to Massachusetts say they’re frustrated with a lack of good options after the state capped the number of family shelter spots and created a wait list.
The cap has tied the hands of those trying to help families seeking refuge from increasingly cold nights, dumping those families on a kind of housing merry-go-round from airport lounges to hospital waiting rooms and walk-in church shelters.
“Right now there’s no place to send them,” Cherlin Dubon, a triage case specialist at La Colaborativa in Chelsea, Massachusetts said of homeless families seeking a safe place to stay.
“What was not done right was having a plan,” she said. “They could have done better.”
Democratic Gov. Maura Healey, who created the cap, said the state is working with local groups to provide temporary spaces for those on the wait list. The cap and wait list took effect last week when the state crossed a threshold set by Healey of 7,500 families in the state’s emergency shelter system.
Healey defended her handling of the crisis, saying the state is taking steps to address the shortage of emergency shelter spots, including teaming with the United Way of Massachusetts Bay on a $5 million grant program to help local groups working with newly arrived migrant families open up more temporary overnight shelter spaces.
She also pointed to a newly launched program with the Department of Homeland Security to help speed up the process for migrants to get work authorizations – the first step to finding a job and a place to live.
“I think we’re doing all that we can right now. The key is getting people exited from shelters. That will increase capacity in existing shelter space,” she said. “The key really is getting people working.”
Since Sept. 1 more than 400 families have exited the emergency family shelter system, opening up those spots for other families. Despite the effort to cycle families out of the shelter system, the newly created wait list is starting to fill up. As of midday on Monday, 22 families were on the list.
Critics argue Healey’s decision to cap shelter placements violates the state’s “right-to-shelter” law. Under the four-decade-old law, Massachusetts is legally required to provide emergency shelter to eligible families.
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