Massachusetts Shelter Guarantee Could Lapse At Month’s End, Maura Healey Says

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By Sam Drysdale
State House News Service

While the state’s right-to-shelter law will remain in place, Massachusetts may not be able to guarantee shelter for immigrant families as soon as the end of this month as the state’s shelter system reaches capacity, Governor Maura Healey said Monday.

The governor appointed a new emergency assistance director to lead operations “in this new phase” of the ongoing emergency shelter crisis. Lieutenant General Leon Scott Rice, former director of the Air National Guard and adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard, will take the job to “work across our incident command structure in a close collaboration with local officials and stakeholders.”

There are close to 7,000 families (close to 23,000 people) enrolled in the state’s emergency shelter system, Healey said Monday, October 16 — more than double the number of individuals enrolled at this time last year, and even up significantly from the 5,600 families being housed when Healey declared a state of emergency in August.

“We do not have enough space, service providers, or funds to safely expand beyond 7,500 families, we expect to hit that limit at the end of the month,” Healey said during a press conference in Room 157 of the Massachusetts State House. “From that point on, we’ll no longer be able to guarantee shelter placement for new families entering.”

In an effort to move some people out of shelters, Healey also announced steps to place migrants in housing and jobs.

The administration is shifting its strategy to prioritize access to the home-base rehousing program, rental assistance, and private sponsorships for families who’ve been in shelter the longest, Healey said.

The governor once again called upon the federal government to streamline work authorizations for immigrants, to help them get on their feet, but she changed her tune Monday — this time saying:  “we are not waiting any longer.”

“We are connecting as many shelter residents as we can to work opportunities. First, we’re working with shelters and employers to help match work eligible residents with jobs. That work is being led by our MassHire Regional Offices and Workforce Boards, and they are getting results,” Healey said. “For example, MassHire South Shore is working with Dunkin’ Donuts to connect shelter residents to 30 open jobs.”

The governor said the state is also developing a new job training initiative with the non-profit arm of the Commonwealth Corporation Workforce Agency.

The governor said her administration is not getting rid of Massachusetts’s “right-to-shelter” law, but will not be able to fulfill it when the system reaches its maximum capacity.


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