Massachusetts State Agency, Catholic Charities, and Newton Parish Kept Shelter For Migrants Quiet

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By Alison Kuznitz
State House News Service

Newton city officials divulged this week that a safety-net family shelter has been operating at the Our Lady of Help Christians Parish campus since November.

Shelter providers initially kept the location private to protect the safety of families and staff, but the disclosure comes as officials look to address false claims about violence at the emergency overflow shelter, according to an email update Tuesday, February 13 from Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller.

Fuller said the temporary shelter, which can accommodate up to 30 families, is operated by Catholic Charities. The site is supported by a $5 million grant program launched in the fall by the Healey administration and United Way of Massachusetts Bay in response to a crush of migrants seeking shelter and straining the state’s emergency assistance program.

Eight safety-net shelters, capable of serving 97 families per night, have launched under the grant program, United Way spokesman Brigid Boyd told State House News Service. The sites are located in Worcester County and Hampden County, as well as Greater Boston, Boyd said.

The program has allocated $3 million so far, she said.

Catholic Charities received the program’s first grant in November 2023 and said its shelter would be situated in Greater Boston.

“Rather than disclose the location, Catholic Charities, Our Lady’s and the State EOHLC [Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities], who in the fall/early winter had seen protests and threats aimed at shelter residents and workers at several locations in the Commonwealth, asked the City not to release any information about this shelter and rather to keep it as an undisclosed location,” Fuller wrote in an email update. “The family shelter that had operated in this location for decades had also been operated as an undisclosed location. Until the release today by Our Lady’s and Catholic Charities, we honored their request.”

The shelter is expected to operate through May 2024, Fuller said.

Catholic Charities, a tenant at the Washington Street campus, had asked the parish about using two shelter locations to respond to the state’s emergency shelter crisis. The spaces were vacant due to “programmatic changes,” the parish and Catholic Charities said in a joint statement shared by Fuller.

The organizations noted that Catholic Charities USA warned in the fall of 2023 that member agencies were being targeted for “helping migrants with basic needs.”

“You may notice we have private security on site, and they are there for the safety of our staff and residents — not for any perceived risk to our parish community or neighbors,” the statement said. “We do regret that some of the young children staying at this site tested our fire alarms a few times which caused unnecessary response and disturbance. However, other reports of violence at this site are not accurate and we caution those who don’t know the facts from sharing rumors that could cause an unfortunate portrayal of the families we are caring for in our community.”


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