Gov. Healey: Emergency migrant shelters expected to reach capacity as soon as today

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — The state’s emergency migrant shelter system could reach capacity as early as Tuesday as House lawmakers plan to vote on sending $250 million more in funding to help the strained system.

A majority of the migrants coming into the state have been staying in motels and hotels, but by either Tuesday or Wednesday, the state expects there won’t be any rooms left and families will have to be put on waiting lists.

According to the state’s latest numbers, there are currently 7,439 families enrolled in the state’s shelter system. The state reports that 30 of those families came on board in the last 24 hours.

Gov. Maura Healey has put a cap on families at 7,500. After that, Healey said they would have to wait and be sent to the place where they last stayed.

As it stands right now, the Healey administration has said the state will exhaust its $325 million shelter budget by Jan. 13, 2024.

The House plans to vote Wednesday on Healey’s request for an additional $250 million. This would help cover costs, but not create any more physical space for new families coming in.

“This is an issue that the state has really had to bear the brunt of for far too long from the very beginning, without federal assistance and we really need congressional action,” Healey said. “We need them to move and act on the funding that President Biden supported weeks ago. We also need help from the Biden administration.”

Massachusetts is the only state in the country that has a right-to-shelter law. But Representative Peter Durant, a Spencer Republican, said he plans to file an amendment to modify it, specifying that only legal residents of Massachusetts who have been here for at least three years would qualify for emergency housing.

The Healey administration wants to get migrant families out of shelters, but the governor’s focus is speeding up the work permit process.

“We’ve got a number of people who are in shelters who are looking to work and that is why we set up a couple of separate work streams to get people working and to get them and them and their families exited from shelter,” Healey said. “Those operations are underway and that’s going to be an important part of where we spend time and energy.”

Next week, the United States Department of Homeland Security will be hosting a clinic where migrant families can apply for work authorization.

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