Mass. to begin denying shelter beds, adding names to waitlist as state hits 7,500-family threshold

BOSTON — The number of homeless families seeking emergency shelter in Massachusetts hit the 7,500-family threshold on Thursday, and starting Friday, adults and children in need will be added to the state’s waiting list for beds.

“We are at the point where we do not have enough shelter units, service providers, or funding to continue to safely expand. Families will continue to be placed in shelter until the end of the day, and beginning tomorrow, families will be placed into shelter as units become available,” Massachusetts Emergency Assistance Director General Scott Rice said in a statement. “If there are no available shelter units, families determined eligible for emergency assistance will be placed on a waitlist. Our administration continues to provide arriving families with resources, basic necessities, and support, and we are working with community partners to connect them with safe, overnight options.”

Gov. Maura Healey made the decision to cap shelter placements at 7,500, previously saying that the state is incapable of accommodating families past that mark. Now, those in need will instead be placed on a waitlist that’s prioritized based on safety and clinical risk.

The spike in demand for shelter comes amid a surge of migrant families entering Massachusetts. The Bay State is the only state in the country that has a right-to-shelter law.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 7,517 families enrolled in shelters across the state with 37 families having signed up in the last 24 hours. Thousands of families are being housed in hotels and motels, in addition to traditional and National Guard-supported shelters.

Under Healey’s plan, women, young children, and those with acute medical needs and health issues will be given priority. The state is also considering limiting how long a family can stay in a shelter, Healey said.

Healey has said that she’s been pressuring the federal government to speed up the process by which migrants can get work authorizations and ultimately exit the shelter system to free up more space.

On Wednesday, House Speaker Ron Mariano said that the vast Hynes Convention Center in Boston is being discussed as a potential overflow shelter site.

In August, Healey declared a state of emergency due to the rapid rise in migrant families entering the state.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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