KINGSTON, Mass. — Similar situation, different town. Almost two weeks ago, the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) placed about fifty immigrants in a Days Hotel in Methuen — but never told the city’s mayor.
Last Friday, it was Kingston’s turn.
Nine immigrants arrived at the Baymont Hotel in town.
Keith Hickey, Kingston’s Town Administrator, said he wasn’t apprised of their arrival until after the fact.
“I got a voicemail at 5:00 p.m. in the afternoon,” he said.
What that voicemail didn’t reveal was that the flow of immigrants to Kingston was far from over. On Saturday, another sixteen arrived — again, without warning. By Tuesday, the number housed in the South Shore town was up to 107.
“Out of the 107 people, 64 of those are kids,” said Hickey. “Twenty of those 64 are school-age kids.”
School-age kids who will likely be enrolling in a school district that’s already struggling to provide services to current students.
“Certainly, with twenty children that have ‘a language barrier,’ best-case scenario, to ‘can’t speak any English,’ worst case scenario — we have those challenges now,” Hickey said. “To have 20 kids dropped in Kingston sometime before Monday morning, not knowing about it, not allowing the school department to properly plan for the services they deserve and need is really unacceptable.”
So far, the town has incurred minimal costs related to the immigrants — but some costs. Hickey said the town’s public health nurse visited the hotel, administering vaccinations to some of the immigrants. He also sent the building inspector, fire and police chiefs to the Baymont to make sure it was safe and secure (it is, he said.)
“We’re happy to have them live here if that’s where they want to be,” Hickey said. “We’ll do whatever we can to help them. At this point, they’re staying here in Kingston and we’ll provide whatever services to the kids and families that we can.”
Hickey did note that here, as in almost every Eastern Massachusetts community, housing is quite expensive.
“How DHCD identified the town of Kingston as a community that they felt comfortable placing this group of people in — I wish I had an answer for you,” Hickey said. .
Hickey also wishes he had a good answer as to why the state failed to warn the town the immigrants were coming. He expressed his displeasure to a DHCD worker in a phone conversation earlier this week.
“My understanding is they’ve had a significant number of immigrants they need to find temporary housing for,” Hickey said. “In today’s world, with cell phones and e-mails and things of that nature, we’re awfully easy to get.”
A spokesperson from the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development said the following:
The Department of Housing and Community Development has a process in place to provide emergency shelter and other assistance to eligible homeless families by placing them in scattered site apartments, congregate shelters, and, as a last resort, hotels and motels. Due to high demand in the shelter system, some families recently have been temporarily placed in hotels, including in Plymouth and in Kingston, while more permanent shelter or housing is found.
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