Davidson News

Davidson News

Massachusetts Plans Emergency Shelter for Migrant Families at Former Prison

Massachusetts authorities are preparing to repurpose a former prison facility into an emergency shelter to accommodate families experiencing homelessness due to an increasing number of newly arrived migrants in the state. The Bay State Correctional Center in Norfolk, decommissioned in 2015, will serve as a temporary refuge for approximately 140 families, comprising up to 450 individuals, many of whom have been residing at Boston Logan International Airport, stated Emergency Assistance Director Scott Rice.

Massachusetts Plans Emergency Shelter for Migrant Families at Former Prison
Source: Boston Herald

Opening of Temporary Shelter

Scheduled to commence operations in mid-June, the emergency shelter is anticipated to function for a duration of six months to a year. The state’s right-to-shelter law ensures housing for homeless families with children and expectant mothers eligible for emergency accommodation. A surge in migrant encounters has been observed since 2020, with nearly 250,000 encounters reported by the U.S. Border Patrol last December, according to the Pew Research Center.

National Strain on Resources

The recent influx of migrants has strained resources in cities nationwide, with shelters and facilities operating beyond capacity. Many newly arrived migrants have been compelled to seek makeshift accommodation in public spaces such as bus stops, airport premises, and municipal buildings. Concerns have been raised by communities regarding the impact of this surge and calls have been made for increased federal assistance and a more sustainable solution for migrants seeking entry into the country.

Adapting the Correctional Center

Scott Rice highlighted that the Bay State Correctional Center remains structurally sound, offering amenities such as showers and bathrooms on each floor. Additional facilities include a cafeteria, gymnasium, and communal areas, which will be repurposed for case management and administrative purposes. Plans also entail creating play areas for children and classroom spaces for adult education, encompassing English language instruction, vocational training, and housing search workshops.

Community Engagement and Concerns

Local officials in Norfolk expressed surprise at the decision to repurpose the prison as a temporary shelter, citing a lack of prior consultation with the town. They emphasized the need for proactive engagement to address logistical challenges posed by the sudden influx of families. Massachusetts Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll assured town officials that the shelter’s management would be overseen by a selected operator designated by the Executive Office of Health and Human Services through a competitive bidding process.

Massachusetts Plans Emergency Shelter for Migrant Families at Former Prison
Source: AP News

Collaborative Efforts Moving Forward

Norfolk officials underscored their commitment to ongoing dialogue with state authorities to address concerns and develop collaborative solutions in the best interests of the town. They pledged to work closely with state agencies to manage potential impacts effectively while ensuring that the town’s perspectives are taken into consideration throughout the process. Regular communication channels will be maintained to facilitate constructive collaboration and mutual understanding between state and local stakeholders.

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