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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Shelters offer insufficient support for influx of migrant families

Saichand Chowdary
Two pedestrians pass by the Massachusetts State House. Photo by Saichand Chowdary / Mass Media Staff.

On the morning of Monday, Oct. 16, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey held a news conference reinforcing her wariness of the state’s emergency shelter system’s ability to sustain the number of incoming families. According to WCVB-TV, Governor Healey provoked the idea of the abundance of migrants among the Bay State and labeled it “on the verge of reaching capacity.” (1)  The Governor declared an emergency Aug. 8 due to an overhaul of citizens entering the states’ emergency shelter system, and in her emergency speech, she spoke with optimism about the situation at hand, saying, “They’re here because where they came from is too dangerous to stay. They’re here because Massachusetts has, and will always be, a beacon of hope, compassion, humanity and opportunity,” in a video uploaded by WPRI 12 news. (2)

Although Healey has been vocally supportive of the families and various other people populated in Massachusetts’ shelters—while fighting to garner additional resources and shelter opportunities for families—she also sees the necessity for additional assistance from the Federal Government to maintain the influx of shelter goers. Healey also noted in her Oct. 16 speech that, “As of yesterday, close to 7000 families are in emergency shelter […] Twice the number of families we were sheltering a year ago.” (3) According to Governor Healey’s press release, “The state will not be able to accommodate more than 7,500 families, or approximately 24,000 individuals, and will likely hit this number by the end of the month.” (4)

Due to Governor Healey’s state emergency declaration, she has been granted the ability to call in the National Guard to maintain order and assistance during the shelter crisis. Massachusetts employs a right to shelter law, enabling families the access to resources and shelter as a helping hand in allowing them to situate themselves as dwellers of the Commonwealth. Chapter 23B, section 30, states that the department has a right to administer assistance in emergency shelter situations. Providing further information, the law explicitly states:

“Subject to appropriation, the department shall administer a program of emergency housing assistance to needy families with children and pregnant women with no other children. The department shall administer the program throughout the commonwealth at locations that are geographically convenient to families who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness and shall administer the program in a fair, just and equitable manner. The commonwealth shall accept funds from the appropriate federal authorities for said program.” (5)

Since calling in the National Guard, cities and towns across the state have seen a steep rise in shelter goers, alongside a greater presence from the military force. Healey has exercised her power to the full extent, calling in the National Guard to be deployed over cities, towns, shelters and hotels. Furthermore, According to NBC10 Boston, “The Federal Emergency Management Agency gave the state and the city of Boston a $1.9 million grant to support shelter services and transportation.” (6) Healey is fully committed to providing aid for sheltered families in Massachusetts, as she has shown her commitment through her recent actions. Healey, alongside Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll, appointed Lt. General L. Scott Rice as emergency assistance director in their press release; Driscoll said:

“The Governor and I understand the strain that has been placed on Massachusetts communities over the past year as we have all come together to ensure that families have access to the shelter and resources they need. Lt. General Rice will be a valuable resource for local officials as we enter this new phase of the emergency shelter program.” (4)

One of the biggest assets the migrants have access to in Massachusetts, not to mention migrants across the country, is the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. As pointed out by mass.edu, DACA was created by the Department of Homeland Security in 2012 to allow migrants a period of two years from the time of their application approval to which they will not be prosecuted by the Federal Government during that time.

In the case of Massachusetts’ migrants, “DACA beneficiaries will receive work permits in addition to deferred action status. Under the Board of Higher Education’s residency policy, work permits make individuals eligible for in-state tuition at the Commonwealth’s 29 public college and university campuses, provided that they meet all other requirements.” (7)  Given UMass Boston’s status as a public university in Massachusetts’ higher education system, individuals associated with DACA are fortunately able to utilize the higher education at their fingertips, furthermore giving migrants housed in the emergency shelters a stepping stone toward a valuable resource they can take initiative in; something that will likely better their lives both short and long term.

Healey’s consistent pursuit of shelter for disadvantaged families promotes the Commonwealth’s mission for economic equality and freedom amongst its citizens. Healey’s aspirations lie in the middle, hoping to get to a point where sustainability can be reached with the number of sheltered families, while keeping the morale of Massachusetts’ towns, cities and communities high.

  1. https://www.wcvb.com/article/massachusetts-migrant-crisis-gov-healey-oct-16/45547842#
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PfnhJ0-Gls4
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMsrPonRph4&list=RDNSPMsrPonRph4&start_radio=1
  4. https://www.mass.gov/news/governor-healey-announces-states-emergency-family-shelter-system-will-reach-capacity-by-end-of-month
  5. https://malegislature.gov/Laws/GeneralLaws/PartI/TitleII/Chapter23B/Section30
  6. https://www.nbcboston.com/news/local/healey-to-give-an-update-on-mass-migrant-shelter-system-monday/3161032/
  7. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals / Massachusetts Department of Higher Education