BOSTON (WPRI) — By the end of this month, the state of Massachusetts is expected to run out of room for people seeking shelter.
That’s according to Gov. Maura Healey, who held a news conference Monday morning to publicly call for help from the federal government, as well as outline the steps her administration is taking to address the crisis.
“We need urgent support from the federal government, which bears ultimate responsibility for this situation,” she said.
For months, the state’s emergency housing system has been expanding at an “unsustainable rate” to meet a surge in demand, Healey said. This, according to her, has been driven by an influx of newly arriving migrant families, combined with a lack of people having the means to leave long-term shelters.
Healey stressed that her administration is committed to helping every family in need, but said the shelter system is “on the verge of reaching capacity.”
“As of yesterday, close to 7,000 families are in emergency shelter. That’s more than twice the number of families we were sheltering a year ago,” she added. “This includes 23,000 people spread out across 90 cities and towns at hundreds of locations, from traditional shelters to hotels and motels to temporary sites such as college dorms.”
Healey said about half of the people currently in the state’s emergency shelters are children.
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Starting Wednesday, Nov. 1, all families seeking shelter will be assessed. Those identified as high-risk for health or safety reasons will be prioritized, according to Healey, while the rest will be put on a waiting list.
As for those already in shelters, Healey said the goal is to get them back on their feet by connecting them with permanent housing and work training. To that end, she’s requesting federal funding for up to six months of temporary housing assistance and other supports for families, including newly arrived immigrants.
The governor said the state will be expanding rapid rehousing and rental assistance programs like HomeBASE, which covers people’s first and last months’ rent, along with security deposits and moving expenses.
To oversee these initiatives and the state’s shelter system as a whole, Healey appointed retired Lt. Gen. L. Scott Rice as emergency assistance director. She said he has “extensive experience” with leading large-scale emergency management operations, having served for more than 40 years in the U.S. Air Force and Air National Guard. He was adjutant general of the Massachusetts National Guard from 2012 through 2016, then served as director of the Air National Guard until his retirement in 2020.
Watch Gov. Healey’s full news conference below.