NORTH ATTLEBORO, Mass. (WPRI) — North Attleboro is calling on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to take more action to support communities dealing with the migrant crisis.
“This is a crisis! This is an emergency,” Town Manager Michael Borg said. “Inability and inaction, both at the Commonwealth and the federal level. Show up and you can see it firsthand in the local community. It’s right here in North Attleboro.”
In the last week, 60 people from 20 families were placed in a local hotel, including 11 children. Those children were placed in local schools this week.
As town manager, Borg said, he feels obligated to keep the town’s newest migrants safe, so he started working with other officials and volunteer organizations to try to get the migrants what they need.
“It’s almost unfathomable,” said John Antonucci, North Attleboro’s superintendent of schools. “We were working alone without a playbook, without resources — either actual resources or financial resources. At this point, the Commonwealth of [Massachusetts], they have to step up.”
On Friday, the Massachusetts National Guard arrived in North Attleboro to try to provide some of that support. But town officials say there are still gaps in communication and resources.
“These are human beings. There are families that need the most basic items to live,” Antonucci explained. “There’s that component, but for us, long-term, it’s going to be financial resources.”
“I have zero dollars in my budget allocated for this,” Borg added. “I would like to see the Commonwealth open up the pocketbook a little bit and loosen up the purse strings to make that available to local communities that are impacted by this.”
The Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities told 12 News its family shelter program, which has been helping families find shelter since the 1980s, is becoming unsustainable as more migrants move to Massachusetts, especially as housing is limited for those already living in the state.
In January 2023, the state’s family shelters were already at capacity, with 431 additional families being housed in hotels. That number is almost seven times higher now, with 2,905 families in hotels across 80 communities.
The agency told 12 News it is asking for federal help, as it can’t anticipate how many more families will seek shelter on any given day.
Back in North Attleboro, officials are expecting more migrants will be placed in town. And despite the lack of resources, they say they’ll be ready to help.
“At the end of the day, these are people, and they are here,” Borg said. “I know North Attleboro has a big heart and is a community that cares, and they are part of our community now.”
However, he cautions, there is only so much the town’s infrastructure and resources can handle.
“I would like to have a seat at the table for that,” Borg said. “I would like to be part of the conversation when those decisions are being made of when and where, if your community is getting more, so we can advocate. Because nobody knows North Attleboro better than the people and government of North Attleboro.”