ATTLEBORO, Mass. (WPRI) — Attleboro isn’t currently housing any migrants, but Mayor Cathleen DeSimone said Wednesday the city is taking steps to prepare for their arrival.
“I’m assuming it’s going to happen at some point, but as of yet, I don’t know,” DeSimone told 12 News. She added, “I do understand that when it happens, you get very short notice.”
DeSimone said she’s setting up a task force to make sure the city is ready if and when the state asks it to host migrants, as well as to help neighboring communities who are already dealing with the ongoing statewide crisis.
“We all have to work together,” she said. “This isn’t a problem or a situation that’s limited to one municipality. It involves everybody across the state.”
Migrants have been flocking to Massachusetts, the only state with a right-to-shelter law. Gov. Maura Healey declared a state of emergency in late August and activated the National Guard to help staff shelters, which are currently housing more than 20,000 people statewide. About a third of those are new arrivals, according to the state’s Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities.
More than 80 cities and towns have hotels that were turned into emergency shelters, including neighboring North Attleboro, where Town Manager Michael Borg said they’re welcoming the migrant families but need the state to provide more resources.
In Taunton, Mayor Shaunna O’Connell said migrants started arriving at the city’s only hotel back in April. As of mid-September, it was housing about 450 people, which the mayor said is well above its allowable occupancy.
Just last week, three hotels in the Foxboro area abruptly canceled a few dozen reservations for the upcoming Army-Navy game because the rooms are needed for migrants.
DeSimone noted that Attleboro only has one motel in the corner of the city.
Ted Nesi contributed to this report.