TAUNTON, Mass. (WPRI) — The only hotel in Taunton is right now home to hundreds of migrants.
Mayor Shaunna O’Connell said they started arriving at the Clarion Hotel in April.
“Got a quick phone call that people would be arriving that day,” she recalled. “We were really not involved in the negotiations or conversations about the hotel being closed down and becoming a shelter.”
She said there are now roughly 450 people at that hotel.
Massachusetts is the only state that has a right-to-shelter law, and it’s been that way since 1983.
But communities like Taunton are seeing a dramatic increase in migrants.
According to the state’s Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities, there are more than 20,000 people in emergency shelters across Massachusetts, about a third of whom are new arrivals.
Nearly 2,600 families are in hotels and motels in more than 80 communities across the state.
National reports say the influx of migrants are from countries like Haiti, which is in a state of unrest.
Because of that, Gov. Maura Healey has activated the National Guard to help the migrants arriving in Massachusetts.
“Making sure people have safe shelter is required by law and the right thing to do,” Healey said while speaking to reporters in North Attleboro. “The reality is given the numbers we’re seeing, we don’t have enough service providers.”
O’Connell said it has been difficult to take on the recent influx of migrants in Taunton, including helping 60 children enroll in public schools.
“It can be a little bit of a challenge,” she explained. “There’s a language barrier, there’s different needs, there’s bussing.”
In Plainville, residents are doing what they can to welcome migrants. Donations poured into an office building in a matter of hours on Wednesday.
“It’s really incredible when you have to say, ‘We need another dozen tables to hold all these donations,” said organizer Jennifer Plante. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful problem to have.”
O’Connell said communication has become better with state leaders since April, but feels the right-to-shelter law needs to be revisited.
“It was really made for a different time and a different purpose, and now are communities are being inundated,” O’Connell added.
The mayor is calling for a task force focused on handing the state’s migrant situation.