Some migrant and resident homeless families who were unable to enter an already overfilled state shelter system will be temporarily housed at the Transportation Building in Boston.
With the state’s Emergency Assistance shelters filled to their 7,500 family capacity, a small number of new arrivals to Massachusetts will be housed at 10 Park Plaza in Boston, home of the headquarter for the state’s transportation agencies including the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, according to officials with the Healey administration.
“In order to ensure that families eligible for Emergency Assistance shelter have a safe and warm place to sleep at night when there is not a shelter unit immediately available, the administration is utilizing space at 10 Park Plaza as a temporary, overnight facility,” Emergency Assistance Director Scott Rice said in a statement.
Families will arrive Monday night, a MassDOT employee told the Herald. They will be housed in conference rooms on the second floor of the building, which was apparently being filled with cots as of Monday morning. A photographer was not allowed entry into the rooms where the families will stay.
The shelter will only be used by families who have been assessed by state officials and qualified for emergency assistance. In a letter sent to MBTA employees Monday morning, General Manager Phil Eng said he expects there is enough space to shelter about 25 families.
Healey administration officials, speaking on background, said the Transportation Building will be used for “approximately” two weeks until an additional safety net facility becomes operational. Eng also estimated the shelters would operate for two weeks.
In the letter, Eng indicated the shelters will be set up by the Massachusetts National Guard and managed by a third party shelter provider. He said that he does not expect the presence of the homeless families will impact operations at the T, at least for now.
“As this is a shortened holiday work week, I do not anticipate any changes to our work environment because of the temporary shelter. I will keep employees informed if this changes,” he wrote.
The news comes just days after the state Legislature failed to agree on an end-of-year spending plan which included a proposal to send an additional $250 million into the state’s EA shelter system. Both the House and Senate agreed on the need for the money, but disagreed on how to direct the spending. The bill now rests in a joint conference committee.
Gov. Maura Healey asked lawmakers to send her the money this summer, when she declared a state of emergency existed as it became clear an influx of migrant families into the Commonwealth would soon push the shelter system to its limit.
Massachusetts is alone among the 50 U.S. states in guaranteeing a right to shelter for pregnant women and families with small children. The law has served as a safety net for Bay State families for more than 40 years, however as of November 1, the Healey Administration announced it could provide shelter to no more than 7,500 families. The shelters would reach that limit days later.
Data provided by the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities shows there are currently 7,505 families enrolled in the EA system, including five families that were added Thursday, the latest day for which data is available.
In the absence of more space, families without shelter who apply for Emergency Assistance are being placed on a wait list and told they will be contacted when space becomes available.
House Speaker Ron Mariano said the decision to house families at the Transportation Building is proof of the need for action. The House plan called on the Healey Administration to identify an overflow site for families waiting on shelter space or rescind the shelter cap.
“Recent reports of families sleeping at Logan Airport, and now at a temporary overflow site at MassDOT, are emblematic of the need for funding that is specifically reserved for overflow shelter options with greater capacity. The House remains committed to ensuring that families in Massachusetts have somewhere safe and warm to sleep at night, and will continue to urge the Administration to identify additional overflow shelter sites going forward,” he said in a statement.
This story will be updated.