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Old Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea, Massachusetts, will be used to house migrant families

The Soldiers Home on Dec. 3, 2021, in Chelsea, Massachusetts. (Matt Stone/Boston Herald/TNS)

With the state’s shelter system bursting with migrant families, the Healey administration announced today that they will open a new overflow site in Chelsea at the old Soldiers’ Home and introduce a range of work search and permit application requirements for those housed at “state safety-net sites.”

Effective May 1, according to Gov. Maura Healey’s office, families housed in one of the state’s Emergency Assistance shelter overflow sites will be required to document and demonstrate their participation in state programs aimed at getting them out of the shelter and into a job and permanent residence.

“We have said for months now that our system is at capacity, and we do not have the space, providers or funding to continue expanding,” Emergency Assistance Director Scott Rice said along with the announcement. “This new certification policy is a responsible step to address the capacity constraints at our safety-net sites. Families will need to demonstrate that they’ve taken action to get on a path toward independence and out of shelter.”

Families already at a “safety-net site” were notified of the requirement, according to the Healey Administration, and the staff there will help families engage with state services and make sure they are aware of the new rules.

Overflow site residents will be required to demonstrate they are “applying for a work authorization, participating in a workforce training program, submitting job applications, taking English classes, and engaging in a search for housing,” according to a release by the Healey Administration.

The state’s Emergency Assistance system has been full for the last several months, filled to capacity by an influx of migrant families moving to the Bay State after crossing the U.S. border.

Massachusetts is alone among the 50 U.S. States in guaranteeing a right to housing for pregnant women and families with small children. The mass arrival of new families to the Commonwealth led Gov. Maura Healey to declare that a statewide emergency existed and establish a cap on the number of families that could be housed.

Those looking for shelter beyond the 7,500-family cap were placed on a waiting list, and about 200 families were given shelter at “safety-net sites.”

Another 100 families will soon be housed in Chelsea, Healey’s staff said, at a building that used to be part of the Soldiers’ Home facility. Since that building was due to be torn down and is not part of the adjacent Massachusetts Veterans Home at Chelsea, its use as an overflow site will not impact veterans services in Chelsea, according to Secretary of Veterans Services Dr. Jon Santiago.

“Massachusetts has proven that we can take care of veterans and families experiencing homelessness in our state,” he said. “While EOVS formerly operated the building slated for demolition, this project operates independently and will not impact the daily routines or services at the Massachusetts Veterans Home at Chelsea.”


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