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As Chelsea opens new day shelter for migrants, some call for Cambridge facility to expand hours

New shelter opens for migrants in Chelsea, some push for Cambridge facility to expand hours
New shelter opens for migrants in Chelsea, some push for Cambridge facility to expand hours 02:37

CHELSEA – Tuesday was opening day at Chelsea's new day shelter set up in the La Colaborativa immigrant services facility.

Organizers opened their doors to newly arriving migrants who've been sleeping at an evening-only safety net shelter inside the Registry of Deeds building in Cambridge. When the doors close every morning, migrants have been left with nowhere to go.

"We're walking on all the streets, we have to walk on all the streets to make the time," said Modlin Clement, a father who came to the U.S. from Haiti with his wife and two children. "I came to this country because I have a family, and if I have a family, I want to be able to work and stabilize them." 

"We saw these individuals going to bodegas and asking for people to be warm because they were not able to stay at that shelter," La Colaborativa Executive Director Gladys Vega said. "So we opened the doors for them to be able to strive here for success." 

She said residents are being shuttled back and forth between the Cambridge shelter, but starting next week, organizers plan to teach immigrants how to navigate the MBTA themselves.

"There needs to be 24-7 operations at the safety net shelter," said Massachusetts State Representative Mike Connolly, who is from Cambridge. 

He's asking Gov. Maura Healey to authorize the Cambridge building to allow immigrants to stay all day. 

"Perhaps you're engaged with a social service office already in Cambridge or in Boston. It's hard to imagine, are we going to ask people to sort of get up in the morning, go to Chelsea, come back to Cambridge or Boston to do something, go back to Chelsea again, and then back to Cambridge?"

In Chelsea, Vega does not envision the day shelter being what she calls a "hang-out" space. She wants it to be a place where families come to connect with services such as job placement.

Modlin Clement has the same hopes for himself. 

"It's why we come here. We are strong," he said. "We have strength to work."

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