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Massachusetts reaches capacity of 7,500 families enrolled at emergency shelters

Mass. shelter capacity reaches limit, families to be placed on waitlists
Mass. shelter capacity reaches limit, families to be placed on waitlists 02:46

BOSTON - Massachusetts has officially reached its capacity for families in emergency shelters.

The dashboard is now at 7,517 on the state's emergency assistance website. Most are staying at hotels or motels and the large number keeps growing due to an influx of migrants arriving in the state.

"Today, the family shelter system has reached 7,500 families, and we are at the point where we do not have enough shelter units, service providers, or funding to continue to safely expand. Families will continue to be placed into shelter until the end of the day, and beginning tomorrow, families will be placed into shelter as units become available. If there are no available shelter units, families determined eligible for emergency assistance will be placed on a waitlist. Our administration continues to provide arriving families with resources, basic necessities and support, and we are working with community partners to connect them with safe, overnight options," said Emergency Assistance Director General Scott Rice in a statement.  

The cap was set by Gov. Maura Healey, who said the state doesn't have the resources to serve more than 7,500 families. The order was challenged in court, with claims that it violated the state's Right to Shelter law, but a judge sided with her earlier in November.

Any other families will now be placed on a waitlist, with those in need of the most assistance getting priority. The waitlist is already growing; at La Colaborativa in Chelsea, they're struggling to find open beds. On Thursday, they had to turn away a family from Haiti with two young children.

"They had to sleep at the church last night," said Donna Mitria. "They're most likely going to sleep there again tonight and then throughout the weekend it's up to the church if they're going to keep them there over the weekend. Or they're just going to be spending time at hospitals or any place that they can stay warm."

Massachusetts lawmakers are now considering establishing "overflow" sites for people on the waitlist. One location being considered is Boston's Hynes Convention Center. Legislators are also looking to fulfill Healey's request of $250 million to support the shelter system. Fifty million would go toward overflow sites while $75 million would be for school district costs.

"We have been looking for months and months at all existing state property. We've explored college campuses, we've obviously spent a lot of time looking at every hotel and motel," said Healey. While Vice President Kamala Harris was in Boston Thursday, Healey said she didn't talk to her about the migrant crisis but hinted federal help is on the way. "Next Monday, they're going to be here on the ground helping us process work authorizations. We need to get people working."

According to I-Team sources, Camp Curtis Guild in Reading will hold work authorization clinics for migrants starting next week.

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