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Family offers look at life inside Massachusetts shelter for migrants

Family provides first look inside Roxbury shelter for migrants and homeless
Family provides first look inside Roxbury shelter for migrants and homeless 02:37

BOSTON – There has been some controversy surrounding the Melnea Cass Recreational Complex in Roxbury, which was turned from a community center to a shelter as part of the state's Emergency Housing Assistance Program. But for one family, the facility provides one thing – hope.

It's a new home for Keisha Barbosa and her three children. It's one she knows is temporary, but also necessary. 

"She felt nervous and it was difficult," Barbosa told WBZ-TV through an interpreter. "She also said she would have done the impossible to make sure her children have a place to live." 

Barbosa came to the United States in January from Puerto Rico with her 10-year-old daughter, and sons who are three and five years old. When housing with a cousin became too crowded, she learned of space at the complex. 

"Just to be able to experience this like I had my own housing, even if we're all sharing it together," Barbosa said. 

They are in tight quarters with curfews and shared meals in a makeshift cafeteria.

The center opened three weeks ago to help migrant families, but there are U.S. citizens there as well like Barbosa, who wants a better education and healthcare for her children, and a job running her own cleaning service.   

"A lot of the people come here to the United States it's not because 'Oh I'm going to take help from the government.' They want a better life than they had before, to work and provide for their families," she said. 

There are now 312 people, which includes 96 families currently housed there with the idea that it's not long-term housing but a transitional opportunity. 

"We move them into self-sufficiency, provide them with resources to help them get to know a new environment," said Vionette Serrano, operations manager for AMI, which is the service provider at the site. 

Barbosa has seen some of the protests and opposition to the complex being converted to housing and believes it's a misconception.

"The space is being used for a greater purpose of housing all of families that is here right now. It's difficult to understand the protests that are happening," she said.

Barbosa has books and a journal for her daughter Keishliaris, who is now attending a Boston public school and has her own goals. 

"She wants a home," the 10-year-old said through the translator. 

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