Today, Governor Maura T. Healey announced a state of emergency in Massachusetts due to the escalating number of migrant families in search of shelter. With the state’s shelter system overwhelmed, there’s an immediate call for assistance from both federal and local entities. Presently, the state shelters are home to nearly 5,600 families or over 20,000 people, including children and expectant mothers.
In her communication to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Governor Healey emphasized the need to expedite work permits, indicating it as a crucial factor in the current crisis. She appealed to the federal government for more streamlined processes and increased funding. Moreover, she urged leaders from both sides in Congress to revisit and modify old and stringent immigration laws. She further encouraged local authorities, non-profit organizations, faith groups, and service providers to collaborate with the government to address these challenges.
Governor Healey praised the dedication of state employees and partners, who have managed to expand the shelter capacity significantly. Yet, the rising demand, coupled with the dwindling numbers of families moving out due to unaffordable housing and work barriers, has made the situation untenable. She underscored the need for the federal government’s intervention and comprehensive immigration reform. “Our state sees many newcomers eager to work, at a time when we face a historic labor demand. I’m appealing to everyone, from municipalities to religious and philanthropic entities, to step up and lend a helping hand during this crisis,” said Governor Healey.
Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll emphasized that the Emergency Assistance system, intended as a short-term solution, is struggling with the current demands. To truly alleviate this, Driscoll emphasized the need for accelerated housing projects across Massachusetts and more thorough immigration reforms. She called for collaboration from the federal government and within the state to champion these initiatives.
Governor Healey attributed this crisis to multiple factors in her letter: federal immigration policies, a decade-long shortage of affordable housing, and the discontinuation of COVID-era welfare programs. Consequently, the state has seen a sharp increase in the demand for emergency shelters. Compared to the figure from last year, the number of families in shelters has almost doubled, with many being recent migrants. The transition from shelters to permanent housing has significantly slowed, mainly due to the scarcity of budget-friendly housing.
Health and Human Services Secretary Kate Walsh commended the efforts of various state teams in continuously striving to provide necessary resources for these families, many of whom are new to Massachusetts. Walsh reaffirmed the state’s commitment to assist these families as they build their lives here.
On a similar note, Housing and Livable Communities Secretary Ed Augustus acknowledged the efforts in expanding emergency shelters. However, the current challenges are immense. He stated that while their primary concern is the welfare of these families, the growing demand is straining the system and making the addition of new shelter units increasingly difficult. He expressed gratitude towards Governor Healey and Lieutenant Governor Driscoll for their compassionate and unified approach in addressing the situation and recognized the invaluable contribution of the communities and shelter providers in this collective effort.