Aug 11, 2023 - Politics

How Bay Staters can help with the migrant crisis

Illustration of a door knocker in the shape of a heart.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Gov. Healey's state of emergency declaration regarding the migrant crisis is a call to action for every business owner, nonprofit leader and individual willing to help people seeking shelter in Massachusetts.

Driving the news: The state is asking anyone able to host homeless families or migrants to open their doors, but first they must be vetted by the Brazilian Worker Center.

  • People can start to get involved by calling 211 or emailing [email protected].
  • The center is leading the process to onboard and match volunteers with new arrivals, similar to how nonprofits lead refugee resettlements.

Why it matters: State shelters have seen an 80% increase in the number of families in their system in the past year with many forced to stay in hotels, Healey said earlier this week.

  • The system has been stretched past capacity for months, and despite state investments to make more room, officials and volunteers can't keep pace.

Zoom in: The state's new family welcome centers in Allston and Quincy are seeking donations including strollers, baby wipes, new car seats, diapers, formula, toothbrushes and more.

Reality check: The shelter system doesn't even cover all people experiencing homelessness in Massachusetts because so many don't qualify, Kelly Turley, associate director of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, told Axios.

  • Families must make under 115% of the federal poverty limit, have homeless children under age 21 or homeless pregnant people and meet other criteria to qualify for state shelter services.
  • Individuals and families who aren't eligible have doubled up in apartments, are sleeping in cars or sheltering in emergency rooms, Turley said.

State of play: Massachusetts had between 15-20 host families providing short-term shelter as of late July, per the governor's office.

Meanwhile: The Healey administration on Wednesday signed into law a provision preventing a landlord from evicting a tenant with a pending application for emergency rental assistance.

Yes, but: Housing advocates say that reinstating other pandemic-era eviction protections, such as the eviction moratorium or passing rent control, could further reduce strain on the shelter system.

  • "We know that once a family or individual loses their existing housing, it's very difficult to secure new, affordable, permanent housing, especially given the current housing market," Turley told Axios.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Boston.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Boston stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Boston.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more