Nov 1, 2023 - Politics

Massachusetts may proceed with family shelter cap, judge rules

Suffolk County Courthouse, which houses Suffolk Superior Court.

Suffolk County Courthouse. Photo: Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Massachusetts may proceed with its cap of the emergency family shelter system, a Suffolk Superior Court judge ruled Wednesday.

Why it matters: Massachusetts will not guarantee shelter to eligible families because of capacity limitations for the first time since the state’s right-to-shelter law took effect in 1983, in what housing advocates call a violation of the law.

Catch up fast: Lawyers for Civil Rights filed a lawsuit against the state on Friday, alleging the cap and waitlist the state planned to implement this week ran afoul of the state’s shelter law.

  • Gov. Maura Healey said the waitlist would launch once the emergency family shelter system enrolled more than 7,500.
  • As of Wednesday morning, Massachusetts has taken in at least 7,388 families, many of whom are migrant families, per the state dashboard.

Driving the news: The judge denied LCR's request for a temporary restraining order on the cap, saying the state complied with the law by implementing emergency regulations to address the system's budget constraints.

  • Officials estimated that the emergency family shelter system would receive 13,500 migrant families by the end of fiscal 2024, according to an affidavit filed by the state.
  • Massachusetts would need to spend $1.1 billion this fiscal year to shelter those families, per court documents. Under the system's current funding levels, the state estimated it would run out of money by early January.

By the numbers: The legislature allotted the state funding to shelter some 4,100 families through fiscal 2024, and the state will already need additional funding to meet the needs of the 7,500 families Massachusetts expects to take in by the end of the week, per court documents.

What we’re watching: How advocates and state officials plan to step in to help families who can't immediately get shelter.

  • State officials said earlier this week they're seeking help from the federal government with a possible overflow site for those on the waitlist.

Editor's note: This is a breaking story and may be updated.

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