Massachusetts faces migrant, homeless housing crisis

Sep 26, 2023

Wareham is not alone. Across the state, communities are scrambling to deal with the repercussions of the state housing families needing shelter in available accommodations.

While some of the families are Massachusetts residents, many are migrants from around the world, seeking asylum in the United States.

More than 6,300 families, many of which are migrants, are in emergency housing statewide — double the amount of last year, according to Gov. Maura Healey. Although the migrant crisis is nationwide, Massachusetts is the only state to have a “right-to-shelter” law, requiring that the state provide shelter for qualifying families with children.

Kevin Connor, press secretary for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities, said the migrants who have come to Massachusetts are fleeing violence and persecution and the state has an obligation to provide for them, and it can, but it is running low on the resources necessary to do it. 

However, it is unclear how individuals and community organizations can help.

Questions about healthcare and transportation for the migrants remain largely unanswered, but one of the ways state officials want to help is through increasing access to work permits.

In a Boston press conference last week, state Sen. Marc Pacheco (D-Taunton) lent his support to a plea to the federal government to expedite work permits for adult asylum seekers.

In a state where there are approximately 243,000 job vacancies and only 92,049 seeking jobs, the influx of migrants could benefit the local economy, Pacheco argued.

Pacheco said there are hundreds of thousands of backlogs for employment authorization forms. It could take years before a person’s application is even seen.

However, some remain opposed to the influx of migrants and/or the emergency system that houses them.

Local Facebook groups include individuals citing fears of disease if migrants are unvaccinated and that the homeless are taking advantage of the state’s resources.

Some lodging facilities have also been protested by neo-Nazi groups.