Select Board welcomes unsheltered families

Sep 27, 2023

Select Board members welcomed the homeless and migrant families housed by the state in two town motels during its Tuesday, Sept. 16 meeting, despite opposition to the way the state has been handling the ongoing migrant and housing crises.

Select Board members emphasized the importance of remembering that their opposition and anger is toward the state and not the people who have been housed.

Whiteside said they are “human beings.”

She said, “Wareham has a reputation — well-deserved — for taking care of people,” and she hopes the community will pull together and do just that.

Select Board member Alan Slavin said, for those seeking asylum, “They're escaping to find a place where they can just walk in and out and not have to worry about whether they're going to be alive.”

He added, “As far as I’m concerned, everyone in this country is an immigrant.”

Select Board member Ronald Besse said these families are here to be free and although a 220 square foot motel room may not be a “luxury” for most people, it could be for them.

“Please help in any way,” Besse said. “You can be mad — that's fine. We're upset, too, but let's be upset and point our frustrations in the right direction and that is at the state level and not the people that are here.”

Whiteside said donations for these families can be made through Turning Point Day Resource Center and Damien’s Food Pantry.

The Select Board voted unanimously for Chair Judith Whiteside to draft a letter to the federal and state governments in opposition of the way the migrant and homeless crises are being handled.

Following the news about the Atlantic Motel, Select Board Chair Judith Whiteside and Board member Tricia Wurts met with state officials who were unable to provide much information about the ongoing “migrant crisis,” according to Whiteside.

Wurts said they did find out the general makeup of the population of children moved into the motels.

There are two in the high school age range, approximately three or four in the middle school age range and a few in the elementary age range. A larger number of the children are under the age of four, according to Wurts. The number of children overall remains unknown.

The last time the Board met, members voiced opposition to the state's actions and lack of communication and expressed safety concerns with the motel's lack of a sprinkler system.

During its Tuesday, Sept. 27 meeting, the Board discussed additional concerns that should be put in the letter.

Wurts said the letter should include information such as the size of Wareham’s own homeless population.

Whiteside said the government needs to close its borders or do whatever it will take to fix this crisis.

She added she would like to encourage them to remove the sanctuary state designation.

Slavin said he believes the state and others who obtained this designation did so without understanding what it meant. 

He said the policy Massachusetts has in place is “one of the most liberal policies,” which encourages people to leave other places like New York in order to receive better benefits.

Wurts said another problem she has is that although the National Guard is activated to help, she believes their services are needed more in the evenings and at night as opposed to their current afternoon shifts for safety and translation services.