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Governor Maura Healey of Massachusetts announced a new policy that requires families staying in overflow shelter sites to document their efforts each month to find a path out of the system. This includes looking for housing or a job, among other steps towards independence. Families will need to be recertified monthly in order to remain eligible to stay in state-run overflow sites. Healey stated that this requirement is necessary for accountability and to divert people from emergency shelter systems onto a different path. Those who do not fulfill the requirements may lose their spot in the system.

While the policy does not apply to sites operated by the United Way of Massachusetts Bay, immigrant advocates have expressed concern that the new regulations may complicate the lives of homeless migrants already striving to leave the shelter system. They worry that forcing families to reapply for emergency shelter each month will create unnecessary red tape and confusion, potentially leading to more families being left on the streets. Advocates suggest that state and federal officials focus on providing community service organizations with the resources they need to assist arrivals with work authorization, long-term housing, and case management services.

Massachusetts has been facing challenges with accommodating the growing influx of homeless migrant families seeking shelter. Last fall, the administration announced that the state’s Emergency Assistance family shelter system could no longer safely or responsibly expand, leading to the establishment of a waiting list. Families on the waiting list who qualify for emergency shelter are currently housed in overflow or safety-net sites, providing shelter for approximately 200 families. To address this issue, the administration will be opening a new overflow shelter site next month in Chelsea at the former Chelsea Soldiers’ Home, which will accommodate about 100 families at full capacity.

In response to the ongoing migrant crisis, the Massachusetts Senate recently approved limits on how long homeless families can stay in emergency state shelters as part of an $850 million plan to fund the system. Under the bill, the state would limit maximum stays to nine months, with the possibility of an additional 90 days for specific circumstances such as veterans, pregnant women, and employed individuals or those enrolled in a job training program. Currently, there are no limits on the duration of time a family can spend in emergency housing. The bill, along with a similar measure passed by the House, is expected to go to a conference committee to create a compromise bill before being sent to Governor Healey for her signature.

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