Anger as Boston Plans to House Migrants in Former Veterans’ Residences

By: Georgia | Published: Apr 01, 2024

Boston has unveiled a plan to address the overcrowding of migrants by utilizing former veterans’ housing. The city’s system is at its limit, leading to the search for alternative solutions.

Governor Maura Healey emphasized the urgency, stating, “We have said for months now that our system is at capacity.”

Chelsea Veterans Home to Serve as Migrant Shelter

The Veterans Home in Chelsea is being repurposed as a “safety-net site” for migrants, with a start date of May 1 for this new role. 

A group of people, including veterans in wheelchairs and some standing with walking aids, gather outside a red brick building with white columns and a sign reading "SOLDIERS' HOME."

Source: Soldiers' Home in Chelsea/Facebook

Migrants will be required to show efforts towards self-sufficiency, including applying for work authorizations, learning English, and seeking permanent residency.

Boston’s Resource Strain Leads to Innovative Solutions

With Boston’s resources exhausted, the decision to use the Veterans Home at Chelsea as migrant housing comes as part of a broader initiative to manage the city’s capacity issues. 

An aerial view of Boston showcasing the city's dense arrangement of buildings with Fenway Park prominently in the foreground

Source: todd kent/Unsplash

Emergency Assistance Director Scott Rice detailed the constraints, “We do not have the space, providers or funding to continue expanding.”

Introduction of a New Certification Policy

A new certification policy aims to ensure that migrant families housed in the city’s safety-net sites are actively working towards independence.

A family with suitcases and bags in tow walks along a paved path beside a verdant area overgrown with wild grasses and trees. A man leads the way, followed by a young girl wearing a backpack and pushing a stroller, and two women, one carrying a toddler and pulling a red suitcase

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Scott Rice explained the necessity of this policy for managing the capacity challenges faced by the city’s emergency assistance facilities.

Emergency Family Shelter System Overwhelmed

The state’s emergency family shelter system has been overwhelmed for months, prompting the need for this significant shift in housing strategy.

A diverse group of people, most wearing face masks, stand in a line on a city sidewalk. They appear to be waiting, some holding bags and backpacks

Source: nicksortor/X

The system is designed to support migrant families with children and pregnant women in homelessness, highlighting the dire situation necessitating the repurposing of the Veterans Home.

Veterans Home’s New Role Amidst Housing Crisis

The Veterans Home, previously serving Massachusetts veterans with residential and long-term care programs, is currently vacant and was slated for demolition. 

Three people, two women and one man, wearing protective face masks, stand under a blue awning with the words "SOLDIERS HOME HEADQUARTERS" in white lettering

Source: Soldiers' Home in Chelsea/Facebook

This site will temporarily assist in alleviating the housing crisis by providing shelter to migrant families.


Criteria for Migrant Families’ Stay

Governor Healey’s office has outlined that migrant families will be allowed to stay at the repurposed site as long as they actively engage in services aimed at helping them achieve independence. 

An official-looking woman in a purple blazer is signing a document at a table, focused on the content before her. Around her, several individuals in business attire, including a woman in a red blazer and men in suits, stand watching the signing

Source: maura_healey/X

This condition is part of the effort to ensure that the assistance provided is a step towards long-term solutions for these families.


No Impact on Veterans Services Assured

Secretary of Veterans Services for Massachusetts, Jon Santiago, reassured that this project would operate independently, ensuring no impact on the daily routines or services provided at the Massachusetts Veterans Home at Chelsea.

A color guard procession is moving down a city street during a parade, led by military personnel in camouflage uniforms carrying the United States flag, military branch flags, and other banners

Source: Ian MacDonald/Unsplash

The initiative is designed to be self-contained, not detracting from the services offered to veterans.


Current State of Emergency Shelter Occupancy

Massachusetts currently houses 240 families in safety-net sites and 7,500 families in state emergency shelters, illustrating the scale of the housing and migrant crisis within the state. 

A scenic view of the Boston skyline, centered on the prominent Prudential Tower among other high-rise buildings. In the foreground, lush greenery partially obscures the view, suggesting the photo is taken from a garden or rooftop with vegetation

Source: Kareya Saleh/Unsplash

This context demonstrates the importance of finding immediate and sustainable housing solutions.


Rapid Capacity Challenges Faced by New Shelters

The newest emergency shelter in Roxbury, a neighborhood in Boston, reached its capacity of 400 people in just one week last month. 

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer is seen from the side, peering through binoculars while seated in the driver's seat of a marked white patrol vehicle

Source: Wikimedia Commons

This rapid fill rate highlights the acute demand for shelter and the challenges faced by the state in providing for migrants.


Boston Among Cities Declaring Emergency

Following the lead of New York City, Chicago, and the state of New York, Boston declared an emergency last year in response to the migrant crisis. 

A nighttime view of Boston's illuminated skyline reflecting off the calm waters. The photograph shows a dense cluster of skyscrapers and buildings

Source: Lance Anderson/Unsplash

These declarations reflect a nationwide challenge, with cities across the country grappling with similar issues.


Boston’s Approach to Migrant Housing Crisis

In response to the migrant housing crisis, Boston’s initiative to repurpose the Veterans Home at Chelsea for migrant accommodation reflects a broader effort to manage the city’s capacity challenges. 

Under the dim light of night, a border patrol officer is seen processing a group of individuals lined up along a tall metal fence topped with concertina wire

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Through requiring migrants to work towards self-sufficiency, the city aims to provide not just immediate shelter but also a pathway towards independence.