Massachusetts Resident Enraged by Boston’s Plan to House Migrants in Former Veteran Housing

By: Lauren | Published: Apr 18, 2024

While many cities, such as New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, have been debating what to do about homeless migrants for years, for the city of Boston, it’s a fairly new dilemma. 

The city recently announced that it will be converting one particular building that was once used as veteran housing into a shelter for undocumented and unhoused migrants. And many of Boston’s residents are quite angry with the plan. 

How Many Migrants Live in Boston?

Boston, Massachusetts, has a population of only 629,842, which makes it quite a small city compared to the other major metropolises in the USA. 

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Skyline of the city of Boston, Massachusetts during sunset

Source: iStock

But just like the other cities, Boston is seeing the arrival of more migrants than ever before. At the end of 2023, the Massachusetts governor reported that there were nearly 3,500 migrants participating in the city’s emergency shelter program. And they assume there are thousands more still living on the streets. 

Finding Homes for the Homeless

Of course, it’s not just migrants who are living without homes in Boston. The city calculates that on a given night, around 18,000 people are experiencing homelessness. 

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Two men living without shelter sleep on metal benches in Boston, Massachusetts

Source: Depositphotos

In order to combat this issue, the Massachusetts state government has created the Emergency Assistance (EA) program that works to provide shelter for as many people as possible. Thanks to the EA program, the city of Boston has about 3,000 shelter beds, but each and every one of them has been full for months. 

Many Migrants and Others Experiencing Homelessness Have Been Sleeping in the Airport

Throughout the cold Boston winter, hundreds of migrants and others experiencing homelessness took shelter in Boston’s Logan Airport.

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Dozens of migrants living without homes sleep on the floor of Boston Logan Airport

Source: Reddit

It became glaringly obvious that something needed to be done. So over the past few months, the government of that state of Massachusetts and the city of Boston have been working hand-in-hand to find more shelters for the growing number of migrants and American citizens experiencing homelessness. Luckily, they’ve had some luck. 

The City of Boston Has Been Trying to Find More Places to Shelter Those in Need

In January, 2024, Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey and Boston Mayor Miichelle Wu decided to turn the Cass Recreational Complex in Roxbury into a temporary shelter for families experiencing homelessness. 

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The Cass Recreational Complex in Roxbury, Massachusetts, set up to house 400 people experiencing homelessness

Source: @basicblackgbh/Instagram

The shelter could hold 400 people, or about 125 families, most of whom were migrants from outside the United States. This plan of action was undoubtedly helpful, but it still wasn’t enough. 

Turning an Old Veterans Home Into Another EA Shelter

Now, less than three months later, they have found another location that they believe can significantly improve the lives of hundreds of people living in Boston without shelter: The Chelsea Soldiers’ Home. 

Logo for the Veterans Home Chelsea organization/The Chelsea Soldiers’ Home in Boston, Massachusetts

Source: Mass.gov/nasvh.org

The Chelsea Soldiers’ Home has been run by the state for more than 100 years, but it’s since been retired from use and was actually scheduled for demolition in April. But the mayor and governor announced that, instead of tearing it down, they planned to reopen it to house the current overflow of migrant families.

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Boston Residents Can’t Understand How a Home for Veterans Is Being Transitioned to House Migrants

While it may seem like the perfect plan to Gov. Healey and Mayor Wu, many Boston residents are outraged by the decision. They can’t seem to understand why, if the home is viable, it doesn’t continue to be a home for veterans in need.

An American veteran in uniform in front of an American flag

Source: Freepik

Massachusetts resident Eileen Jeffrey wrote on Facebook, “Chelsea soldier home is now a migrant shelter- there are thousands of homeless vets – Are you kidding me!” and another, Mike Junior, wrote, “They were supposed to tear that building down but let’s put migrants in there, not our own soldiers, not our own people, not the ones who FOUGHT for OUR FREEDOM.”

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There Are a Significant Number of Homeless Veterans in Boston

The reason why so many Boston residents are frustrated is, at least in part, because they feel strongly that those who fought for the United States should never be experiencing homelessness. Though sadly, many are. 

A US veteran sitting on the road with his dog with a sign that reads “Viet vet please help”

Source: NECHV

However, according to state-collected data, only about 1,000 of the 18,000 people without shelter in Boston are identified as veterans. Of course, that’s 1,000 too many, but the state believes it needs to shelter as many people as they can, from anywhere and everywhere. 

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The Massachusetts Veterans Service Reports They Don’t Need the House in Question

In response to the ongoing debate, Dr. Jon Santiago, the secretary of Veterans Services, reported that the organization does not need the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home at the moment.

Exterior view of the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home in Boston, Massachusetts

Source: @ChelseaSOHO/X

Dr. Santiago explained, “Massachusetts has proven that we can take care of veterans and families experiencing homelessness in our state. This project [will] not impact the daily routines or services at the Massachusetts Veterans Home at Chelsea.”

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Adjusting to the Current Crisis

While the residents of Boston are certainly in two minds about the city’s plans for its homeless residents, both from abroad and its citizens, Governor Healey and the Massachusetts Senate have been working tirelessly to address this current crisis as best they can. 

View of the Massachusetts Senate building while empty

Source: @MassachusettsStateSenate/Linkedin

On March 22, the Senate ruled that the state would offer an additional $350 million to the EA to fund the new shelters. However, they also initiated several added regulations, including one that stated people can only stay in a government shelter for nine months, unless they are pregnant, a veteran, or who are employed, in which case they can stay for up to one year. 

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Some Government Officials Are Urging Boston Residents to Lend a Hand

In addition to opening as many new shelters as they can, a few government officials in Boston have even argued that residents of the city can and should be doing more to assist those in need during this time of crisis.

City Councilor in Boston, Julia Mejia, against a blue background

Source: icaboston.org

Julia Mejia, a City Councilor in Boston, told the press, “People who actually have more financial support, we need to do everything in our power to make sure that we are setting them up for success or whatever success looks like,” Mejia said that could even include providing shelter for the unhoused in one’s own home. 

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Massachusetts Gov. Healey Is Begging Biden for Help

While Boston residents and officials discuss this complicated, controversial, and expensive issue, Gov. Healey has also been begging President Biden for help. 

Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey signing a piece of legislation in the statehouse

Source: @Maura_Healey/Instagram

Gov. Healey explained, “I am clear about is this is not sustainable. And we need help from the federal government. We need Congress to act, and we need the Biden administration to give us work authorizations on an expedited basis, and to make changes there that will assist us in caring for these people.”

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