Temporary Migrant Shelter Bill Passes House

The Massachusetts House passed a new spending bill that includes funds dedicated for temporary spaces to shelter migrant families who are homeless.

The state’s lower chamber held an informal session this week, at which Republicans were trying to stop the bill from going through. However, more than 100 Democrats decided to show up to overcome it.

This brings to an end a week-long saga in which GOP members of the state were trying to block the bill. They had argued that the bill should’ve been introduced during a formal session of the House so that debate could take place and a formal roll call vote would happen.

Because of that, Democrats had to call in legislators from all over the state so that they could overcome this hurdle. Informal sessions don’t allow for debate or roll call votes. In addition, even one single lawmaker has the ability to block any bill.

Those rules of Massachusetts law gave Republicans – who don’t control either chamber of the state Legislature – a lot of leverage in trying to block this legislation.

Bradley Jones, the House minority leader in Massachusetts, defended what Republicans did this week. He said the GOP was trying to get Democrats to move the bill over to a formal session so there could be debate on it.

As he explained:

“This, I think, has highlighted the dysfunction on Beacon Hill, highlighted the shortcomings of a one-party monopoly. It’s done a disservice to the taxpayers of the commonwealth.”
Despite their efforts, the bill still passed through the House. Now, it will head over to the state Senate for final approval.

The overall spending bill totals $2.8 billion, of which $250 million will be set aside to provide vulnerable families with shelter. As much as $50 million of that can go toward an additional overflow shelter that will be dedicated to homeless families who are on the waitlist in the state.

Emergency shelters in Massachusetts have been completely crushed by a huge influx of migrants to the region on top of the already large homeless population.

In addition demand for housing shelters typically increases this time of year as the weather turns much colder. This is coming at the wrong time for Massachusetts, as many new migrant families are arriving in the state as well.

Making matters worse is the fact that the state has a cap on how many families can be in the emergency homeless shelter system, and it stands at 7,500.

As of last Friday, state officials said that more than 100 families were still waiting to get a space in one of these emergency shelters. Since September 1, roughly 500 other families have left these shelters, which has eased up some room for new families to come in.

State officials have been trying to work with the federal government for months now to speed up the process of migrants getting work authorizations so they can get a job and then pay for shelter on their own.