Massachusetts’ shelter system expected to reach capacity this week


11/8/23 by Peyton Benbow

The Massachusetts emergency shelter system is expected to reach full capacity this week.

The shelter system has a capacity of 7,500 families. On Tuesday, 7,456 families were in the system. It is expected to reach capacity on Wednesday or Thursday.

After Governor Healey requested $250 million from the State legislature two months ago for assistance with the shelter system, the House Ways and Means Committee released a spending bill on Tuesday to authorize the money and how it will be spent. 

The bill allocates $50 million to acquiring and maintaining an overflow shelter site, or sites. Healey’s administration would have 30 days after the bill goes into effect to open an overflow site, or the 7,500 cap would be removed.

The House will vote on Wednesday, then it will move to the Senate. Formal sessions for the legislature will end on November 15th, so the Senate is expected to vote before then. 

Also on Tuesday, Healey declared that her administration will work with United Way of Massachusetts Bay to “support overnight safety-net shelter for families and pregnant individuals with no alternative shelter options”. The social services organization would administer a $5 million grant to operate overflow sites in community centers, schools, and places of worship.

Healey wants to support families currently in the system with job training and placement services in order to help them exit the system and allow new families in. Emergency Assistance Director General Scott Rice announced on Tuesday that Massachusetts will work with the Department of Homeland Security to offer a work authorization clinic next week, and a legal clinic the week of November 27th. He also announced that 75 National Guard members would be activated to assist with the shelter system, joining 300 members from earlier this fall.