Massachusetts shelters are filling up and turning away unhoused families

11/09/23 By Audrey Coleman

The number of Massachusetts families needing emergency shelter is reaching 7,500.

Maura Healey / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

According to Gov. Maura Healey, the number has reached a threshold where the state can no longer accommodate more people. The state is placing families on a waiting list and will prioritize those with the highest need.

As of Wednesday, the number of families in emergency shelters is 7,488. This spike in demand is influenced by a surge of migrant families seeking shelter. Other cities, such as New York and Chicago, face a similar problem.

Healey’s decision has driven critics to speak out, saying it violates the state’s “right-to-shelter” law, in which Massachusetts is legally required to provide emergency shelter. Currently, women, children and people with medical needs are placed with the highest priority.

On Tuesday, Healey announced a $5 million grant to aid local organizations in their efforts to create overnight shelters for families. Lawmakers are also considering a bill that would grant $50 million to create locations for temporary refuge while families are on a waitlist for more permanent shelter space.