The Democratic mayor of a small Massachusetts city is urging state lawmakers to reform a 40-year-old “right-to-shelter” law that is putting immense strain on the area as thousands of migrant families arrive.
Woburn mayor Scott Galvin said by Friday there were about 150 families living in the city’s hotels, an arrangement he called unsustainable for his 40,000 constituents.
Under the 1983 right-to-shelter law, Massachusetts officials are legally required to offer housing to any homeless families seeking shelter in the state. The law now covers a rising influx of migrant families, although individuals are not covered under its provisions.
Galvin told the New York Times the law was “passed at a different time, and was not meant to cover what we're seeing now.”
“We're going above and beyond, while some communities around us are not being impacted, and we don't have endless capacity in our schools,” he said. “The benefits that are bestowed on migrants make the state a very attractive destination, and without some changes, this challenge is not going to abate.”
Massachusetts is the only state that has a right-to-shelter law.
Apart from Woburn, over 80 cities and towns in Massachusetts are welcoming migrants but are growing increasingly worried over the amount of space available and incurred costs.
As of last week, nearly 6,300 families are living in emergency shelters and hotels across the state, up about 50 percent from the year prior. Additionally, the cost for such accommodations is approximately $45 million per month.
The Woburn mayor’s concerns come one month after Governor Maura Healey (D., Mass.) declared a state of emergency on August 8, requesting help from the federal government. Weeks later on August 31, Healey activated up to 250 Massachusetts National Guard members to assist the more than 6,000 migrant families already in the state’s shelter system.
New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and other Democrat-run cities have addressed their respective migrant crises with similar actions.
On Saturday, New York City mayor Eric Adams said agencies will need to cut expenses, some facing up to 15 percent cuts, to meet the financial stress caused by over 100,000 illegal immigrants moving in. Earlier last week, Adams warned the public that the migrant crisis “will destroy New York City,” although he hasn’t dropped its sanctuary city status.
Massachusetts state representative Richard Haggerty, who represents Woburn in the 30th Middlesex District, did not respond to a request for comment from National Review.