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State to expand ‘welcome centers’ for homeless and migrant families amid influx of new arrivals

Haitian migrant Fritz, 17, is reflected in a TV screen in a hotel room in Boston he is staying in with his mother Sergeline and his baby sister, Luna, 19 months. They arrived from the Boston Medical Center.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

As more homeless and migrant families in need of shelter and other assistance arrive in Massachusetts, the state’s Office for Refugees and Immigrants is planning to open more central entry points “in the coming weeks” to allow more families to receive resources.

The news comes after the Globe reported that Boston Medical Center had adopted a new policy that bars migrant families from sheltering in its emergency department, in some cases even sending them after-hours in Ubers to Logan Airport.

“We are grateful for BMC’s work in supporting unhoused families,” Cristina Aguilera, the office’s executive director told the Globe in a statement Wednesday. “Our administration is committed to ensuring that families have access to safe and secure shelter, and we are working tirelessly to address the increased demand for services and temporary shelter.”

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Aguilera said in addition to opening more “Family Welcome Centers,” the office is also working with other state and federal offices to expand housing capacity to ease the crunch on the already overburdened shelter system.

The state opened the first Family Welcome Center in Allston last month, where staff has been working to connect families with essential supplies, services, and transportation to shelters, including a brand-new one at Joint Base Cape Cod.

The ORI declined to provide details about the additional centers, including how many will open and where they will be located.

The new arrivals to Massachusetts — many of whom are fleeing political strife, street violence, and economic collapse in their home countries — are turning up at places like BMC at all hours in need of a place to sleep.

The Family Welcome Centers, the Healey administration said, will help ease that strain and give people more direct access to resources.

Massachusetts is a right-to-shelter state, meaning the government is obligated to provide care for some homeless families, including migrants.

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It’s difficult to quantify the number of migrants arriving, as the state does not count them separately from others seeking shelter. But the sheer number of arrivals has exhausted available shelter space statewide, with officials resorting to using empty dormitories and hotel rooms. As of Tuesday, there were 1,217 homeless families placed in hotel shelters alone. When Governor Maura Healey took office in January, there were 388.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the governor said that “placing families into emergency shelter occurs throughout the day and into the evening as families seek shelter at all hours.”



Samantha J. Gross can be reached at samantha.gross@globe.com. Follow her @samanthajgross.