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Fort Point could be home to a new shelter for migrants, officials say

The exterior of 24 Farnsworth St. in Fort Point is under consideration to be the next location to house migrants in Boston. The building is owned by the Unitarian Universalist Association.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

An office building in the Fort Point neighborhood is under consideration to serve as the city’s next migrant shelter, according to officials and a neighborhood activist.

The property is located at 24 Farnsworth St., City Councilor at Large Erin Murphy and Thomas Ready of the Fort Point Neighborhood Association said Thursday. The 92,000-square-foot building is owned by the Unitarian Universalist Association, according to city assessing records.

The Fort Point Neighborhood Association was contacted by city officials late Wednesday informing them the location was being considered, but that a decision has not been made, Ready said in a phone interview Thursday.

The neighborhood association then sent a list of 22 questions Thursday concerning location, numbers of families, and the resources and support for the families, according to records obtained by the Globe.


The businesses are answering the questions, Ready said.

The association is considering a “short-term” use of the building as a migrant shelter, a spokesperson for the Unitarian church said Thursday in an email.

“Conversations are underway regarding a short-term use of the building that is in the public’s best interest and are in accordance with our values and principles as a faith tradition,” public relations director Suzanne Morse wrote. “We have not yet finalized those plans, but we will provide information as soon as they are.”

The exterior of 24 Farnsworth St. in Boston is under consideration to be the next Boston location to house migrants. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

Murphy said neighborhood groups are pushing for a public meeting with officials so residents can get more information about the proposal.

“Is this a sustainable place for families that will need a rec center? Does it have a gym?” Murphy said. “Is there even a shower there?”

Ready said the neighborhood association has reached out to residents and seen support, but “the caveat is with the details.”

”At this point, we have more questions than answers, but everyone is generally supportive to help in a crisis,” Ready said.


The city said that it is working to get more information and feedback about this and other proposed sites.

“The City will work with the State and other partners to ensure our residents have an opportunity to learn more and provide feedback regarding any proposed shelter sites, while prioritizing minimal disruption to area residents,” a spokesperson for the Wu administration said Thursday.

John Milligan, executive director of the Massachusetts Republican Party, criticized the proposal to use the Farnsworth property.

”Migrants are coming into Massachusetts at a rapid rate. Despite this, there’s been no effort from the Governor to curb the influx,” Milligan said in a statement Thursday. “Now, there’s consideration of using part of a building in Fort Point, even though it lacks basic amenities like showers. It merely perpetuates the issue while depleting local resources.”

The creation of a shelter for migrants in the neighborhood comes after the Healey administration converted the Melnea A. Cass Recreational Center in Roxbury into a shelter for 400 people, promising to close it by May 31.

As of Wednesday night, the Cass Center hosted 327 people from 95 families, according to Karissa Hand, a spokesperson for Governor Maura Healey. Hand said no decision has been made on the Farnsworth Street building or any other place in the state.

“There are no new sites that are finalized,” she said Thursday.

However, the Comfort Inn on Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester, which has been mentioned as a possible shelter, is not under consideration. she said.


Hand said these are safety-net sites are for families who are on the waitlist for the Emergency Assistance family shelter program. “We estimate approximately half of the families are new arrivals, while the rest are long-term Massachusetts families,” she said.

The United Way received a $5 million grant from the Healey administration last year to fund overflow shelter sites throughout the state.

“United Way of Massachusetts Bay is working closely with the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities to identify sites to provide temporary SafetyNet shelter to eligible families with children and pregnant women and help set them on a path toward longer term employment and housing stability,” said United Way of Massachusetts Bay spokesperson Brigid Boyd in a statement Thursday.

She referred further questions to the housing office, which is responsible for leading the state’s migrant housing response.

Migrants have been streaming into Massachusetts in recent months escalating the state’s longstanding housing crisis. Shelters reached a capacity limit of 7,500 families in November, resulting in people being turned away for the first time. Officials have been scrambling to find places to house migrants, who continue to arrive in large numbers.

City and state officials considered more than 15 potential sites to temporarily house migrants, Mayor Michelle Wu has said. Options included Suffolk Downs and the West Roxbury Education Complex.

Healey has urged the Biden administration to accelerate issuing work permits for migrants as a way to move people out of shelters and into workplaces and more permanent housing.


A new study suggests there is an economic benefit to the state through increased tax revenues once migrants are allowed to obtain work permits from the federal government.

The study released Wednesday by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center and the Immigration Research Initiative estimate a migrant’s annual income would likely be $24,000 and that a household with both adults working would bring in $48,000.

After five years in Massachusetts, a migrant’s annual income likely will have risen to $34,000 and after 20 years, to $49,000, the study found. For every 1,000 migrants in the workforce, state and local tax revenue could be boosted by as much as $2.8 million, the study found.

“The long history of immigration in the United States shows that once immigrants get a footing in the economy, they learn English, get better jobs, and earn higher wages,” the study’s authors wrote. “There is every reason to think that, given the opportunity, people currently seeking safety in this country would do the same.”

A recent Suffolk University poll showed that a plurality of Massachusetts voters supported Healey’s decision to move migrants who were sleeping at Logan Airport to a Roxbury recreation center.

Forty-nine percent of survey respondents statewide supported the move, while 40 percent opposed it. The poll of 1,000 registered voters was conducted from Feb. 2-5 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Emma Platoff of the Globe staff and Globe correspondent Ava Berger contributed to this report.


John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him @JREbosglobe. Samantha J. Gross can be reached at samantha.gross@globe.com. Follow her @samanthajgross.