City officials are opening a temporary shelter near the troubled intersection of Melnea Cass Boulevard and Massachusetts Avenue to meet a “growing need” for beds as migrants continue to arrive in the region in vast numbers, Mayor Michelle Wu said Monday.
Wu, speaking during an unrelated briefing on preparation for Tuesday’s forecasted snowstorm, said, “we’re opening up the Engagement Center just for overnight overflow for up to 30 individuals who need it to accommodate the growing need that we are experiencing. This will be a temporary measure.”
The center, located on Atkinson Street, is a “daytime space for individuals navigating homelessness and substance use” near Mass. and Cass., the center of the region’s homelessness and substance abuse crises, according to the city.
The mayor said the center is expected to serve as a temporary shelter for about a month. She said that as “more new families are arriving with the migrant crisis to cities everywhere ... much of the attention has been on families with children who are a part of the state’s shelter system and the work that we’ve been doing to support that.”
There are individuals who are also in need of shelter, Wu added.
“There are a large number of individuals who have been arriving as well who are not connected to a family unit and, therefore, are not eligible for that shelter system,” Wu said.
City officials said the overflow space is opening at the Engagement Center because roughly 25 percent of beds in the individual shelter system are currently occupied by recently arrived migrants, causing capacity issues in the city’s individual shelter system.
The state’s shelter system, meanwhile, reached its capacity of 7,500 families in November, forcing some to be turned away as officials scrambled to find other housing options. The state recently converted the Melnea A. Cass Recreational Center in Roxbury into a shelter for up to 400 people. The shelter was hosting 327 people from 95 families as of Wednesday night. It is intended to be temporary, with a closing date set for May 31.
“The shelters have been operating at expanded capacity already for a number of weeks with people sleeping on cots,” Wu said Monday.
The quick conversion of the Cass center came as a surprise to neighbors, who felt a mix of sympathy and frustration over the plan.
Last week, officials said an office building in the Fort Point neighborhood is under consideration to serve as the city’s next migrant shelter.
The property is located at 24 Farnsworth St., City Councilor Erin Murphy and Thomas Ready of the Fort Point Neighborhood Association said. The 92,000-square-foot building is owned by the Unitarian Universalist Association, according to city records.