BOSTON (AP) — Democratic Gov. Maura Healey on Thursday activated up to 250 members of the Massachusetts National Guard to assist at shelters and hotels as the state struggles with an influx of migrants.
The move comes after the governor declared a state of emergency several weeks ago because of the strain on the shelter system.
“Massachusetts is in a state of emergency, and we need all hands-on deck to meet this moment and ensure families have access to safe shelter and basic services,” Healy said in a statement.
There are currently about 6,000 families, including pregnant women and children, in emergency shelters in Massachusetts.
Over the next few weeks, each National Guard member will be assigned to a hotel shelter where they will help with the coordination of services such as food, basic needs, transportation and medical care as the state works to find a more permanent staffing solution.
Guard members will help local school districts with enrolling children in schools that meet their educational needs.
The guard will also work with newly created regional rapid response teams. The teams will be staffed by state employees and will oversee sites in a specific geographic region to better coordinate services. The teams will also prepare sites for opening, arrange connections to public benefits, and work with municipal and legislative officials.
“Our role in the response to the ongoing housing crisis will expand to leverage our multitude of robust and adaptable capabilities in emergency and domestic operations to help those in need,” Major General Gary W. Keefe, adjutant general, Massachusetts National Guard said in a statement.
The migrants arriving in Massachusetts are the face of the international migrant crisis and are coming at a time when the state is already experiencing a housing crunch, Healey said earlier this month when delaring the state of emergency.
Last week, Healy and her team met with U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to discuss the growing number of migrant families arriving in Massachusetts and to make a plea for expedited work authorizations to allow the newcomers to work.
The city of Boston recently received a $1.9 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help migrants with shelter and transportation.
All told, there are more than 20,000 people, many of them migrants, in state shelters. Many of the migrants are arriving by plane from other states, and the timing coincides with a housing crunch.