MBTA building to serve as shelter


The space is outfitted with cots and limited amenities, officials said, and will only be used in the evening and overnight hours. It is only available to families who have already been determined to be eligible for emergency shelter, meaning they are pregnant or have children under 21 years old and make less than 115 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines .
State emergency assistance director General L. Scott Rice said in a statement Monday that “in order to ensure that families eligible for Emergency Assistance shelter have a safe and warm place to sleep at night when there is not a shelter unit immediately available, the administration is utilizing space at 10 Park Plaza as a temporary, overnight facility.”
In an effort to house homeless migrant families as temperatures dip, Massachusetts officials are converting second-floor conference rooms in the state transportation building in Boston into congregate shelter sites.
In an email to staff Monday morning obtained by the Globe, MBTA general manager Phillip Eng announced that the rooms in the state transportation building will serve as a “short-term shelter” for around 25 families.
The temporary shelter is expected to operate for up to two weeks, or until “a more permanent location can be identified,” Eng wrote.
The overnight shelter is a response to the “rapidly rising numbers of migrant families arriving in the state and a severe lack of shelter availability,” Eng wrote in the email, which was obtained by the Globe.
“The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) and the MBTA, in coordination with other state agencies, have stepped up to aid arriving families,” he wrote.
The temporary shelter space will be set up by the Massachusetts National Guard, Eng wrote, and managed by an unnamed service provider, typically a nonprofit, to help homeless families access medical care, find transportation, or organize food deliveries.
The shelter will be open from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., and there will be portable playpens available for young children.
For decades, homeless families have been guaranteed shelter under a 1980s-era law in Massachusetts, the only state with a so-called right-to-shelter requirement. But Governor Maura Healey recently decided to limit how many people could live in the shelter system. And recently, lawmakers failed to hatch a deal on a wide-ranging spending bill, leaving in limbo hundreds of millions of dollars designed to sustain Massachusetts’ emergency shelter system.
Over the weekend, Healey told NBC10′s “At Issue” that “we need funding for emergency shelter.”
In a statement, House Speaker Ron Mariano said his chamber “remains committed” to housing homeless families, and that he will continue to urge the Healey administration to identify more overflow shelter sites.
The House’s spending bill language would have compelled the Healey administration to spent $50 million on overflow shelter spaces.
“Recent reports of families sleeping at Logan Airport, and now at a temporary overflow site at MassDOT, are emblematic of the need for funding that is specifically reserved for overflow shelter options with greater capacity,” he said.
On Monday at around 11 a.m., dozens of green cots could be seen standing inside the second floor conference room at the transportation building that is directly across the atrium from the MBTA board room.
The temporary MBTA CharlieCard store remains open in conference room 6, said T spokesperson Joe Pesaturo. The MBTA moved the store to the conference room in September due to an air conditioning maintenance issue within the permanent store located at Downtown Crossing.
Two officials asked a Globe reporter to stop taking photos and closed the conference room door. National Guard members were on the scene, and officials were bringing cases of bottled water and disinfecting wipes out of the conference room, stacking up extras along a railing that overlooks the first floor of the building. Workers unboxed fire detectors and brought them them into conference room.
Workers set up an emergency shelter in the state transportation building. Matt Stout/Globe Staff
Jacquelyn Goddard, a spokesperson for the state Department of Transportation, referred questions to the governor’s office.
Monica Tibbitts-Nutt, who was recently promoted to the state’s transportation secretary, sent a separate email to staff Monday morning announcing the news.
“Thank you in advance for respecting the privacy of the individuals who are spending the night with us,” she wrote. “They are to be treated as our guests as we give them a warm and safe place to stay. My family and I will be counting our blessings as we are grateful to be in Massachusetts where compassion is one of the state’s hallmarks.”
Dr. Geralde Gabeau, the executive director of the Mattapan-based Immigrant Family Services Institute, said she was meeting with local pastors and churches Monday to see if they could accommodate families during the day.
The overflow sites are important, she said, but it leaves families without food or reprieve from the cold weather during the region’s harshest months. She expects to see more families coming to her offices if they have nowhere else to go.
“We don’t want them walking in the cold with their babies,” she said. “When families are placed and they are out in the morning, we know they are coming to us.”
In a Sunday evening WhatsApp message from a Boston Medical Center interpreter that was shared with the Globe, state officials said they were looking for two to three volunteers a day to help interpret as well as register and welcome families.
The message includes a survey link for potential volunteers, asking for languages spoken other than English, occupation and special skills that could serve the shelter site, and available times.
The dates began Nov. 20 and lasted until Sunday, Dec. 3.
“Please sign up for as many 12-hour overnight shifts as you can volunteer, and thank you so much for keeping families safe!” the survey read.
Samantha J. Gross can be reached at samantha.gross@globe.com. Follow her @samanthajgross. Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him @mattpstout. Taylor Dolven can be reached at taylor.dolven@globe.com. Follow her @taydolven.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here