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Advocates concerned about weakening Mass. 'right-to-shelter' law amid emergency housing crisis

Lt. Gov. of Massachusetts Kim Driscoll speaks to reporters about the limited housing available for migrants seeking shelter in the state. Driscoll's comments came after an unrelated visit to Springfield's Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
Tara Monastesse
/
NEPM
Lt. Gov. of Massachusetts Kim Driscoll speaks to reporters about the limited housing available for migrants seeking shelter in the state. Driscoll's comments came after an unrelated visit to Springfield's Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Some advocates in Massachusetts say they're concerned by Gov. Maura Healey's announcement that the state will soon be unable to offer temporary housing to more eligible families. That's despite the state's 40-year-old right-to-shelter law.

Andrea Park is a housing attorney with the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute.

"To hear that there may be a triage, and that there may be a waitlist is extremely concerning and does not fulfill that legal obligation," Park said Tuesday. "But we'll need to see what the plan is."

The governor said Monday that she's not trying to end Massachusetts' shelter law, but will not be able to fulfill the obligation when the system reaches its maximum capacity amid a surge in need.

Park and other advocates are concerned about how the state would institute a so-called triage system to get housing to those most in need.

"How are we going to reach people to let them know that it may be their opportunity to get into a shelter bed?” Park said.

Park said she is hopeful her organization and others can find a way to keep the emergency shelter system available for all who qualify.

Meanwhile, in Springfield, Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll defended the administration's handling of the shelter crisis.

"We're not eradicating the right-to-shelter law. We're going to continue to do everything we can. The reality is, though, we are running out of space, we are running out of resources, and we're going to continue to try to serve families as well as we can, consistent with our Massachusetts values," Driscoll said.

A supplemental budget bill filed by Healey calls for $250 million to help deal with the shelter crisis. It is pending in the Legislature.

The governor has also been calling on the federal government to expedite work permits for immigrants new to the state, as a way to allow them to support their families and be able to leave the emergency shelters.

Carrie Healy hosts the local broadcast of "Morning Edition" at NEPM. She also hosts the station’s weekly government and politics segment “Beacon Hill In 5” for broadcast radio and podcast syndication.
Adam joined NEPM as a freelance reporter and fill-in operations assistant during the summer of 2011. For more than 15 years, Adam has had a number stops throughout his broadcast career, including as a news reporter and anchor, sports host and play-by-play announcer as well as a producer and technician.
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