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Town caught off guard by state's plan to use Mass. prison as homeless housing
Town caught off guard by state's plan to use Mass. prison as homeless housing
Town caught off guard by state's plan to use Mass. prison as homeless housing

Published on: 05/15/2024

Description

NORFOLK – Officials said they were not involved the state's plans to convert a closed prison into an emergency shelter for families with children and pregnant women facing homelessness.

The Healey administration announced its intention to convert the Bay State Correctional Center, which closed in 2015, into housing for up to 140 families, or 450 people in total, about half of whom will be migrants who have been sleeping at Logan Airport. The weekend announcement came from the Scott Rice, the state's emergency assistance director.

"The town had no role in this decision and was not consulted prior," a statement from the town said. "Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll spoke with town officials on Saturday and provided additional information and context."

The Norfolk Select Board issued its own statement Monday to clarify its involvement in the decision and its plans regarding it going forward.

"The state has made a decision that affects our community," the statement on behalf of the town's select board said. "We fully understand our responsibility to help manage this important situation and advocate for our community's needs. To be effective in that effort, we cannot engage in political dialogue."

The statement was signed by all three select board members, Jim Lehan, Anita Mecklenburg and Kevin Roche.

"We know there are still many unanswered questions. As we get further information, we will promptly share it with the community," the statement said.

By law, Massachusetts is a "right-to-shelter" state. The state must provide adequate living spaces, clean and decent surroundings, pure air and water, sanitation and other civic amenities to families with children and pregnant women.

The state has used dorm rooms, local hotels, Hanscom Air Force Base and other community and empty sites to provide temporary shelter to house the influx of migrants coming to the state.

The shelter will be managed day and night by a shelter operator determined by the state through competitive bid, and is expected to remain open for six to 12 months, according to the town.

The people staying at the shelter will need to be recertified for eligibility each month.

The town's statement said the town's administrator, police and fire chiefs, school superintendent and other department heads plan to meet regularly to address the logistics and concerns raised by the situation.

"This group will develop a comprehensive list of potential impacts to the town and develop strategies to continue to deliver regular municipal services without interruption," the statement said. "We also will have regular conversations with state officials to ensure the town’s concerns are heard, and to work collaboratively on creative solutions that are in the best interests of Norfolk."

Residents with questions are encouraged to email Town Administrator Justin Casanova-Davis at [email protected].

News Source : https://www.patriotledger.com/story/news/2024/05/14/norfolk-ma-prison-plan-for-homeless-immigrants-bay-state-correctional/73677264007/

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