Vega Addressing Concerns About Temporary Shelter Site

The state’s plan to use the former Old Soldiers’ Home as a temporary shelter site to ease the ongoing migrant crisis literally hits close to home for District 2 Councilor Melinda Vega. The Quigley Building is in Vega’s district and close to her own home. Since the plan to use the facility to house up to 100 migrant families over the next year was first announced last month, Vega said has been taking steps to inform the public and listen to her neighbor’s concerns. Vega said her most immediate concern when she heard about the plan was the short notice the city received from the state. She said she understands the humanitarian crisis the state is trying to address, but added that the short notice did not allow for proper transparency and accessibility to information. “For me, it was an opportunity to be transparent with my community members and go door knocking,” said Vega. On the Monday the city was informed of the shelter plan, Vega said she headed out into the neighborhood alongside fellow councilors Norieliz De Jesus and Kelly Garcia, state Representative Judith Garcia, and City Manager Fidel Maltez to inform the public and hear concerns. Vega said she also worked with Council President De Jesus to hold an emergency council meeting with state officials to ask questions about the plan. A second informational meeting with representatives from La Colaborativa, the service provider the state chose for the shelter, is scheduled for Thursday evening, April 11 at 6 p.m. at the Chelsea Senior Center. In her outreach to her district and the city, Vega said she has heard concerns from residents about whether the Quigley Building is habitable for the migrants who will be housed there, as well as about the increase of foot traffic and the lack of outdoor space in the neighborhood. “Regularly, it is not a neighborhood with heavy foot traffic,” said Vega. “Also with the construction going on, we know that there are going to be families who are living in the shelter, so we want to ensure that the folks who are going to be living in the shelter temporarily have access to outdoor spaces. Right now, there is no park, there are not really outdoor spaces.” Vega said some neighbors have also asked about who they should contact if there are safety or other concerns associated with the shelter. “There are a lot of unknowns that they are concerned about, and the best folks to answer are the state and the service providers,” said Vega. “In addition to those concerns, they also had concerns about school funding, and if the children are going into our school system, how are we going to be reimbursed.” Having the public information meetings and platforms for the neighbors to share their concerns is a priority, Vega said. In addition to the residents of the neighborhood, she said it is also important to reach out and inform the current residents of the new Soldiers’ Home and the domiciliary campus about how the temporary shelter will impact their lives. While there has been a premium on getting out information in the wake of the announcement of the temporary shelter, Vega said she and other city leaders will continue to work to get information from the state and, in turn, inform the public, during the entire six to 12 months the building is expected to be in use. “In addition to listening to my constituents’ concerns and making sure that everyone is informed to the best of my ability, is making sure that folks are reminded that this is a humanitarian crisis and that we are doing this because it is what’s necessary,” said Vega. “Aside from working with my constituents, I’ve also been meeting with neighbors who want to make sure that the folks who come here feel welcomed.”

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