Council To Address Migrant Emergency Shelter at Old Soldiers’ Home

The City Council is holding a special meeting Thursday night, March 28, to discuss the state’s plans to use the former Chelsea Soldiers’ Home building as a safety-net site for migrants.

On Sunday, Governor Maura Healey announced the use of the former soldiers’ home as part of the plan to address the migrant crisis in the state.

“Massachusetts has proven that we can take care of veterans and families experiencing homelessness in our state,” said Secretary of Veterans Services Dr. Jon Santiago. “While (the Executive Office of Veterans Services) formerly operated the building slated for demolition, this project operates independently and will not impact the daily routines or services at the Massachusetts Veterans Home at Chelsea.”

At full capacity, the safety-net site will be able to accommodate approximately 100 families, according to the governor’s office.The site will be for  families with children or pregnant women who have been deemed eligible for the Emergency Assistance (EA) program and have been placed on the waitlist. Services will be available on site, including assistance with applying for work authorizations, connecting with employers, and finding stable housing.

Currently, it is expected that the shelter at the former Soldiers’ Home will be in operation for six to 12 months, according to Chelsea City Manager Fidel Maltez.

Maltez said the city was first made aware of the situation over the weekend, and has had a number of meetings with state officials to discuss the situation.

According to an FAQ issued by the state, the shelter operation will not impact the operations or residents at the newly opened Massachusetts Veterans Home at Chelsea, or the ongoing redevelopment plans for the domiciliary campus. The old Quigley building is still slated for demolition when the shelter is no longer needed.

After word came down from the state about the plans, Maltez said he knocked on doors in the neighborhood with Council President Norieliz DeJesus, State Representative Judith Garcia, and councilors Kelly Garcia and Melinda Vega.

“Personally, when I received the call, I completely appreciate how difficult the situation is for the entire state,” said Maltez. “We are in a crisis, and I know that Chelsea is best when we stand together and when we help those in need. While this is going to be very challenging, I am very hopeful that Chelsea is going to come through and do what we do best, which is in a time of need, we come together.”

Going through the neighborhoods, Maltez said there were concerns about the proposal, including that many learned about it on the news. He said the door knocking was part of an effort to show that city officials were out there ready to address questions and concerns.

“It was important for them to hear from us,” said Maltez. “I will tell you that the vast majority of the residents, while they were concerned about the impact on the neighborhood, were really supportive. What really shone through was the Chelsea spirit of we do not turn our back on anyone … and we are best when we stand together.”

Since the announcement on Sunday, Maltez said there have been multiple meetings with the state and the team responsible for the use of the old Soldiers’ Home.

“We have been on the site, we have been on the property, we have engaged our police chief, our fire chief, our emergency management director, the superintendent and others have been in talks with the governor’s office on this transition,” said Maltez. “This is fully funded by the state … but we know that doing something like this will create some impact on the neighborhood, it will create some impact on our police forces and our fire forces. We are in active conversations to minimize those and to plan ahead and make sure that we are doing everything we can to prioritize our own residents.”

The special City Council meeting is a public meeting and is scheduled to take place on Thursday, March 28 at 7 p.m. in the council chambers at City Hall.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *