La Colaborativa Provides Update on Shelter Operation Plans

State and Chelsea officials, along with local nonprofit La Colaborativa, held a public forum at the senior center last week on the proposed temporary migrant safety net shelter at the old Chelsea Soldiers’ Home.

Late last month, state officials announced that the shuttered Quigley hospital building, which is slated for demolition, will be home to a temporary shelter for the next six to 12 months. The shelter will house up to 100 families.

At several meetings over the past three weeks, state officials have noted that the shelter is part of a broader plan to address the migrant crisis in the state.

The most recent meeting took place at the senior center on April 10, and focused on the services that will be provided for the families in the shelter by La Colaborativa.

La Colaborativa will be responsible for both 24/7 security and services to the families in the shelter, which should be ready to open later this month.

Kicking off the meeting, City Councilor Melinda Vega highlighted the outreach city leaders have done to inform residents who live near the Quigley building about the plans.

State representative Judith Garcia noted that the states have had to deal with the immigration crisis because there has been no clear immigration reform path at the federal level.

Garcia said that those at the state level have tried to lead with compassion and empathy to help those families and children facing uncertainty, while also trying to create some parameters for the emergency shelter program.

“When we got the call that this was a possibility of happening in Chelsea, I can tell you that people were ready to step up and help, as Chelsea always does,” said state Senator Sal DiDomenico. “We also had questions, like many of you probably have questions, about how this is going to look … and how this is going to affect the community and neighborhood.”

The use of the old Soldiers’ Home is part of a wider state effort to expand the emergency shelter system and provide temporary shelters for migrants and others in need of service, according to Adit Basheer, an assistant secretary in Governor Maura Healey’s administration.

“Over the last few months, we have started to operate new services for those families that are waitlisted and operate new styles of overflow shelters,” said Basheer.

The Chelsea shelter will be strictly for families, either with children or for pregnant people and their partners. The state will conduct eligibility checks for those who may be placed in the temporary settings, according to Alicia Rebello-Pradas, the governor’s deputy chief of staff for legislative affairs.

Rebello-Pradas said the state was fortunate to have an organization such as La Colaborativa step up to run the Chelsea site and to provide a range of services for the families.

“One of the goals of this site is to provide a safe place for families to be while they are identifying the next steps or waiting for a spot in our EA (emergency assistance) shelter system,” said Rebello-Pradas. “But we also view this as an opportunity to really stabilize families and support them as quickly as possible into stable housing.”

La Colaborativa President Gladys Vega gave a brief overview of her organization’s work over the past 35 years and its commitment to working with immigrants of all backgrounds.

While La Colaborativa will be overseeing the efforts at the Quigley building, Vega said it will continue to provide the full range of services it currently provides to those in Chelsea at its 318 Broadway and Survival Center locations.

“Given the scale of the housing crisis in the community, we need to be sure that we are continuing to provide these services while taking on the new project,” said Alex Train, La Colaborativa’s chief operating officer.

The organization will be hiring new staff to operate the Quigley site, and will focus on hiring Chelsea residents, according to Train.

The state will help in getting four floors of the building up and running, with residence, case management, and recreation areas on each of those floors.

La Colaborativa will provide 24/7 staffing and security to ensure that everyone inside and outside the building is safe.

“We will be employing our model of case management and wraparound services,” said Train. “This casts an eye to economic mobility. Our goal is to get people out of shelters as quickly as possible.”

As La Colaborativa moves forward with operating the shelter services, Train said its goal is to work closely with city and state officials and residents of the neighborhood.

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