Boston-area residents outraged as veterans housing site set to become illegal immigrant shelter

The safety-net site, which will be located at the former Veterans Home at Chelsea that was scheduled for demolition, will open in April.

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

A former Boston area veterans' housing unit will be turned into an illegal immigrant shelter as the city says it has no more room to house the new arrivals.

According to Fox News, the former Veterans Home at Chelsea, which Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey said was set to be demolished after the creation of a larger veteran’s center on Powder Horn Hill, will become a "safety-net site."

At the shelter, illegal immigrants will have to prove they are working to get off government support by applying for work authorizations, searching for a permanent residency, and learning English.

Emergency Assistance Director Scott Rice said in a statement, "We have said for months now that our system is at capacity, and we do not have the space, providers or funding to continue expanding. This new certification policy is a responsible step to address the capacity constraints at our safety-net sites. Families will need to demonstrate that they’ve taken action to get on a path toward independence and out of shelter."

According to the Daily Mail, the site is set to open in April, and will accommodate 100 families eligible for the state’s Emergency Assistance family shelter system. This system has been operating at capacity for months.

The move has garnered anger from residents of the state, which on any given night in 2023 saw 545 veterans experiencing homelessness in the state.

Local resident Dick McGrath said, "Is it me, or is there something wrong with putting migrants in the Chelsea Soldiers Home instead of homeless veterans?"

"I can’t believe the Chelsea soldiers home which is for the Vets is going to [be] used for the immigrants overflow," wrote George Belmonte. "Ho about taking care of the homeless Vets first. I am all for helping people but how about taking care of those already here and homeless."

Healey’s office announced on March 25th the new requirements that will take effect in state safety-net sites, which will take effect on May 1. 

"Families will be permitted to remain at sites as long as they continue to engage these services and activities," Healey’s office said.

There are currently 240 families living in safety-net sites in the state, while an additional 7,500 reside in emergency shelters.

The state’s newest emergency shelter, located in Roxbury, reached its capacity of 400 people in just one week.

Secretary of Veterans Services Dr. Jon Santiago said the opening of the site would not affect veteran services.

"Massachusetts has proven that we can take care of veterans and families experiencing homelessness in our state. While EOVS 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."

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