Migrant Families to be Housed in Norwood
January 10, 2024
Dear Community Member,
We write to you today to provide information regarding the state opening a temporary shelter site here in Norwood. The Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities has contacted the Town of Norwood to inform us that the State has reserved rooms to begin providing unhoused families with shelter. Approximately 63 families will be moved to a lodging facility in Norwood later this month.
Town and school staff have been preparing since the Fall in the event that the state chose to locate a facility in Norwood. At the end of October the state reached their “capacity” which was at that time somewhat undefined. Since that time, the state has begun consolidating many of their shelter sites into larger sites that they can offer more services at. This consolidation is what led the state to contracting with a single local hotel here in Norwood.
The families are being supported by a third-party contractor of the State for food and other needs they may have while staying at the lodging facility. Per the law, any school-age children either will be attending the Norwood Public Schools to continue their education during this time of transition; or may be transported daily back to the school they have been attending, if feasible.
The Commonwealth is providing emergency aid for transportation, enrollment, and other extra costs for educating such “Emergency Assistance” students at a daily rate of $104 per student.
The Norwood Public Schools is working with the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to ensure the proper support of our new students.
Massachusetts is a Right to Shelter State and is obligated to find shelter for eligible families. Per Section 30 of Part I, Title II, Chapter 23B of the General Laws, “the department shall administer a program of emergency housing assistance to needy families with children and pregnant women with no other children. The department shall administer the program throughout the commonwealth at locations that are geographically convenient to families who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness and shall administer the program in a fair, just and equitable manner.”
There are over 3,000 shelter units across the state, nearly all of which are currently occupied.
The State has needed to use nontraditional facilities such as hotels and motels to address the critical shortage of available shelter beds. Facilities are already operating in some surrounding communities, including Dedham and Foxborough.
The Frequently Asked Questions below address many questions residents may have about the state sheltering families here in Norwood. As indicated above and in the FAQ below there will be a slight impact to the school department; however based on funding provided by the state and communication with the district where these students currently reside, it is estimated to be minimal. From a public safety standpoint, we expect no impact. Chief Brooks and Chief Bailey have communicated with their counterparts and peers in communities hosting shelters and report no concerns. While we have expressed concerns to the state regarding walkability on Route 1 and we have concerns regarding the hospital still being down, there should be no impact to public safety according to the plans the state has shared and the one facility they have leased.
For more information about ways to support families in crisis, visit www.mass.gov/sheltercrisis or email [email protected]. In addition, the Massachusetts Migrant Families Relief Fund, a partnership between United Way of Massachusetts Bay and the Boston Foundation, has been set up to address the acute humanitarian crisis faced by new arrivals seeking asylum in Massachusetts, while also supporting community-based organizations directly serving new arrivals.
For more information about Right to Shelter and the State’s Emergency Assistance program, please see the Frequently Asked Questions below or contact the Office of the General Manager at (781) 762-1240 or [email protected].
Both the Town of Norwood and the Norwood Public Schools will continue to collaborate with
the State and the on-site service provider to ensure that families receive all of their basic needs.
We are certain that residents will show these families the welcoming community Norwood is known to be.
David L. Thomson
General Manager Superintendent
Tony Mazzucco Dr. David Thomson, E.d.D
Town of Norwood Norwood Public Schools
Frequently Asked Questions
What is “Right to Shelter?”
Massachusetts has a “right to shelter” law, meaning families have a legal right to shelter that the Commonwealth must comply with. This is the result of a 1983 state law.
Why is an emergency family shelter necessary?
There is a critical shortage of shelter beds in Massachusetts, which has been experiencing record numbers of entries into the system. Coupled with low exits, this has led to a critical shortage.
How has the State been in communication with Town Officials?
The Commonwealth’s Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities recently contacted the Town of Norwood to inform officials that the State has reserved rooms to begin providing unhoused families with shelter several weeks ago. Furthermore, officials from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) have communicated with school and town staff on a number of items and have been very accessible over the last few weeks. Previously, towns were sometimes only given 72 hours notice with no clear contact in the state.
How many families will be sheltered in Norwood?
The State is planning to place approximately 63 families in late January. There are an additional dozen families that have been housed by the state at a separate hotel in Norwood that are being “consolidated” into this one site.
Why is the state consolidating shelters?
It is our understanding that the state wants to move to fewer shelter sites overall and to have all sites “managed.” Currently the state has some shelters that are as few as 8 or 10 rooms.
Who will be staying at the shelter?
Only families with children and/or pregnant women are eligible for placement in State
emergency shelters. Families without a safe place to stay may be deemed eligible if they meet the following criteria:
• Be a resident of Massachusetts, and be living in the United States with the knowledge and
consent of the Department of Homeland Security;
• Meet the gross income standards and asset test for Emergency Assistance;
• Have children under the age of 21, or be pregnant.
The majority of families in this Emergency Assistance system are local Massachusetts families who are experiencing homelessness. However, currently over half of new families applying for shelter are new arrivals, which is defined as families without citizenship or a green card who arrived in Massachusetts in the last thirty days.
To be eligible for shelter, at least one household member must be a citizen, a green card holder, or be present in the United States with the knowledge and consent of the Department of Homeland Security, meaning individuals have made lawful entry into the United States.
What can we do as a community to support these families?
There is going to be a citizen volunteer group, headed by Selectman Grow and Anne Haley of the Finance Commission who will work with area community groups, residents, religious institutions, and others to welcome and support these families. Once more information is available we will put that out.
For more information about ways to support families in crisis, visit www.mass.gov/sheltercrisis or email [email protected].
Will children be required to have currently mandated vaccines that other children in Massachusetts require?
Yes. The Commonwealth provides vaccination services and follow-up with all entrants into the system to make sure requirements are met. Vaccination status is also (and has been for many years) monitored by school health staff and public health staff.
Will the children be enrolled in the Norwood Public Schools?
While some may, others will not. Some children will not be school-aged and others are already enrolled in other school districts in Massachusetts and may opt to continue to attend those
schools. Under the federal McKinney-Vento Act, homeless children are guaranteed access to school in either their host community or home community, where feasible, based on what is best for the child and to ensure access to education. The total anticipated impact to the schools is about 40 children. In the district the students are coming from, this amounted to a negligible staffing increase. We may face some additional transportation costs, but this should be close to falling within what the state has allowed.
What is the State’s role? What is the Town’s role?
The Emergency Assistance program is overseen by DHCD, which manages placements of new families into the system. Shelters are operated by non-profit service providers from the community. All services at the site will be coordinated and paid for by DHCD, and the agency will coordinate closely with the town throughout the process.
What is the impact on public safety?
Town staff have been meeting with counterparts in impacted towns for several months to learn exactly what their impacts have been and what role public safety will play. Both Chief Brooks and Chief Bailey have spoken with their counterparts in several area communities, including making site visits, and reported no concerns with public safety. Some towns reported an increased call volume to 911 the first ten days or so; however this quickly subsided and is not likely to happen in Norwood as the new arrivals coming here have been in a facility in another community for several months.
How long will families stay at the shelter?
The onsite providers will work with families to help place them into stable housing of their own.
There is no minimum or maximum length of stay. Per information provided by the State, families exiting the shelter system in 2023 had stayed in shelters an average of fourteen months.
How is the shelter managed?
There is an on-site service provider that provides clients with case management, connections to resources, housing search assistance, and the coordination of direct care.
How is the shelter funded?
The shelter and all related social services are fully funded by the Commonwealth. The Town does not provide any funding.
How will meals be provided?
An outside vendor will provide food service for shelter residents. In addition, the on-site service provider will assist families in securing groceries, often leveraging benefits like SNAP. The Town is not involved in this contract in any way.
How will individuals and families in shelters receive the resources and support they need?
The on-site provider will ensure families have meals and necessities, provide case management and connection to resources, assist with housing searches, and assist with routine cleaning, maintenance, and security of the property.
Is language assistance being provided?
The Commonwealth provides free, over-the-phone, language translation services. In addition, service providers seek to hire multilingual on-site staff.
Can Norwood refuse a shelter?
No. Local approval to site a shelter is not required, nor do we have any say in location, number of families, etc.
Will Norwood be covered for school costs?
School districts receive emergency aid for transportation, enrollment, and other extra costs for educating Emergency Assistance students at a daily rate of $104 per student. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education works with impacted school districts to ensure that the educational needs of any school-aged children living in an emergency shelter are met as quickly as possible.
Additionally, Governor Healey signed a supplemental budget earlier this fiscal year that allows school districts to receive emergency aid more quickly for costs associated with educating children placed in new shelters. Otherwise, the districts would have had to wait much longer for funding for these new students to be incorporated into their state education aid.
The district where these students currently reside had a negligible increase in staffing. Due to space concerns and the potential need to spread students around we may see higher transportation and staffing costs, but they should not vary significantly from the sending district.
Have we communicated with our state legislators?
Yes, we have been in touch with both Representative Rogers and Senator Rush and they have been very supportive and offered their full assistance with anything the Town may need.
Is it a good idea to host migrants with the hospital still under construction?
While there should not be an appreciable increase in 911 calls, we had advised the state we do have concerns that our hospital being down as well as the relative lack of health services in the Town’s borders does not make Norwood a suitable location.
Why are hotels being booked now as opposed to earlier in the year?
There are a number of factors, primarily the amount of money the state is paying. When the state first began booking hotels last summer the market rate that was being paid was around $100/room with the provision of food. Now, the state is paying as high as $210 per room per night in some areas, with food being provided separately. While we do not know what the contract cost is in Norwood, this amount is well above the market average for small hotels in Norwood and the area. It is likely that the economics simply became too attractive for lower revenue hotels in the area to ignore.
Will there be an impact to Town revenue?
The revenue generated from the hotels tax is the only revenue that would be impacted by the Commonwealth contracting for an entire hotel (property taxes and other fees/utility charges continue to be paid as normal). The Commonwealth pays the rooms tax for the first 90 days, after that there is no provision to pay the local rooms tax. However the Governor’s office has stated they are working on a method to assist towns beyond the 90 day period. That being said, with five hotels and a lower occupancy hotel being selected the revenue impact to the Town will be minimal overall. We are reaching out to the hotel owner to see if they will continue to pay the amount otherwise due.
Is the Commonwealth forcing hotels to accept new arrivals?
No. Any hotel is able to accept or not accept a contract with the Commonwealth. Furthermore, hotels are being paid a market rate for rooms, so there is no negative impact to the hotel’s bottom line.
If you have additional questions, please contact us at [email protected]. We will work to assist you with any questions you may have.