New Roxbury Migrant Shelter Fills Up Quickly



By Alison Kuznitz

A newly opened migrant overflow shelter at a Roxbury community center is nearing its capacity of 400 individuals, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu said Wednesday.

Wu, who said she visited the state-owned Melnea Cass Recreation Center Tuesday night around dinner time, stressed the safety-net shelter is a temporary operation as neighborhood residents grapple with their community programs being displaced.

“I think the state heard loud and clear that the pool is necessary for community, for all the multi-generational activity that happens in the neighborhood,” Wu said on Java with Jimmy Wednesday morning.

With the state’s emergency shelter system at capacity due to a crush of new arrivals and families experiencing homelessness, the Healey administration selected the controversial Roxbury site to relocate migrants who had been sleeping at Logan Airport. When Gov. Maura Healey and Wu toured the facility last week, they were met by protestors questioning why the state decided to open a shelter in a historically marginalized neighborhood and not a wealthier community like Wellesley.

Over their first weekend at the Cass, roughly 75 young people were enrolled in Boston Public Schools, and Wednesday marks their first day in the classroom at nearby schools, the mayor said.

A different community center has taken on some of the Cass’s programming, Wu said. Some tennis programs were relocated to spots in Jamaica Plain, she said.

A youth track club at the Cass now has a schedule to meet in various locations, an arrangement that Wu described as “really not ideal.”

“We’re still trying to find more, even for the next couple of months, a more permanent and stable situation for them, so we’re working really closely,” Wu said. “In addition to the dedicated programs, it was always open for anyone who wanted to come walk around and use that, so that’s a little bit of what I really worry about, as well, just this had been a space where you knew was always there.”

City officials worked with the state to identify other shelter options beyond the Cass, Wu said. More than 15 locations were under discussion, including city-owned buildings and schools.

“The state was really looking for somewhere that was ready to go with enough bathrooms, with enough showers, immediately for the families who had been at the airport,” Wu said.

The Cass will stop functioning as a shelter by May 31 and reopen as a recreation center and public pool, administration officials have said.

During her walkthrough of the Cass on Tuesday, Wu said she met some families who were previously staying at a hotel shelter in Revere. Most migrant families speak Spanish or Haitian Creole, she said.

“There’s a little bit of shuffling around — I’m not sure how everything is fitting together. But the kind of track area that had a floor put down and lots of cots in there with kind of blankets and bedding, and most of the families push their cots together to make a little family unit,” Wu said.

Wu reflected on another family she met, who came to Boston three months ago and have bounced around different locations in their quest to find a stable living situation.

“I keep saying this is not a problem about migrant families. This is a problem about housing that we had before anyone came, that we have across every community,” the mayor said.

She added, “We are a place where that housing barrier for our own residents is tens of thousands of people on the waitlist for BHA,” referring to the Boston Housing Authority.

1 Comment

  1. Fed Up

    February 7, 2024 at 3:55 pm

    The Same Michelle Wu who held a holiday party for ” electeds of color ” only? She’s just as useless as Maura Healy and every other overpaid politician on Beacon Hill

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