Town Message: Emergency Shelter Response

August 28, 2023

A message from the Town of Bedford

Background

This month, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has placed 38 migrant families in the Bedford Plaza Hotel as emergency shelter. Governor Maura Healey has declared a state of emergency as the number of arriving migrants has sharply increased and the existing Emergency Shelter program is overwhelmed. Massachusetts has a “right to shelter” law for families with children and pregnant women, which means that shelter must be provided. 

An interdepartmental working group that includes the Bedford Public Schools, Health Department, Youth and Family Services, Recreation, Town Manager’s Office, Police, and Fire have been meeting regularly to coordinate emergency assistance and services to these families. The Town is also coordinating with state officials and Bedford’s state legislative delegation, and is connecting with other municipalities who are also hosting emergency shelter for vulnerable families. Town social workers are working to connect families to state services that include MassHealth and SNAP benefits.

Hotel management has made space available to Town staff to meet with residents and provide play spaces. Cradles to Crayons is providing clothing and diapers. The Rotary Club of Bedford donated funds for car seats. Bedford C.E.R.T. and The Neighbor Brigade have been assisting with transportation for medical appointments. The Bedford Food Bank is also assisting families. 

Several dozen of the individuals are under 18 years of age and at least 17 are school-age. In accordance with state and federal law, the Bedford Public Schools are working to enroll all school-age children and provide them and their families with appropriate English learner and other support to begin the school year successfully. The state is providing education aid to communities hosting homeless families at $18,000 per pupil per year, and the Town expects to receive $20,000 in McKinney-Vento funds. More information on educational guidance from the state can be found in this memo. The Town will continue to seek additional state and federal funding as Town services are impacted. 

It is not clear for how long the families will be in Bedford, as the statewide and nationwide situation is evolving and a critical shortage of shelter beds is ongoing. To house families for longer than 30 days, the hotel must comply with Groups “R-1” and “R-2” in the International Building Code. The Code Enforcement Director has determined that the Bedford Plaza Hotel does comply with both groups. Given the fast-evolving nature of the critical shortage of shelter beds, the Town expects and is prepared to support and serve additional families and will update this webpage with additional information as it becomes available. 

How you can help 

Many community organizations, houses of worship, and individuals have expressed eagerness to help, and coordination efforts are underway. Read below for ways to help. More opportunities to help will be added when available. Please do not drop off donations directly at the Bedford Plaza Hotel.  

  • Gift cards to Amazon.com or nearby businesses (T.J. Maxx/Marshalls, Ocean State Job Lot, Stop and Shop) can be dropped off at the Bedford Health Department (second floor of the Town Center in the Yellow Building, 12 Mudge Way) during business hours of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesdays through Thursdays and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Fridays. They may also be mailed to the Bedford Health Department, or dropped off in the drop box next to the Town Hall entrance (please write “ATTN: Health Department” on the envelope).  
  • Monetary donations: Checks can be made out to “Town of Bedford” with “Emergency Shelter Response” in the memo line, and delivered to the Health Department in the same manner as outlined in the previous bullet point. An online donation option is coming soon.  
  • Join C.E.R.T to help transport families to medical appointments and to be connected to other volunteer tasks.  
  • There is a need for Haitian Creole, Portuguese, and Spanish interpreters. Please reach out to Enid DeCastro for more information.  
  • The state has organized donation centers and a statewide relief fund — please find information here
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