Placement of Emergency Families Continues to Grow in Bedford

September 12, 2023

The number of migrant families placed in emergency shelter at the Bedford Plaza Hotel is now 76, up from 17 a month ago.

Heidi Porter, the town’s director of health and human services, said on Monday that 21 families, most of them from Haiti, arrived over the weekend. 

Porter said the total of school-age children among the families is around 45. Superintendent of Schools Cliff Chuang is expected to share details with the School Committee at its meeting tonight.

“New families who moved in this weekend will be enrolled this week and will likely start school next week,” Porter said.

She noted that the promised Massachusetts National Guard personnel, assigned to relieve some of the coordination responsibilities her department staff is now handling, is still a couple of weeks away. And even when it arrives, “we envision our services will be needed throughout the year,” she said. 

“We ask the community to continue to check the Emergency Shelter Response webpage (https://www.bedfordma.gov/844/5935/Emergency-Shelter-Response) for ways to provide support,” Porter said. The web page includes “a wish list of food items that are easy to prepare in a hotel room, as requested by the residents. We will update that list with additional items as we receive additional information on needs from the hotel residents.”

The new arrivals are grateful “for the care and support the entire Bedford community is providing. And every day ask for ways to pay back,” Porter said, adding, “Mostly they want to work.” 

Gov. Maura Healey has appealed to federal officials to streamline the work authorization process so migrants can find employment. Porter said the town’s legislators, State Rep. Kenneth Gordon and State Sen. Michael Barrett, are also reaching out to federal authorities. The process as currently structured can take months.

Porter outlined other ongoing support activities:

  • Dr. David Geller and the staff at Bedford Pediatrics are responding to medical, vaccination, and triage needs of children; 
  • CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) volunteers provide rides and activities at the hotel, and other community members are driving new residents to medical visits; 
  • “The Plaza ownership and management have been good partners in keeping town staff informed on new arrivals and enabling us access to provide services.”
  • “The social work team was able to place a large order with Cradles to Crayons for kids clothing and shoes which we hope to distribute to families over the coming weeks.”
  • “The town and regional partners are continuing to provide weekly nursing triage and daily social work services on-site.”
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