State Negotiating Long-Term Contract with Shelter, Officials Say

January 17, 2024

Health and Human Services Director Heidi Porter advised the Board of Health at its meeting last week that the Bedford Plaza Hotel at 340 The Great Road will continue to serve as an emergency shelter for migrants “for a long time.”

The state Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities is “negotiating a long-term contract with the hotel owner, Porter said, as “they’ve consolidated their sites.”

When families leave the shelter, she told the board, eventually there will be others taking their place.

“There’s a wait list now. There are folks sleeping at Logan Airport, receiving meals and a cot,” Porter told the board.

She noted that “if you leave the shelter, you are out of the system unless you get an official transfer to another location. We’ve had a couple of families transfer and a couple left to be with relatives.”

Replacements haven’t arrived yet, “probably because of the contract negotiations. That will happen in the future, given the state’s commitment.”

Porter stressed that the Bedford shelter is not among those that the state agency provided with professional management. Although the town has not received state money, nor allocated any local funds, she spends as much as an hour of her daily time coordinating services to residents. (State reimbursement of $104 per day per student has been promised to the school district.)

Social workers and others on the staff of the Health and Human Services Department are also involved at the shelter.

“I think we’re doing a pretty good job down there,” she said. “It’s not always easy. There are a lot of moving parts.”

Shelter residents’ situations vary widely.

“Folks are getting working papers and they are getting jobs,” Porter said, noting that her office is organizing a job fair at the shelter. A few migrants with “significant medical and mental health issues” aren’t eligible for nutritional or medical benefits; they are relying on the town food bank and emergency rooms, she reported.

Some residents are “all over the place with court dates” regarding their immigration status, she reported. A few will take place in Texas; others extend to 2025.

“Their situations won’t change until then,” Porter said.

She told the board that Department of Public Works staff prepared a map for shelter residents, highlighting key locations like bus stops, stores, and playgrounds. Porter said that’s part of an effort to “promote their independence.”

Porter noted that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits include a stipend that allows the purchase of necessities such as phones or bus passes.

Two Acton-based organizations, First Connections and the Discovery Museum, are planning a “permanent play space,” focusing especially on four-year-old children expected to enter kindergarten next fall, Porter told the board.

First Connections, whose mission includes guidance “through the first years of the parenting journey,” will “help with some parenting issues,” Porter said, and model for children “the right way to play with each other.” The hope is to preclude what Porter called recent “behavioral issues” involving children at Davis School. The professionals also will be “trying to get other volunteers to supervise some play as well.”

Board Chair Susan Schwartz, a volunteer at the shelter with Bedford CERT (Citizens Emergency Response Team), said that people from First Connections “came to the hotel and said, ‘We would like to get involved.’”

Porter added, “We receive communications from community organizations who would like to help and we facilitate.”

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Jenny
January 18, 2024 4:19 pm

“Porter stressed that the Bedford shelter is not among those that the state agency provided with professional management. Although the town HAS NOT received state money, nor allocated any local funds, she spends as much as an hour of her daily time coordinating services to residents. (State reimbursement of $104 per day per student has been promised to the school district.)” So we had not received fund from state? Did we get the fund for the students? Also is Porter paid by the town or by the state? If by the town, what budget did we use? 100 immigrants families permanently stay in the hotel. It means bedford plaza brought percent resident to the town. Should it pay some tax?

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