By Bob Katzen
The House 28-128, rejected an amendment that would amend the state’s Right to Shelter Law which requires the state to provide shelter and other necessities to homeless parents with young children, pregnant women and recently the many migrant families arriving in the Bay State. Homeless individuals are not covered by the Right to Shelter law.
The amendment would require that people provide proof that they have lived in the state for at least one year to qualify for the program. It also exempts from the requirement a victim of domestic violence or a person whose living situation has been affected by a fire or other natural disaster that occurred in Massachusetts.
Amendment supporters said the current interpretation of residency in Massachusetts by the Healey administration is that the person can be in the state for a matter of minutes to qualify to get services.
“Massachusetts is the only state in the nation with a Right to Shelter Law, so out of state groups and organizations are intentionally sending families at our U.S. Southern Border to Massachusetts with no support, services or notice because of that,” said amendment sponsor Rep. Paul Frost (R-Auburn). “Creating a 1-year residency requirement to qualify will stop these groups from sending migrants en masse to the commonwealth. It will protect families who have resided in Massachusetts for years from being denied services because they will be competing with those from out of state who have been on Massachusetts soil for five minutes. There are 49 other states who can also be helping with asylum seekers or refugees as Massachusetts cannot afford to continue do it on its own, especially in this uncontrolled fashion.”
“I think that’s a fair amount of time to say that you’ve been here, that you’ve been participating in the community and that if you do need emergency shelter, then you could have it,” Frost continued. “And if you want to discuss or further amend or debate lowering that figure to six months or whatever, I’m willing to talk. But the fact is it can’t be 45 minutes, it can’t be a day, because it won’t stop. They’ll continue to come and be sent here. And it’s not their fault, I understand that. They’re going where they’re told, they’re going where other groups are sending them because they’re told they will be taken care of.”
“Given the humanitarian crises that are driving migrants here, it is unlikely that a 1-year residency requirement would reduce the flow, so the practical impact would be families with young children and pregnant women on the street with no shelter during the winter months likely resulting in emergency rooms and public spaces being overwhelmed at no small cost,” said Rep. Alice Peisch (D-Wellesley). “Such a residency requirement would undoubtedly fail if challenged in the courts as both the [state’s] Supreme Judicial Court and US Supreme Court have ruled that states cannot restrict benefits based on ‘alienage,’ which this residency requirement is doing, if not in law, then most certainly in fact. “
(A “Yes” vote is for the 1-year requirement. A “No” vote is against it.)
Rep. Christine Barber No Rep. Mike Connolly No Rep. Paul Donato No Rep. Erika Uyterhoeven No