Migrant families will not be allowed to sleep in Logan Airport after July 9 (2024)

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As of July 9, families will no longer be allowed to sleep at Logan International Airport, the Healey administration announced Friday morning.

Instead, the administration says families on the emergency assistance shelter list will be offered transfers to temporary places to stay, including a new facility at a former prison in Norfolk. It is unclear what will happen to migrants at Logan Airport who have not applied for that assistance, which involves an application at Department of Transitional Assistance offices.

Healey’s office told GBH News on Friday that the decision comes comes as a “result of the administration’s recent efforts to open a new safety-net site, move more families out of shelter, and share a message at the U.S. southern border that Massachusetts is out of shelter space.”

Flyers will be distributed in multiple languages about the change in policy.

The facility at Norfolk will accommodate about 140 families at full capacity, and at least 20 were transferred there earlier this week. It is unclear where those families were transferred from.

The state said there are many ways for families to apply for and be eligible for emergency assistance, including at Family Welcome Centers, through a phone line, or at Department of Transitional Assistance offices.

On average, the state processes new arrivals’ emergency assistance applications within approximately 24 hours, according to the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities.

The state said “eligible families” will continue to be placed in other safety-net and shelter sites as units become available. Staff on site at Logan will work with families to inform them of this new policy and their options, including helping them secure transportation to another location where they have family or another option for a safe place to stay.

“We are now in a position to end the practice of families staying overnight in the airport,” said Emergency Assistance Director Scott Rice. “This is in the best interest of families and travelers and staff at Logan, as the airport is not an appropriate place for people to seek shelter.”

He said that the state will continue to “spread the word” that families traveling to Massachusetts will need to be prepared with a plan for housing that doesn’t include the state shelter system or the airport. Massport, which oversees Logan Airport, declined to comment.

“The airport is not the place where people are should be. I havea little relief that alternatives have been put in place to accommodate those families,” said Pastor “Keke” Dieufort Fleurissaint, founder of the True Alliance Center, which works with the families. He lauded the Biden administration’s Friday announcement to expand a humanitarian program called Temporary Protected Status, which allows an estimated 309,000 Haitians in the U.S. to stay and work. “They said they will consider Haitians who are present in the country as of early June,” he said. The relief is for Haitians who were in the U.S. by June 3 of this year, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

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The decision comes two days after GBH News reported on the assistance migrants receive by day at a local church, and the difficulties they endure sleeping at the airport.

Earlier this week, Rice and state officials visited the U.S. southern border. The Healey administration said they met with border officials, families and organizations that assist families, including Catholic Charities and the Interfaith Welcome Coalition, to ensure they had accurate, updated information about Massachusetts’ lack of shelter space.

“We’ve also made clear to those who might think about coming to Massachusetts that we’re not going to be able to provide housing, nor are you going to be able to stay at Logan Airport anymore,” said Healey during a media availability later on Friday. She said the state has seen a reduction in the number of families coming to Massachusetts since President Joe Biden’s recent executive order that limited asylum processing at the border.

“We have already provided means for people to leave the state through extensive re-ticketing processes, and those processes will continue and in fact are part of how we’re depopulating the population from Logan as we speak,” Healey said for the first time.

When families arrive at Logan or the Quincy Welcome Center, staff help them figure out if they have safe options for places to stay. If there’s a friend or family outside of the state they can stay with, Massachusetts covers the travel costs to go there. This will increasingly be an option for migrants at Logan Airport.

“They want a good life for their families, they want safety, they want to work and they want dignified shelter,” said Laura Everett executive director of the Massachusetts Council of Churches. She’s spent time with families who stayed at Logan Airport.

“These people have come through horrifying circ*mstances. These are stories I’ve heard as a pastor that break my heart.”

Healey said the state has processed nearly 4,000 people for work permits and helped them gain employment. She also said the emergency shelter system is seeing a larger amount of exits than ever before, with 200 to 300 families moving on per month currently.

Katie Lannan contributed to this story.

Migrant families will not be allowed to sleep in Logan Airport after July 9 (2024)
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