What the State House is doing about the Mass. family shelter system

View of the Massachusetts State House from the corner of Tremont and Park Streets. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
View of the Massachusetts State House from the corner of Tremont and Park Streets. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Editor's Note: This is an excerpt from WBUR's daily morning newsletter, WBUR Today. If you like what you read and want it in your inbox, sign up here

Happy Friday! Parking is free today through the weekend at all Massachusetts state parks for Veterans Day, in case you’re looking to mark the holiday with a sunny — if brisk — fall walk or hike.

But first, let’s get to the news:

Massachusetts’ emergency family shelter system officially hit the state’s self-imposed cap yesterday. As WBUR’s Gabrielle Emanuel explains here, the crossing of the 7,500-household threshold means the state will begin turning away eligible families for the first time today. Instead, families seeking shelter will be put on a waitlist for housing, prioritizing them based on health and safety risk factors. The moment has also opened up a divide between Gov. Maura Healey and some top Democrats on Beacon Hill over what to do next.

  • Earlier this week, House lawmakers passed a bill that would send an additional $250 million to the shelter system — but with strings attached. If passed, the bill would require the Healey administration to set up overflow sites within 30 days to house waitlisted families. (That hasn’t been part of Healey’s plan.) They even floated the Hynes Convention Center as a possible site. “We wanted to ensure that no family will be forced to be living on the street, in Logan Airport, in South Station, especially as the winter approaches,” said state Rep. Aaron Michlewitz.
  • Healey, however, has said the additional $250 million — which she requested in September — is only enough to house the families already in the system. Meanwhile, her administration is partnering with United Way to at least set up short-term, overnight shelters for homeless families. They’ve also been asking the federal government to help with more permanent overflow sites.
  • What’s next: Healey has been noncommittal about signing off on the House’s overflow site plan. After all, it still needs to get through the Senate, which will review it and then plans to pass its own version. But we could find out soon; the Legislature is under a deadline to finish its formal session by this coming Wednesday, Nov. 15.
  • Go deeper: Read Gabrielle’s story on how closing shelter doors could push families into illegal and unsafe housing.

Phil speed ahead: The MBTA is planning more than 200 days of partial shutdowns across its four subway lines through the end of next year — and people are sorta happy about it! That’s because, for the first time in recent memory, the T is giving riders a long-term preview of their diversion plans. It comes as the agency, under General Manager Phil Eng, pushes to get rid of all 191 slow zones that have been bogging down service by the end of 2024. And for once, some riders are optimistic.

School’s out in Andover today, but not because of the Veterans Day holiday. The town’s public school teachers are going on strike, after nine months of failed negotiations for a new contract. Andover’s teacher’s union says they’re seeking higher pay and paid family and medical leave, among other things, in the new contract. You can read their full explanation here.

And the next president of the Boston City Council is… Ruthzee Louijeune? The first-term, at-large city councilor, who was the top vote-getter in this week’s election, announced yesterday that she has the votes among her colleagues to become the Council’s next president. (The role is currently held by Ed Flynn.)

  • What it means: As council President, Louijeune would lead council proceedings. She would also step in as acting mayor if Mayor Michelle Wu goes out of town or leaves office.

P.S.— Do you know what policy change was made by Massachusetts’ largest health insurer this week? Take our Boston News Quiz and test your knowledge of this week’s stories.


Headshot of Nik DeCosta-Klipa

Nik DeCosta-Klipa Newsletter Editor
Nik DeCosta-Klipa is the newsletter editor for WBUR.



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