Massachusetts governor opens migrant shelter in Boston rec center because “we really don’t have a choice”

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ROXBURY – It’s been a quick conversion for the Melnea Cass Recreational Center in Roxbury. In place are beds and sleeping bags, play spaces, bathrooms and other necessities and it’s all to help migrant families arriving in large numbers in the state.

Governor Maura Healey began discussions of the idea of turning the complex into a temporary safe site shelter in the past week, saying she was moved by the recent plight of migrant families now camping out at Logan Airport with no place to go, and a state shelter system stretched to the limit.

“We’re here today because we really don’t have a choice,” said Governor Healey after touring the site with Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and other city leaders.

“None of us should stand by with women, children, and families sleeping outside or in an airport who look like us,” said State Representative Liz Miranda who represents the community on Beacon Hill.

The shelter in Roxbury can house up to 400 people.

CBS Boston

But the plan has received mixed reviews in the Roxbury neighborhood since the recreational center is also a vital resource for youth and adult programs.

“We sympathize with them, we as people in a community we love, but sometimes we love so many in spite of our own selves,” said resident and community activist Clifton Braithwaite.

Tony DaRocha with Boston United Track and Cross-Country coaches young athletes in a free weekly program at the complex. He doesn’t know where his team will go with a meet set for Sunday. “We empathize with what’s going on. But at the same time our kids are impacted negatively. Our program is one of the few stable times in their lives,” said DaRocha.

“I’ve been going here for two years and it’s a second home to me,” said program participant Andy Suarez.

The decision to make it a temporary home until May 31 for migrant families is called humanitarian but also a difficult decision by some and Mayor Michelle Wu echoed that sentiment.

“There is pain and recognition this is not the first time the community has been asked to sacrifice. We will work with the state to make sure all options are on the table,” said Wu.

The governor is pledging that all programs find a temporary home and funds will be provided for long awaited updates to the complex in the spring once the temporary shelter is closed. Seventy-five migrants were expected to arrive on Wednesday with more in the next couple of days.

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