In a 'Right to Shelter' dispute, a Massachusetts judge denies an activist's request to end the housing waiting list

 November 3, 2023

A judge in Massachusetts rejected the demands of activists for courts to compel state officials to discontinue the practice of placing applicants on housing waiting lists and to address their needs without regard to budgetary availability.

Wednesday, Suffolk Superior Court Judge Debra Squires-Lee rendered a decision stating that activists lacked legal standing to compel the state to provide housing for individuals beyond the program's financial means, as Breitbart News reported.

She determined that the state complied with "Right to Shelter" laws by submitting a request for a funding increase for the program over a month ago, despite the fact that the request has not yet been granted. In addition to acting responsibly, administrators implemented emergency regulations that will position individuals on housing waiting lists.

Additionally, Judge Squires-Lee stated that her jurisdiction does not extend to interfering with the actions of program officials as they endeavor to administer the initiative while adhering to legal and financial limitations.

Activists Demands

According to WBUR, the demands of the activists are included in a class action lawsuit filed by Lawyers for Civil Rights, an organization that advocates for families at the precipice of homelessness.

The implementation of the waitlist policy signifies the inaugural instance in which officials have postponed immediate lodging for family shelter program applicants. Authorities report that they are currently unable to provide lodging for applicants due to a lack of available shelter space and funds, as a result of being inundated with illegal aliens.

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“The state does not have enough space, service providers, or funding to safely expand shelter capacity,” a spokesperson for the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities program told the media after Judge Squires-Lee’s ruling.

Lawyers for Civil Rights member Oren Sellstrom, who was frustrated with the verdict, stated that the case "once again illuminates the humanitarian crisis unfolding and emphasizes the urgency for the legislature to act swiftly to preserve emergency shelter, especially as winter approaches."

In October, Democratic Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey declared that the program had almost attained its maximum capacity of 7,500 families served. The state reported that it had already assisted 7,388 family units with housing as of October 25.

The state intends to place additional applicants on a waiting list once capacity is reached, rather than providing them with housing immediately.

The New Policy

The new policy was harshly criticized by Carol Rose, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in Massachusetts.

“The Commonwealth must not slam the door to emergency shelter for children and their families who have no other safe place to go — leaving families with nowhere to sleep other than the streets, cars, and other places that are dangerous for children,” Rose told WBUR.

In the interim, the mayors of five deep blue cities are seeking a conference with the White House in order to demand improved management of the border crisis, which is causing tens of thousands of destitute illegal border crossers to enter their jurisdictions, and additional funding.

The Democratic mayors of Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, and New York, according to the Associated Press, are hoping to receive additional aid to combat the illegal immigrant deluge they are experiencing.

The quintet petitions the president for an additional $5 billion in federal aid to assist in managing the influx, as stated in their letter.

“While we are greatly appreciative of the additional federal funding proposed, our city budgets and local taxpayers continue to bear the brunt of this ongoing federal crisis,” the group’s letter says. “Cities have historically absorbed and integrated new migrants with success.”

Several right-to-shelter states and municipalities, such as New York and Massachusetts, are under pressure, including from Democrats, to modify, amend, or even repeal the policy as tens of thousands of additional border crossers enter their cities each month.

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