Updated at 12:05 p.m. Aug. 1

State officials on Monday opened the second welcome center for resident and migrant families experiencing homelessness on the campus of Eastern Nazarene College in Quincy.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kate Walsh said the center, the first to also accommodate an on-site shelter, is meant to serve the growing number of people seeking refuge in Massachusetts.

“We’re doubling down on this model,” Walsh said during a tour of the center on Monday. “We hope to have more, because every day we see people who are coming to our state in search of new life, a better life, and we’re here to help them find it.”

The state has seen a growing number immigrants arriving from Haiti and South America to a state already struggling with the low availabiilty and high cost of housing.

Some ended up seeking help in police departments and local hospitals. Walsh said the first welcome center — set up in Allston in June — has been successful in processing over 550 families.

“Our goal is for everyone to get to the welcome centers, because that’s a much better place for them to arrive in our country than a busy hospital emergency room,” she said.

The Quincy center, located at an arts center and dormitory at the college, will be open seven days a week to help families connect to short- and long-term shelter, state officias say. It will be run in a collaboration between the nonprofit Bay State Community Services and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services.

The expense of managing a family welcome center is up to $150,000 in startup costs, according to the state, and a flat rate of $75,000 per month for a six-month contract with providers.

The center also will be the first to have on-site shelter meant to house 58 families at a building adjacent to the arts center. The shelter is being run by a Virginia-based company, AMI Expeditionary Healthcare, which "provides medical services to international aid organizations, humanitarian concerns, the private sector and government agencies,'' according to its website.

Patricia Zio, Program Director at Bay State Community Services, gives a tour of children's play space at the Eastern Nazarene College Welcome Center. Her organization will be connecting migrants and unhoused residents with social services.
Photo by Sarah Betancourt, GBH News

People will likely remain in the short-term shelter for two to four weeks, state officials say. The intake facility has rooms for children to play, private rooms for individuals to meet with lawyers taking part in the state’s legal service program for migrants, and supply rooms that have diapers, flip flops for communal showers, and other necessities.

AMI has contracted with a Creole cuisine company to have culturally appropriate food available for the many new arrivals from Haiti, according to Walsh.

“This is a lot of work — a lot of thought and care went into it, like finding a staff that speaks Haitian Creole,” she said.

Organizers also are setting up a rotation of Haitian pastors who can “come and conduct church services so that people who have gone on such a long and arduous journey can have a moment of basic time to reflect,” she added.

shoes at migrant welcome center
New toddler sandles sit in a supply room at Eastern Nazarene College. The facility will be the second Welcome Center for new migrant arrivals and unhoused residents, run by Bay State Community Services and the state.

Lenita Reason, executive director of the Brazilian Worker Center that operates the Allston welcome center, says the new effort has made a huge difference to the migrants. One migrant was so moved he returned to volunteer at the center, she said. On one recent day, her staff was able to quickly start helping a group of over 20 families was bussed from the Department of Transitional Assistance office in Nubian Square.

“The partnership with the state has been instrumental for these families,” Reason said. “They feel like they’re part of Massachusetts already.”

This story was updated to include the startup and ongoing costs of operating the welcome center.