Massachusetts has started moving 68 families — a mixture of migrants and unhoused residents — from Bedford to the Lowell Inn and Conference Center.

State officials say all the families will be transferred from the Bedford Hotel to the Lowell inn by the end of April. The transfer was delayed for months due to repairs of the fire safety system at the Lowell shelter.

The transfer is part of an ongoing effort by the state to consolidate its many emergency assistance shelter sites, reduce overhead costs, improve service delivery, and streamline the allocation of resources.

There are over 7,500 families in the maxed out emergency shelter system, and even more in overflow shelters. About half of those are new arrivals — asylum seekers from countries facing gang violence and economic upheaval.

Lowell city councilor Paul Ratha Yem says he's “excited” to welcome the newcomers to his city. Yem was a Cambodian refugee who arrived in the Boston area during the 1980s, and said that the city is ready to support additional asylum seekers.

Lowell boasts a long history of welcoming immigrants, often associated as a mill town where Irish immigrants lived and worked after the potato famine of the 1840s. Yem says he has requested to visit the Lowell shelter to meet new arrivals once renovation work is done.

“I'm conscious that these immigrants, just like the immigrants before them — they rebuild their lives, and in return, they also rebuild the country and the cities and town that they are living in,” he said.

The state has a $4 million contract to lease the Lowell facility for a year as a shelter, which has been open since January. There are already 128 families living there, state officials say, not including the incoming parents and children.

The Commonwealth Care Alliance, the on-site shelter provider, told GBH News it is working to connect families with resources. “We are grateful to the state and the city of Lowell for their collaboration during this process as we work together to welcome additional families.”

The state is in the middle of coordinating with Bedford and Lowell public school officials on the transfer of children from one district to the other.

Just a couple blocks away is the Lowell Community Health Center, which has a decades-long program to help refugees and asylum seekers mostly from Cambodia. Patient care navigators go to the Lowell shelter to help migrants with maps to the health center and to provide multilingual materials about their services.

Elizabeth Hale, the health center's chief operating officer, said migrants have had acute medical needs like uncontrolled diabetes or high blood pressure. Many are pregnant, she said.

“When we look at a clinical triage, that's an important time that one needs to get into prenatal care and get wellness visits and get them planned for delivery,” she said.

Health center staff are currently working with Bedford individuals to see if they want to stick with providers there or switch care. Many children need vaccinations before enrolling in school.

“We are a community that has always been a settlement for refugees,” said Hale. “Just culturally, it's part of the DNA of Lowell. That's who we are and what we do.”

Yem says he moved to the area to help Cambodian refugees like himself when they were released from a Thai refugee camp. He sees the new Haitian immigrants and others as facing similar challenges that he and his community faced long ago. He said some people are concerned that migrants will be taking jobs away — but they misunderstand the situation.

“We say, no, we take the job that nobody wants to do, like cleaning toilets, you know, working in an assembly line,'' he said.

Yem said that just like other asylum seekers and refugees in the past, a big hurdle for newcomers is learning English. Migrants will be enrolled in English classes at the local MassHire office, he said.

“The history of Lowell is a city of immigrants,'' he said. ”You have the Greek, you have the French Canadian, and you have later people from Southeast Asia we have people from Middle East and from Central America.“