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Latest Migrant News

Latest News about the Migrants now Sheltered in Lexington

May 8, 2024

LexRAP volunteers continue to be part of the on-going LexShelter Coalition supporting the migrants in the Lexington Shelter. On-going ELL classes (Connie the Lead) paired with English Practice sessions (Natalie is the lead) are the primary focus, giving these folks one of the most essentials tools for success in the US. As with any group, some are moving along faster than others, but we can see increased comfort and ability with all of those attending classes. We have come to realize that the Play-care which we offer during classes is important for the kids, not just to give parents a break.  Other than these sessions, the children have very little opportunity to play together and to learn socialization.

Ethan has continued to oversee food-pantry deliveries, as well as copy-editing the shelter newsletter. We’re planning to phase out food Pantry deliveries over the next few weeks, since most residents have gotten familiar with the “T” Bus and can make it to the Food Pantry on their own.  Mary is still in-process of shifting volunteer management to Lynn. Babs and Jilana have both been involved in English practice and helping people find jobs. Steve got a dozen bikes for this group, and is able and willing to get more if it makes sense.

A good number of the residents have found jobs in and around Lexington. While many are part-time, it’s still an exciting and significant step. Work not only brings in some income, it’s a good boost for self-confidence for someone eager to find their way in their new home country.  But a job is also a place to practice real-world English, and requires learning how to get around.

Perhaps the most significant development recently is that Health Equity International, which had been named as the agency which would take over shelter management, has started to have a presence. With their arrival, many concerns which had been held by volunteers, are now on HEI’s shoulders. We will continue to offer ELL and English Practice, the volunteers are overseeing kid’s registration for summer camp, and we expect to continue to be a part of these folks’ lives. But things like helping with medical appointments and job searches, as well as a million daily questions about this or that, will now be handled by HEI. This is both a relief and a big change in how we think about our work. Help finding housing is also part of HEI’s mandate

Also worth noting is that the state is transforming the National Guard Armory into an overflow shelter.  Where the current shelter is an “Emergency Assistance” (EA) shelter, the armory will be an “overflow” shelter.” This means minimal accommodations (likely a large room with cots) and services. Overflow shelters are aimed at people who are on the waiting list for a place in an EA shelter. From what we are hearing volunteers will have little, if any, role. Individuals should not take it on themselves to show up with food, clothing or an expectation of being admitted.

Bruce Neumann (He, Him)
LexRAP President and volunteer

 

December 6, 2023

Faithful readers of the wider-world’s news are aware that a large number of migrants, choosing the
Boston area as a destination, have swamped the state’s homeless shelters,
resulting in families being place in hotels around the commonwealth. Faithful
readers of LexRAP news are aware that, as of late October, 30 of these families
have been placed in Lexington.

Very soon after the placement in Lexington, LexRAP started being contacted – by the state agency with some oversight of shelters in the region, and by various faith communities. Over the
course of a couple of weeks, LexRAP, other community organizations, and a
number of faith communities came together to form a loose coalition committed
to supporting these newest residents of Lexington. Understanding what supports
are provided and what are not, and how to fill a range of needs has been a big
challenge.

We learned that the state provides the rooms they stay in, and 3 meals a day, as well as assistance in registering for state benefits (MassHealth, Cash Assistance, SNAP), and some
essential legal services. The National Guard is on-site daily, helping
to resolve any number of issues that arise. The town has registered 17
school-aged children, who are now attending 3 different schools and getting a
variety of additional supports, and the health department is overseeing various
health issue including immunizations.

But we learned that families had no money for essentials such as formula, diapers, and personal products. We understood that most of the folks had arrived in New England with very little
clothing, none of which was appropriate for impending cold weather.
Conversations with the National Guard revealed that there were many
transportation needs that were not being filled by existing systems. And, no
one had any plans to provide English as a Second-Language instruction.

Some things this coalition has accomplished and other things in the planning stages:

·      Special kudos to First Parish Church, which
almost immediately set up an Amazon wish-list for essentials, a fund to take monetary
donations especially for these families (separate from Lex RAP funds), and a
google form for volunteers to register how they might help.

·        On the heels of this initial response, several
volunteers, using raised funds, purchased winter coats and boots for the
families, then a wider group of volunteers purchased some basic clothing
essentials. At this writing, we are in the midst of a clothing drive which will
allow families to come to a donation site and select more clothing, of their
own choice.

·      One volunteer set up a fledgling system to
provide rides in urgent (but not 911) situations. Others are working at
obtaining Charlie cards for all families, lobbying the town to modify a
LexPRESS route, and arranging buses for special events.

·      We have a small team working at the logistics of
offering ESL, and another group exploring how to better support the food needs.

·      Close to LexRAP’s fundamental model of personal
support, which in addition to providing basic information and support, helps
newcomers feel welcome and less isolated than they might, we are exploring
matching local families with migrant families.

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While LexRAP has an on-going role in support of these newest
Lexington residents, I am touched by the way so many people have stepped
forward to help, and the way that a leaderless, newly formed coalition has been
able to do so much.

 Bruce Neumann, LexRAP President and volunteer

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November 2023

Those who have been following local news will be aware that there has been a large influx of migrants to the Boston area in recent months. Because of Massachusetts’ Right-to-shelter law, and because the usual homeless shelters were full, many families have been placed in hotels around the region

On or around October 20, six families were placed by the state at a hotel in Lexington. Over the next couple of weeks 24 more families arrived, for a total of 30, split between two hotels. The state provides the hotel and three meals a day, and is engaged in registering these families for on-going services, such as MassHealth and SNAP. The National Guard has a presence every day, providing an anchor to humanitarian support. The town of Lexington health department is engaged in evaluating vaccination status and other basic health concerns, and the school department has registered 17 kids, who will be attending 3 different schools.

Fairly soon after their arrival, organizations and faith communities in Lexington learned about this and began networking, forming a loose coalition bonded by the sense that we need to help those in our midst who have been less fortunate than the average Lexington citizen. Formula and diapers were provided, after some initial contact with the National Guard members to learn what the most immediate needs were. First Parish set up: 1) an Amazon wish list for on-going personal needs, 2) An account which would accept monetary donations to support these families and 3) a form allowing potential volunteers to come forward for as-yet-undefined volunteer roles. Two volunteers who speak Haitian Creole, plus a few others, created a census of the people living there, with family makeup, country of origin, and clothing sizes. Since the next-most urgent need was clothing for folks who had originated in warmer climes, a number of volunteers used a portion of the money that had been raised, to buy winter coats and shoes for all the residents. These were purchased and delivered over the Nov. 11-12 weekend. This was followed by an initial clothing drive to provide all residents with a few changes of basic clothes. We expect this to be followed by another drive to expand the range of clothing options, possibly including one set of better clothes to wear to church and/or asylum hearings.

This loose coalition includes participants from First Parish, Grace Chapel, Church of Our Redeemer, Sacred Heart/St. Brigid’s, Temple Isaiah, LexRAP, and the Lexington Community Coalition. We are currently working towards: setting up an English as a second Language (ESL) program; considering how volunteers can provide rides for both urgent situations and shopping; hoping to help set up some babysitting for the children who are not in school; and intending to coordinate supplemental food, to build on the meals already provided.

This work will certainly evolve over time as the migrants get work authorization, and begin to look for jobs and housing

Ways to Help

Note: Please do not drop items at the hotels.

The coalition has set up a fund to provide for immediate needs. Contribute at: Sheltered Families Fund. 

In the longer term, there will be many needs, such as ESL, drivers, and activities for the kids.  We also will ask for books, toys, and clothing donations from the community.  

If you can help please fill in this form: Sheltered Families Help Form.   

There is an Amazon gift list for consumables such as formula and diapers, which we will keep updated: Lex Sheltered Families Supplies.  

We do not have storage for donations at this time.   We are asking the community to please DO NOT drop off donated items to any locations or individuals. 

We will provide an update once a centralized location has been identified.   

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