Taunton hotel housing migrants, state confirms

TAUNTON, Mass. (WLNE) — A hotel in Taunton has been closed to the public and transformed into a shelter for more than 100 families without a place to stay, the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development confirmed Monday.

The move, Taunton Mayor Shaunna O’Connell said, was a complete surprise to her and city officials.

“[The decision was made] without our knowledge or input, so we are now dealing with that in the city of Taunton,” said Taunton Mayor Shaunna O’Connell.

O’Connell relayed frustrations with a lack of communication from the state in notifying the city of a shelter opening at the hotel, with about one-third of families being housed there not in the U.S. legally, the Department of Housing and Community Development confirmed.

“We did express to them in the beginning before we knew there was a contract in place that we would not want to see our hotel shut down and turned into a shelter,” O’Connell said.

In a statement released to ABC6 News, a spokesperson from DHCD said the shelter system in Massachusetts is at capacity and the state needs the help of cities and towns for housing.

With our shelter system at capacity due to increasing arrivals to the state and increasing housing costs, we need all communities to play a role in helping to meet our state’s housing needs. In addition to outreach prior to placing families, state agencies are in close contact with Taunton officials to ensure a strong partnership to support families in need. Our administration will continue to take an all-hands-on-deck approach to this crisis to ensure we can connect families with shelter and meet our obligations under state law.

In a sit-down with ABC 6, O’Connell clarified the shelter is a private agreement between the hotel and the state and is at no cost to taxpayers in Taunton.

O’Connell also said the city is looking into legal options to no longer have the only hotel in Taunton be used for shelter housing, concerned over a loss of revenue in the city with its only hotel now closed for business.

“I think it’s a concern we have a very successful industrial park with national and international companies and that is a place that people would stay,” O’Connell said.

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