Former Bay State Correctional Center space to become emergency shelter site

A former Massachusetts prison is the newest location for an emergency shelter for families experiencing homelessness.

The former site of the Bay State Correctional Center in Norfolk will be transformed into a welcoming space to accommodate slightly under 150 families.

Governor Maura Healey’s Office tells Boston 25 News the facility is in great shape and will be able to hold around 140 families in dorm rooms, with each floor having its own bathrooms and showers. The former minimum security prison also sports a cafeteria, a gymnasium, a large common room and offices that will be used for case management and administrative activities.

“The site will be set up with play areas for children, as well as classroom spaces for adults to engage in activities that support pathways to stability such as ESOL classes, job training courses, and housing search workshops,” Emergency Assistance Director Scott Rice said in a statement

Healey’s office says the shelter site is expected to be up and running next month. Staffers will be on-site 24/7 and provide families with transport on and off-site.

The razor wire fence surrounding the property will be taken down.

The Bay State Correctional Center shut down in 2015.

According to Massachusetts Representative Marcus Vaughn, the shelter will strain the school systems in Norfolk and at King Philip Middle and High School and will likely impact public safety infrastructure.

“While assurances were given regarding on-site security, I intend to meet with Chief Heinz to explore avenues to mitigate the burden on our town’s public safety departments. Acknowledging the financial strain on our schools, I conveyed our concerns about reimbursement to the Governor’s office, who assured us of ongoing dialogue with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to address these challenges,” Vaughn wrote to residents in a letter obtained by Boston 25.

Healey’s office says the government is providing funding to cover the average full per-student cost.

“This support is designed to cover the gap until students show up in the normal state aid program when the cost will return to a shared responsibility. As a result, many municipalities end up paying less than they otherwise would,” the Governor’s office said in a statement. “Massachusetts schools are receiving this emergency aid for enrollment and other extra costs incurred that are associated with educating students in emergency shelters at a rate of $104 per student per day. Additionally, the state has made grants of $1,000 per student available to districts serving students in emergency shelters in their districts.”

In February, 25 Investigates obtained state data showing the emergency assistance caseload nearly doubled from 3,618 families in December 2022 to 7,543 in December 2023. That included about 3,650 families staying in traditional shelters and 3,832 families staying at hotels at year end 2023.

25 Investigates: Thousands of local MA families among those in overwhelmed emergency shelter system

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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