By Ellie Shim and Alex Zakuta
Graphic by Adrienne Lirio
On February 22, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller and City Counselors discussed using Newton’s former Hotel Indigo as a temporary emergency shelter due to an overflow of new migrants in Massachusetts.
The upcoming replacement of the hotel is part of the Riverside Development Project, a plan proposed in 2012 to establish a variety of business, commercial, and residential units surrounding the Riverside MBTA station.
Mark Development LLC, the property’s owner, gutted the building to prepare for demolition and replacement, but the Riverside Project is now on hold because of increasing costs, so Hotel Indigo has been vacant for years.
While it is undetermined how many families the space can accommodate, anyone authorized for state emergency assistance may be eligible for shelter. This could provide a home for temporary occupants like migrants and new Massachusetts residents.
English teacher Joe Golding said that people across the globe are displaced due to unexpected crises and seeking support.
“If people are moved from emergencies, they need places to stay,” he said. “Like the earthquake in Turkey, thousands of people are [now] in need of shelter.”
With housing insecurity on the rise, history teacher Matthew Kolk said that issuing government funds thoughtfully is crucial in supporting those families.
“In Newton, plenty of resources are available, but they might not be allocated in ways that are supportive to people who need shelter,” he said. “An increase in empathy as well as allocating more resources to this issue could be very helpful.”
As housing becomes more expensive, emergency shelters become increasingly essential for our community. With recent inflation, demands for accessible housing has only increased, said resident and School Committee member Will Adams.
“Families that are living paycheck to paycheck are constantly under the pressure of losing their homes,” he said. “Whether they rent or own, inflation has made that much more precarious, if not forced them out of their homes.”
Freshman Quinn Adams said that offering emergency housing allows parents to prioritize their children.
“Having a safe place to come home to gives [parents] opportunities to provide more [for their children] and focus less on basic needs of safety,” she said.
Along with that, senior and ACLU club leader Wasan Rafat said that an unsteady home life can impact a student’s ability to succeed academically.
“Having a precarious financial situation is difficult to manage,” she said. “If you can’t have a stable life outside of school, it’s really difficult to be fully engaged in what you’re doing in school.”
Similarly, Rafat said housing inequality in Newton is often overlooked and left unaddressed, despite high costs of living.
“Housing is a big issue in Newton and it’s not talked about enough. No one should ever have to be without a home,” she said. “It’s super important to make that a top priority.”
Recently, Fuller released a statement addressing the severity of housing insecurity in Massachusetts. She said that Newton prides itself on being a welcoming community, and that the government is actively seeking solutions for struggling families.
“We stand ready to support the Commonwealth in the obligation to affirmatively further fair housing and our status as a right-to-shelter state,” Fuller said.
Newton awaits approval from the state and Mark Development LLC to confirm that the shelter is financially feasible.
“At this early time, there are a lot of unknowns,” Fuller said. “We will certainly want to know what support will be coming from the state, for example, for potential students and services that may be needed.”
Kolk said that ultimately, opening an emergency shelter is the right thing to do.
“Everyone has the right to safe and secure housing,” he said. “Building emergency shelters is a big step.”