State houses 24 families at Atlantic Motel

Sep 20, 2023

Select Board members voiced concerns for safety after announcing the state will be housing 24 unsheltered families at the Atlantic Motel, located at 7 Depot Street, during its meeting Tuesday, Sept. 19. 

Select Board Clerk Jared Chadwick said he was unsure whether these families are from around the state or have been displaced by other countries.

Earlier this summer, Gov. Maura Healey declared a state of emergency due to the influx of migrant families and the limited housing available.

While this is the first time the situation has hit home in Wareham, other communities have been grappling with it for some time.

Town Administrator Derek Sullivan said this is the second time the state has reached out to the town in this capacity. 

The families began to move in Saturday, Sept. 16 and are anticipated to stay until Sunday, Dec. 31. However, they could end up staying longer and new families could be brought to the hotel, according to Chadwick.

Chadwick said he is “appalled” the state made this decision without speaking to the town first, especially with Wareham already struggling to help its own homeless population.

The motel was previously rejected as housing veterans, Chadwick said.

Select Board member Ronald Besse said, “It seems like it doesn't matter what we try to do. We can't control that situation or fix it, but yet now we're tasked with the responsibility of taking on 24 families that we don't know the dynamics of.”

There were also concerns for safety, especially in regard to the living conditions. 

Sullivan said these are 220 square feet spaces, including the bathroom, where these families are expected to live.

The motel does not have a sprinkler system and families may use hot plates for cooking, which raises concerns for fire hazards, he said.

The state will be providing funds for children who may attend the schools in the area, but it will be paid out quarterly, Sullivan added.

He said this could have a “big impact” on the school system if these students need any additional resources, such as English as a second language.

Select Board member Alan Slavin said it is also a violation of the town’s zoning bylaws. 

“I have a real problem with that, and I'd love to go to court on that one,” Slavin said.

He added, “I understand it’s a problem, but the state has put itself in a real bind by what they've done, and the effect is going to be to all the municipalities.”

Chadwick proposed the Board vote to write a letter to the state in opposition of these hotels housing families. 

Other Select Board members agreed and a vote will take place at the next meeting.

“I would say send a letter,” Sullivan said. “I don't know what's really going to incur from it, but they know we're really concerned about this. We do not have the resources for this.”