When Paul Belham Jr., vice president of Bell’s Powder Coating, learned the immigrant workers he employed would no longer be sheltered at the Best Western on Route 1 in town, he said they would still have jobs at his company.
The 200 immigrants who have been sheltered at the hotel since September 2023 will be relocated to a new emergency assistance shelter on the dates of Jan. 23 and 25. The location of the new site has not been revealed by the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC), out of confidentiality for the families. The relocation comes as the commonwealth seeks to minimize the number of shelter sites in towns and cities, easing the burden on local communities.
Belham was told by EOHLC that the 12 immigrants he hired to work at Bell’s Powder would still be employed there. He said his employees have transportation from the new shelter site to North Attleborough.
“They have their own transportation,” Belham said. “This won’t hurt my company at all. It’s all going to be just fine.”
EOHLC stated that the children of these families that are enrolled in North Attleborough Public Schools will be provided transportation to attend classes in two. Of the 200 immigrants sheltered at the hotel, 84 are children, with 39 of them enrolled at North Attleborough Schools.
According to an EOHLC spokesperson, the office is required to reimburse the town for necessary transportation services. North Attleborough and the unnamed district the children will be living in will split the cost of these services. The spokesperson said parents will also have the choice of un-enrolling their child from NAPS if they wish.
“Homeless liaisons and other school staff, with the support of DESE, work with families to consider their options and the pros/cons of remaining in their school of origin as opposed to enrolling locally, including the duration of the commute, so that families can decide what they believe to be in the best interest of their children,” the spokesman said. “The federal McKinney-Vento policy explicitly states that each family must be given that option for their children.”
The town received the announcement of the relocation at the beginning of the. The state also noted that the likelihood of more migrants being relocated to North Attleborough this year was low. According to Town Manager Michael Borg, the town’s FY2024 budget had not been affected by the housing of immigrants, despite worries among elected officials.
Borg told the Town Council on Jan. 8 that while he does not expect any more immigrant families to be sheltered in town, there is always the possibility that it could happen again if the state’s shelter system cannot house more people.
“At this time, the town does not expect the commonwealth to send any more migrants to North Attleborough due to its consolidation efforts and self-imposed cap on housing migrant families,” Borg said. “However, it could happen in the future.”