WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – For the first time, 22News is getting a look inside the hotels where the state is housing migrants.
Threats and concerns for her family’s safety is what drove Milosis Benitez, mom of four, to leave the Dominican Republic. She traveled thousands of miles and through South American countries like Columbia, El Salvador and Guatemala to arrive at the Mexican boarder with her four children and her husband.
“I had to pay for them to transfer me to place to place, so that’s how I got here,” said Benitez. When she got to Massachusetts, she only had the clothes on her back and a cell phone. She’s now living at the Clarion Hotel in West Springfield with her family, taking advantage of the English classes offered there by the Center for Human Development (CHD) and trying to be patient, waiting until she can work.
Benitez adding, “My goal is to get her papers and get a job and get a car and move.” Benitez is one of 57 migrant families occupying the hotel, which has became a shelter last fall, a move hotel executives initially thought was temporary.
“The opportunity for homelessness can hit anybody at anytime and it has exploded in Massachusetts,” says Clarion Director of Operations Michael White. “So at the beginning of this year, we had to change our direction and go full-time into the shelter program as opposed to a hotel.”
There are five styles of rooms at the Clarion, including a larger room that accommodates a family of six. Smaller rooms are for smaller families, many have adjoining rooms to keep families together. The hotel has partnered with CHD to assist these families. Three meals a day are offered, everyone gathers in the cafeteria for dinner. There are English classes, help with school enrollment for kids, and church is offered on Sundays.
CHD Site Supervisor, Sandou Neus, tells 22News, “We help them access food, cash assistance, clothing, anything to do with the kids, to help stabilize the family as much as we can. Whatever needs that they come to us with, we try and rectify that within the first 24 to 48 hours they are here.”
Friday, 22News will continue our look at the migrant experience, learning about one family from Haiti who has able to transition from the hotel to find more stable housing.