BOSTON (State House News Service) – Housing and expanded access to legal services top the list of needs that policymakers must address to cope with a growing influx of migrants in Boston, community leaders and advocates said Monday.

While the Baker administration pushes lawmakers to make more funding available for emergency shelter, Boston city councilors invited a wide range of speakers who work with immigrants to share their outlook on what else elected officials should do to improve conditions on the ground.

Several advocates pointed to the region’s notoriously strained housing market as a particular strain for migrants who recently arrived, recounting situations of families living in harrowing temporary spaces because they could not find more permanent affordable options.

Geralde Gabeau, founder and executive director of the Immigrant Family Services Institute in Mattapan, said her group has processed more than 6,000 intakes of new families since September 2021, many of whom struggle to find somewhere to live.

“Housing remains one of the biggest challenges that we face here at IFSI,” Gabeau said. “Welcoming families every day, that’s the same story and story that we hear: ‘we need a place to stay, we don’t know where we’re going to sleep tonight.'”

Boston has welcomed hundreds of new arrivals in recent months, part of a broader migration trend affecting Massachusetts and other states.

Calling it a “humanitarian crisis,” Gov. Charlie Baker last month filed a $139 million spending bill to fund more than 1,300 new temporary shelter units and cover other costs of the response, including creation of a new intake center for migrant families in Devens. Lawmakers have not acted on that legislation nor indicated any plans for it.

Deputy Director of Housing Stability Danielle Johnson said city government is responsible for offering shelter to individual adult migrants, while the state handles migrant families, including those in Boston.

Since September, the Boston Public Health Commission and individual shelters have hosted 48 adult migrants in Boston, Johnson said. She added that Boston also helps place migrant families into temporary shelters such as hotels when the state does not have immediately available capacity.

Monique Tú Nguyen, director of Mayor Michelle Wu’s Office for Immigrant Advancement, called the outlook “an unprecedented challenge that we are facing together.”

While other American cities have seen larger groups of migrants arrive at once, Nguyen said migrants in Boston “show up in different ways throughout the city and in smaller ways.” One of the most pressing challenges for city officials, she said, is a lack of available data.

“We’re not experiencing buses and planes, so we’re seeing them in emergency departments and medical centers, in transit stations, in nonprofit organizations, and folks who are showing up and walking up to neighbors and everyday neighbors helping them out,” Nguyen said. “Without this data, it’s hard to predict who to provide for and for the scale of that response.”

After roughly 50 Venezuelan asylum-seekers disembarked a plane on Martha’s Vineyard after being flown there by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, Boston officials drafted a “standard operating procedure” to prepare in case of any sudden large-scale migrant arrival in the state’s capital, Nguyen said.

Officials expect that the flow of migrants will continue for the foreseeable future and could increase. Nguyen said Title 42, a Trump-era public health order that allows border authorities to reject migrants due to the potential public health risks of the pandemic, is set to expire on Dec. 21.

“When this does, we could see more people coming to Boston,” Nguyen said.

Elizabeth Sweet, executive director of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, said she also expects a wave of new immigrant arrivals to continue “given the trends at the border.” While she thanked the city for its focus on welcoming migrants, Sweet warned that “existing resources are insufficient” to respond fully to the situation.

In addition to housing, other areas of need Sweet highlighted include more quickly enrolling migrant children in local schools and connecting immigrants to legal services to help them navigate a complex judiciary.

“The number of cases pending before the immigration court here in Boston has increased significantly in the past year to more than 107,000 pending cases. There’s simply insufficient legal services capacity to meet that need, and we know from so many studies that have been done nationally that legal representation in immigration both means that cases can move more rapidly, helping immigrants therefore become eligible for more services, and also often relates to the final outcomes in those cases,” she said. “So this is a truly critical area for investment.”