Amid humanitarian and security crises in their home country, Haitian migrants arriving in Boston have been sleeping overnight at one of the city’s major hospitals. The dramatic increase of migrants arriving in recent weeks has stretched resources, the hospital told CNN.
About 55 people, most from Haiti, spent Wednesday night in the lobby of the Boston Medical Center, according to hospital spokesperson David Kibbe.
The medical center in Boston’s South End has sheltered more than 400 families for overnight stays so far in 2023 – most of whom were from Haiti, according to Kibbe. Last year, the hospital sheltered more than 600 families, he said.
The Boston Medical Center is a 514-bed academic medical center and provides care for infants, children, teens and adults, according to its website.
Kibbe said those who have taken refuge at the hospital have no where else to go but said the facility is not a shelter, nor is it a permanent home for any of the migrants.
“Families have stayed overnight in our lobby or overflow areas because they have nowhere to go, and we provide transportation to housing agencies the next morning so they can apply for housing when the agencies reopen,” Kibbe wrote in a statement to CNN. “People have stayed overnight in our lobby but are not living at the hospital. The hospital is not a housing agency, and we are not a shelter.”
While “it’s not unusual” for families to show up at the hospital in search of housing, whether they are refugees or not, the arrivals are stretching hospital resources, Kibbe said.
“The number of families arriving on a nightly basis has risen dramatically in recent weeks, stretching the resources of our emergency department, social work and support teams,” he said.
Violence in Haiti spiked after president’s assassination
Haiti’s crime rate has more than doubled since last year, as the Caribbean island nation faces widespread insecurity and gang violence, CNN reported this week.
Haiti is among the countries with the greatest inequality in the region, according to the US Department of Homeland Security, and also has one of the highest levels of chronic food insecurity in the world.
Gang violence and kidnappings spiked after Haitian President Jovenel Moïse’s assassination in 2021 and “Haiti has experienced a sharp deterioration in an already fragile security situation,” according to DHS.
The department extended a form of humanitarian relief to Haitians in January, citing simultaneous “economic, security, political, and health crises” in the country. The Biden administration also launched a program in January that allows Haitians, among other nationalities, to apply to legally migrate to the US.
The medical center in Boston said it is working with the state and city to connect families with housing resources. CNN has reached out to local resettlement agencies and non-profits about the issue.
“If not otherwise in need of medical care, a hospital setting is not the place for families in need of shelter,” a statement from Boston Medical Center reads.
Boston mayor calls on federal government to do more
In a statement to CNN, a spokesperson for the Boston mayor’s office said it is working closely with partners at hospitals, nonprofits, churches and within the community to support families.
“We will continue to monitor the situation and are ready to be a strong partner to the state as it leads on this crisis,” the statement said.
The City of Boston spokesperson called on the federal government “to provide the necessary support to deal with this crisis.”
Specifically, the spokesperson wrote, the federal government should provide that support “by increasing their capacity to issue work permits to asylum seekers, providing additional funding to provide support services through a community-centered approach, better coordinating with states and cities on anticipated arrivals, and establishing clear protocols for Department of Homeland Security personnel to return all documents to migrants upon release.”
CNN has reached out to DHS for comment.