BOSTON - As the Massachusetts shelter system is past capacity and the wait list for temporary housing grows every day, state Sen. Peter Durant, R-Spencer, wants to make changes to the state's right to shelter law.

What You Need To Know

  • The state has over 7,500 families in emergency shelters, with more on a wait list

  • It will cost nearly $1 billion a year to fund the shelter system

  • State Sen. Peter Durant wants to limit those in shelters to those who have lived in the state for at least a year

  • Half of the states shelter spots are currently taken by migrant families 

Half of the state's shelter spots are filled by migrant families, all seeking housing in the state in large part because Massachusetts has a right to shelter law, allowing anyone of qualify for emergency assistance.

State Sen. Robyn Kennedy, D-Worcester, said that the Legislature could see children sleeping on the Boston Common and knew they had to do something.

“We as a commonwealth don’t believe that any child should be sleeping outside should be rendered homeless," she said. "That was a moral conviction that led to the right to shelter law, and I’m proud to keep that going as a current member of the Legislature."

The state will spend close to $1 billion a year on the shelter system over the next two years.

Now, Durant wants to change the law to limit the influx of migrants the state is supporting, easing the burden on the taxpayers as they seem to be hemorrhaging money to create temporary shelters with no end in sight. 

“We have proposed it in the past and we still think that proposal is valid today," Durant said. "We should limit the right to shelter law to people who have been here in Massachusetts for a certain amount of time."

Durant plans to introduce a bill to the Senate when they return from the holidays that would require families to be in the state for at least a year before they are considered for emergency assistance. He hopes deterring families from arriving here seeking assistance and diverting the burden of the crisis on the taxpayers.

“We are concerned that the amount of money that we are spending at a time where there are decreasing revenue as it is," Durant said. "It's really going to crush our budget.”

Durant said he is receiving bipartisan support, but its not unanimous. Kennedy said that the issue is brining to light that the system has been broken for a long time and it needs to be fixed, no matter who needs it.

“Long before we saw a crisis of new families coming to our communities, we have a system that has been incredibly broken,” Kennedy said. “We need to fix it for families here in Massachusetts who have been here for 50 years or 50 minutes. “

Durant introduced similar legislation while in the House. He expects discussions to start when the Legislature returns in January.