Inside Stories

City Council Reacts to State’s ICC Plans

Along with the three members of Lowell’s State House delegation reacting to the news of UMass Lowell’s Inn & Conference Center becoming an emergency migrant shelter, InsideLowell also reached out to current and incoming City Councilors for their thoughts on the Governor’s decision.

Below, in alphabetical order, are statements from the councilors who responded:

Sokhary Chau: “This request is asking a lot from the City. In addition, to our present homeless problem, this adds another layer of needed services to our City for a vulnerable population. Our City and staff will manage appropriately as we learn more. I made two requests to the State: First to set aside 50 rooms within the ICC to house our local families already here in Lowell. Second, to have a local shelter operator to manage more efficiently and cut down on delays when services are needed. We need to take care of our local problems first. Lowell needs the resources to assist our local homeless problems. I hope the State will incorporate my requests to help our City manage this new challenge, too.”

John Descoteaux: “With the decision finally made, my attention turns to ensuring the needs of everyone involved are met. Given my current role in the School Department working closely with Family Resource Center Coordinator to efficiently place students with transportation needs, the main concern I have is the number of children that will be transitioned into the to Lowell Public School System. Financially, the state’s reimbursement covers the cost to educate the new students. However, in terms of school capacity and transportation services necessary, the location of the Inn & Conference Center dictates the students be assigned to schools that are already crowded. Depending on the number of students arriving, we will require transportation assistance from the state and I will be focusing my efforts now and after being sworn in toward the best possible outcome on that front.” 

John Drinkwater: “As the Commonwealth grapples with the serious crisis of an emergency shelter system that has reached capacity, the number one priority at all levels of government must be finding shelter for those who need it. As families face the immediate prospect of having nowhere to stay with winter approaching, I am glad that the city of Lowell, through the UML Inn & Conference Center, can help to provide a temporary solution. There remain unanswered questions, and this will undoubtedly present a challenge for both state and city government, but as we move forward the focus must be on ensuring the needed resources are in place for families who need help.”

Erik Gitschier: “I am always amazed at the way government works for a feel good moment and not real solutions. We as a City, have been looking for housing for the homeless in our City and couldn’t provide beds. Today we had the Governors Office provide a proposal for 250 beds at the ICC for others outside of the overcrowding of our shelter. We have welcomed 24 other communities to our city with an agreement, but yet the state is providing others shelter than the ones on our streets for years. We need to do better for the homeless in our City with the Cities infrastructure. It is sad we are taking on more, and offering less to combat the major issue at hand. This will only create more issues within a City struggling to provide for the current situation.”

Wayne Jenness: “I only know as much as I have read in the media at this point, but I have asked the manager to get the council a copy of the agreement so that we can better understand the situation and plan, and I have also reached out to the governor’s chief of staff and Rep. Howard to get a better idea of the plan for the facility. As of this moment, I am still waiting to hear back (but I have only known about this for about a couple of hours. I am glad to see social services mentioned in the news article, and I hope that the administration is able to follow through with significant funding to the organizations tasked with providing those services, as well as the city. I know that the council and the manager will be pushing hard for that funding as we move forward. And for the new arrivals: Welcome to Lowell! As new residents of District 4, I am proud to represent you on the city council and look forward to getting to know all of you. I hope that you fall in love with the city like I did when I first moved to the city in 2005.”

Rita Mercier: “We are a city that always welcomes immigrants, migrants and refugees. Yet with little city resources, lack of housing, lack of space for added students, it would be great if the state or even the federal government pitched in to help us. I can’t feed the neighbor’s children when my own are starving. This is a typical unfunded mandate if ever there was one.”

Corey Robinson: “Request City manager notify the Governors Office, due to lack of resources, Lowell Police Department will not be responding to ICC beginning December 01, 2023.”

Danny Rourke: “The Governor’s office and UMass Lowell negotiated and completed a transaction that has left our city in a very difficult position. The interests and needs of Lowell have been pushed aside. Now we will be responsible for up to 1000 migrants with little to no state/federal assistance. Our administration and City Council have been consistently pushing for answers as well as the necessary resources to best handle this situation. We will continue to do so. Without the proper funding, partnerships and assistance from all stakeholders, the city as well as the incoming migrants will be left to fend for ourselves.”

Kim Scott: “The City of Lowell has a long history of helping those in need. We are one of a handful of refugee resettlement cities in Massachusetts that has consistently helped even though funding has been lacking. That being said, I believe we are at a breaking point. We are short 36 police officers and that has left our neighborhoods lacking coverage. Our schools are currently waiting for modular classrooms to arrive so that we can stop classes from happening in stairwells. We will need additional ELL classrooms, as to not let all of our students fall behind. How much more can the poorest areas be expected to absorb? I am hopeful that our state delegation is hard at work advocating for state funded police and student funding to cover this very large expense and that it will not be bore on the backs of our taxpayers, public safety employees, school staff, and students.”

Paul Ratha Yem: “As a former refugee myself, I am more sympathetic to the migrants’ plight because it’s a difficult decision to leave their homes and country and seek refuge in a foreign land. Lowell has been a welcoming City to many immigrants and refugees for decades with compassionate and loving hearts. This City Council and Administration understand the migrants suffering and want to help and welcome them. Now that we know the migrants are coming, let’s work together with all the stakeholders including non-profit agencies, churches, local, state and federal agencies to not just help the migrants, but the host City of Lowell, who will be spending the scarce resources in doing so. Out of the crisis, I see the opportunity just as we, the Southeast Asian refugees, came to Lowell 43 years ago. The opportunity for more federal and state resources to support these migrants; more funding opportunities for affordable housing development, infrastructures that create jobs, and more importantly the Human Capital. Southeast Asian refugees became the labor workforce for companies such as Wang laboratory, high tech companies around route 128, and the hospitality industry. In addition, the SEA refugees became homeowners, entrepreneurs creating jobs, and micro-enterprise within their community and the City. I am optimistic that these migrants will do the same as SEA refugees who came to Lowell to rebuild their lives and in turn rebuild our City. I look at Migrants and ICC situations as a Glass Half Full.”

2 responses to “City Council Reacts to State’s ICC Plans”

  1. El Guapo says:

    Look, we can all act aghast and pretend to be shocked that this deal was cut, but the fact is the school is University of MASSACHUSETTS, Lowell Campus — NOT University of Lowell in Massachusetts.

    Seriously, 25% of the University’s budget comes from State appropriations and 0% comes from the City of Lowell. The minute Maura Healey said she wanted to take control of the State owned building, it was only a question of when, not if, unless our Statehouse delegation could block her — and they never stood a chance in hell. Register all of the displeasure or concern they want, but if push came to shove, all of the other members of the State House and Senate knew that “if not Lowell, then my community” will be the site for this migrant hub.

    During World War II there was a story about a soldier named Lucky who had been shot on multiple occasions, but every time the Doc was able to patch him up, give hum a purple heart, and send him back to the front line. On the 12th trip to the hospital he asks “Hey Doc! I’m missing an eye, an ear, my left had and one leg; why do you keep sending me back to the front lines? Why can’t I get to rest and recover first?” and the Doc says to Lucky: “Son, any of those wounds should have killed you but they didn’t. See, if I don’t send you back then it will be someone else’s turn at the front. Now you’re already pretty banged up but these other guys have their whole lives in front of them so why put them in harm’s way? Besides, you’ve survived being shot 12 times, what’s one more?”

    Well, in our present situation, Maura Healey is the Doc… and that makes Lowell just plain Lucky.

  2. Brooke forgetta says:

    Nice dive @elguapo Maura. No catch.. bobble

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