It made national news in September when 48 migrants, many of them Venezuelan, landed on Martha’s Vineyard in two charter planes sent by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
As the only local contractor designated by the state Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) for emergency and long-term housing programs, Housing Assistance received an early call from the agency as it formulated the state’s response. A Housing Assistance team was there to greet the migrants upon their arrival at Joint Base Cape Cod a day later.
Along with Father Bill’s, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), and DHCD and other agencies, Housing Assistance helped the migrants navigate the shelter system and connect with other resources. Housing Assistance also coordinated translators and other volunteers.
“The most important thing was keeping everyone safe,” said Housing Assistance chief executive officer Alisa Magnotta.
Housing Assistance has nearly 50 years of experience responding to humanitarian crises – international, national and local. The organization provided similar services to residents of New Orleans – also temporarily located on Joint Base Cape Cod – displaced due to Hurricane Katrina in 2005. More recently, Housing Assistance helped Afghan and Haitian refugees, in concurrence with its work at the forefront of the Cape’s housing shortage.
As a non-profit that triages and helps people of all backgrounds connect to services on a daily basis as well as provides shelter services, Housing Assistance brought those skills on site to Joint Base Cape Cod.
“Whether their next step was going into shelter elsewhere in the state or connecting with friends or relatives elsewhere in the country, we helped people figure out next steps with dignity,” said Magnotta.
“We were happy to help,” she said. “Displacement happens every day in the world. Sometimes it’s people fleeing natural disasters, war or violent persecution. Other times, it’s economic forces pushing our Cape workforce off Cape, or moms fleeing domestic violence. We help with the urgent displacement while maintaining our long-term focus on addressing the Cape’s housing crisis. In addition, we have the capacity to handle any humanitarian emergency that arises, whether that’s housing challenges resulting from the pandemic or people arriving on our shores. At Housing Assistance, we look at the totality of the need and care for each situation accordingly.”