The youngest children living in the state’s overburdened emergency housing system are set to receive bundles of warm clothing from the National Guard this week as the weather turns cold in the region.
The National Guard in partnership with the state Department of Early Education and Care and several nonprofits will be distributing winter clothing and gear along with learning supplies to shelters starting Monday and through the end of the calendar year.
Officials expect the effort to serve roughly 94 hotel sites and 71 traditional shelters and scattered sites, reaching 9,000 children whom they say “experienced toxic levels of stress during migration” and are in “desperate need for essential items and core health and human services.”
Of the 7,500 families in temporary shelters across the state, officials estimate the population of children younger than 5, or younger than school-age, to be around 5,000.
The partnership, also comprising Neighborhood Villages, Cradles 2 Crayons and Horizons for Homeless Children, is planning a second delivery of items including “seasonally appropriate” clothing, pajamas, socks, underwear, sneakers and a hygiene kit for the spring.
In a newsletter outlining the partnership last week, Neighborhood Villages co-founders Lauren Kennedy and Sarah Muncey highlighted how public school districts have supported migrant families in registering children, ages 6 to 18, for classes, while parents of the youngest children have been left reeling.
“Crucially, these very young children are also in need of nurturing, trauma-informed learning environments where they can play, seek comfort, and be in community with children and nurturing caregivers,” they wrote. “Unfortunately, no such early education system awaits them.”
Earlier this month, Gov. Maura Healey activated 75 more members of the National Guard to provide basic services at shelters across the state, bringing the total number of guardsmen deployed at such sites to 375.
Healey activated the guardsmen at the same time her administration provided $5 million in federal funds for the United Way to set up “safety net shelter sites,” as emergency housing reached capacity at 7,500 families.
Catholic Charities Boston, which received some of the United Way’s funding, opened a short-term, overnight shelter last week for families and pregnant women who have applied for emergency assistance but were placed on a wait list because of capacity limitations.