Senator Eldridge Makes Court Filing to Help Afghan Refugees

April 5, 2022 Senator Eldridge

Harvard, MA –State Senator Jamie Eldridge filed an amicus brief in Worcester Probate and Family Court in support of the town of Harvard’s interest to change the trust governing the Bromfield House, to allow the vacant historical house to be used for people to live in, so that Harvard can place some of the Afghan families living in Harvard there. 

The amicus brief strongly urges the Court to allow an Afghan refugee family to live in the vacant Bromfield House as part of the Town of Harvard’s initiative to secure housing for the Afghan refugee families still in need of housing. An amicus brief is known as a “friend of the court” brief where a non-party advocates for a particular court decision. 

 

In order for the town of Harvard to allow Afghan families to live in the Bromfield House, the Probate Court must give permission to the Town because it sits on land subject to a Trust executed by Margaret Bromfield Blanchard in 1871. 

The children of the refugee families are currently enrolled in the Harvard Public Schools. Securing suitable, long-term housing for the refugees has proven more challenging. Three of the four families are currently living in temporary housing that will be unavailable in three weeks. 

In his amicus brief, Senator Eldridge wrote that he “is proud of Harvard for welcoming Afghan refugees to the community, just as I am proud of many communities in the district that I represent that have welcomed and are hosting Afghan refugees in their homes.” 

Recently, Senator Eldridge visited the Afghan refugees in Harvard and offered assistance directly to them. 

As Senator Eldridge noted in his amicus brief, “Ms. Blanchard … demonstrated her interest in the well-being of people of color.” She provided $2,000 – then a substantial sum – for educating recently emancipated slaves after the Civil War, which had ended a mere half-decade earlier.

In early March 2021, the Harvard Select Board initiated this litigation. 

Education liaison for the Harvard Neighborhood Support Team Sharon Cronin states, “I am very grateful to the Select Board and to Senator Eldridge for their support in helping to secure housing for our families. These families, whom we have a moral obligation to help, are in dire need and the trauma they've faced is only intensifying as the humanitarian crisis back in their homeland intensifies. It is shameful to let any house in town sit vacant while so many could benefit from its occupancy." Ms. Cronin has been involved in helping Afghan refugees settle in Harvard.

Terry Symula, volunteer lead of the Neighborhood Support Team, said, “The Town has been incredibly supportive all around. The Bromfield House is an ideal residence. We appreciate Senator Eldridge’s support in filing a brief with the Probate Court and hope to get approval soon.” 

 

Ascentria Care Alliance has been providing expert support to the Harvard Neighborhood Support Team. Aimee Mitchell, Chief of Community Services for the Ascentria Care Alliance stated that “The biggest challenge that we have encountered in resettling Afghan evacuees in Massachusetts is the lack of affordable housing. This effort by Senator Eldridge and the Harvard volunteer neighborhood support team is a meaningful and creative way to provide for interim housing to welcome these people into the local community.  We are extraordinarily grateful for the support.” 

In addition to supporting Harvard’s efforts to aid Afghan refugees through this litigation and other efforts, Senator Eldridge has championed state funding to help settle Afghan refugees who were evacuated from Afghanistan. Senator Eldridge led the effort in the Massachusetts State Senate to successfully secure $12 million in funding for the Afghan refugees in the 2021 state American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) budget. A total of 2,000 Afghan refugees are expected to settle in Massachusetts, according to the Associated Press.

To read the amicus brief, click here.