Thursday, June 13, 2024

The new home of the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers in Somerville’s Union Square. (Photo: MAPS)

After a nine-month absence, the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers has returned to the city of its founding with new offices in Union Square. The office opened at 362 Somerville Ave. on Thursday and offers citizenship and health assistance by appointment.

The grand opening ceremony welcomed residents to tour the office space and meet staff members. Before a ribbon-cutting ceremony, the nonprofit hosted a health and social services fair with immigration assistance and testing for HIV and sexually transmitted infections.

The organization is dedicated to supporting residents in need, specifically immigrant families. Immigrant integration services is one of MAPS’ main initiatives for clients applying for citizenship and in need of health insurance. Its Child and Family Clinical Services program offers stabilization support and therapy to families recommended through the state’s Department of Children and Families.

MAPS operated less than a half-mile away at the old 90-92 Union Square firehouse for 45 years until the City of Somerville mandated that the building be closed in August, citing safety concerns. The city said the building needed urgent repairs first in 2019, but the Covid pandemic delayed its closing.

What started as the Somerville Portuguese-American League in the late 1960s merged in 1993 to become MAPS with a slightly younger nonprofit called the Cambridge Organization of Portuguese Americans.

Before closing at the firehouse, the organization got $103,000 in federal Covid relief via Somerville to relocate within the, but it struggled to find a suitable smaller space for more than two years. For nine months, Somervillian clients were offered select services online and referred to a Cambridge location for others.

Another nonprofit affected by the closing of the firehouse, the Somerville Media Center, relocated to Somernova, a 7.4-acre innovation campus and community space about three-quarters of a mile away. The permanent move was announced April 22.

The opening of the new office allowed Intimate Partner Abuse Educational Program class and a court-mandated Impaired Driver Education class to resume in person.

MAPS operates in seven offices across Eastern Massachusetts in Cambridge, Somerville, Brighton, Dorchester, Framingham and Lowell. It is set to open a location in Everett.