MA Plans to Phase Out Homeless Housing in Hotels and Motels by Mid-2014

Massachusetts is planning to phase out a program housing homeless families in hotels and motels when emergency shelters are full. It is slated to end by June 2014. 

State officials and homeless advocates agree housing families in hotels and motels is a bad idea.

“It’s just a bad idea, it’s terrible for the kids. So this is something that we can all get behind.”

That’s Bill Miller, executive director of Friends of the Homeless in Springfield. While he supports ending housing in hotels and motels, he thinks the state’s goal is ambitious. Aaron Gornstein, the state’s Undersecretary of Housing and Community Development, says his department is already working to transition families by creating more affordable housing, and providing rental and placement assistance.

“So we’re working on multiple fronts, and at the same time we’re working to try and prevent families from having to go into hotels and motels and emergency shelters in the first place.”

Gornstein says the number of families living in hotels and motels in western Massachusetts has decreased by 20% since July, though the statewide number increased in 2012. Massachusetts is the only state in the country guaranteeing a “right to shelter,” though it changed eligibility requirements for emergency housing last summer. Now, Gornstein says, families must prove they are affected by fire, flood, natural disaster, domestic abuse or that their housing poses health or safety risks. Miller says while his organization has pushed back on tighter eligibility requirements, he understands the state’s limited resources.But, he adds, low-income families now can no longer rely on emergency housing.

“People need to stay where they are, save, put something aside, and not sort of feel that the state is going to fix everything.”

Both Miller and Gornstein say the Bay State provides more housing resources to families than most other