Gov. Patrick: $25M for 335 new Mass. housing units

Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, right, waves at the conclusion of his State of the State address as Mass. Senate President Therese Murray, left, applauds in the House chamber at the Statehouse, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in Boston. While the economy continues to recover, the governor says many people in the state are still being left behind. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick has announced more than $25 million in funding to help create more than 335 units of housing for veterans, the homeless and very low-income families as the state works to reduce the number of homeless families living in hotels.

Patrick made the announcement Tuesday during a visit to the site of a future veterans’ housing project in Haverhill.

With the anticipated announcement, Patrick says his administration has made good on his promise to create 1,000 new units of permanent, supportive housing a year ahead of schedule.

“Helping our most vulnerable families transition into stable housing is vital to supporting our economy and creating a stronger commonwealth for the next generation,” Patrick said.

Supportive housing is designed to help individuals and families who are homeless or facing homelessness, or who are institutionalized or at-risk of institutionalization. It can include access to child care services, job training and mental-health care. It is also intended for people with disabilities and the elderly.

Patrick also awarded more than 200 new housing vouchers Tuesday.

The vouchers are part of the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program and let homeless families move into existing housing developments with long-term affordability restrictions.

The nonprofit agencies that own the properties provide the families with programs they say help the families avoid falling back into a cycle of homelessness and emergency shelters, with the ultimate goal of reaching self-sufficiency.

Those services include job training, financial security, counseling, child care, addiction treatment and adult education and GED training.

The 16 projects unveiled Tuesday include a 70-unit development for veterans including supportive services for elderly homeless veterans in Bedford, a 40-unit single-room occupancy project in Boston’s Bay Village neighborhood, the rehabilitation of an existing building in Worcester into 15 single-room occupancy units, and 16 one-bedroom units for the disabled in the McKnight neighborhood of Springfield that will also serve as replacement housing for a property destroyed during the 2011 tornado.

The money comes from a housing trust fund in last year’s state budget and capital funding.

Although Patrick touted his administration’s ability to keep its 2012 promise to create 1,000 new units of permanent, supportive housing — he’s failed to keep a much more sweeping goal.

In 2008, Patrick set an ambitious target of virtually eliminating family homelessness in five years by better detecting when families were on the verge of falling into homelessness — and then move in swiftly with aid and support.

Five years later, record numbers of homeless families were straining the state’s shelter system.

In January, about 2,000 families were forced to find temporary housing in dozens of hotels and motels across the state and approximately an equal number staying in family shelters.

Activists point to a number of reasons for the surge in homelessness, from the yearslong economic downturn to a pullback in federal aid to Massachusetts’ status as a “right to shelter” place, meaning the state is obligated to find a place to stay for all those who are homeless.