Search for solutions in homeless hotel issue

Demand for emergency housing still exists in Mass.

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) – The issue of homeless families living in hotels continues to be a concern here in western Massachusetts, so local and state leaders gathered for a meeting in Chicopee Thursday to discuss solutions.

The state hoped to move all the homeless families out of hotels by the end of June. But that did not happen.

According to the most recent state data from mid-August, about 2,000 homeless families live in hotels here in Massachusetts. Of those, 537 families live in western Massachusetts.

Chicopee Mayor Richard Kos told 22News close to half the western Massachusetts homeless families live in Chicopee hotels.

Kos told 22News “60 students presented themselves from the homeless motels that need to be educated, so we are doing that, but the challenges are trying to find the resources, the facilities and even personnel.”

This year alone, the state paid more than $4 million  to house homeless families in 10 western Massachusetts hotels. Taxpayers say that money could be better spent.

DeJuan Clarke of Chicopee said “They should take the money and use the abandoned buildings around the area, old schools, like the old Chestnut in Springfield, you do that. Maybe, you know maybe give them some housing, some jobs.”

Undersecretary of Housing and Community Development Aaron Gornstein told 22News the state will expand community-based shelters, increase one-on-one support to meet families’ specific needs, and make more affordable housing available.

He told 22News “We are going to get more case management and support to the families in the motels immediately. And that is going to increase the level of services we provide to those families.”

He added that they are focusing on prevention in order to reduce the number of families in hotels.

Sen. Gale Candaras (D-Wilbraham), who represents part of Chicopee, said that an average of 38-40 families a day come to the state seeking emergency shelter.

The state had initially set a goal of having all families out of emergency shelters by the end of June, but that goal has not been met. More than 2,000 families were living in hotels statewide last month, with 537 of those being here in western Mass. The state paid $17 million to western Massachusetts hotels in 2012, and an additional $10 million last year.

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