Tearful families share stories of homelessness at the State House

Many families are forced to sleep in unsafe places to qualify for shelter

BOSTON (WWLP) – Tears at the State House. Dozens of advocates and state lawmakers listened as homeless families shared stories of desperation. Elizabeth Crawford told 22News her family slept beneath a bridge before they could qualify for emergency shelter.

“You have to show documents that you’re living in the streets to be able to get housing for your kids, but the minute you show them that document the government comes in and swoops your kid away,” said Crawford.

The Emergency Assistance program provides shelter for families only after they have slept in a place not meant for human habitation.

The Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless said many families are forced to sleep in cars, bus stations and hospitals in order to meet those requirements. The advocacy group is calling for change.

“Even though nationally there have been some progress in addressing homelessness; there have been investments here in Massachusetts. We know that we need more political will and deeper investments to finish the job,” said Kelly Turley of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless.

The coalition is urging state lawmakers to pass a law to allow families at risk of staying in an unsafe place to qualify for emergency shelter. They say it would cost taxpayers an additional $300,000 in state funding per year.

More than 600 homeless families were forced to sleep in unsafe places between June 2015 and June 2016, according to state data.

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