Number of homeless families sheltered in Mass. hotels has dropped

Just 42 homeless families continue to be sheltered in hotels in western Mass

CHICOPEE, Mass. (WWLP) -- The former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick had a 2013 goal to end homelessness in the state. The new administrative has set a new goal to phase out homeless hotels by 2017.

Just one year ago, the state was paying an average $2,500 a month for the hundreds of homeless families being sheltered in hotels. 22News found out the numbers of homeless families in hotels has dropped significantly, but we also wanted to find out, in a state that has a right to shelter law, can that number get down to zero?

“Looking at the work that my teams are doing, they are working day and night at times trying to get the families out,” Ashley Brehem, the director of Housing and Re-stabilization for HAP Housing in Springfield, told 22News.

In western Massachusetts, 292 families were living in hotels just over one year ago. Now, that number is down to just 42. 22News asked Brehem what type of housing are they in now. She said, “They are in market rate units for a large majority of them.”

City Councilors: “Homeless hotels drain city resources”

22News pulled the latest state records and found 19 homeless families are in Holyoke at the Days Inn on Northampton Street, 11 are in the Howard Johnson on Boston Road in Springfield, 8 in the Quality Inn on Memorial Drive in Chicopee, and just 4 in the Days Inn on Colrain Road in Greenfield.

Even though there are 32 fewer homeless families being housed at the homeless hotel in Greenfield than one year ago, police told 22News they are still feeling the strain on their resources. Since the start of 2015, police were called to the Days Inn in Greenfield a total 147 times.

“A call can take anywhere from a 5 minute phone call to a 15 minute response to 2 hours, 3 hours depending upon the call so no matter what the call is its time,” Greenfield Police Chief Robert Heigh said. He explained not every call to the hotel was made by one of the homeless families living there. He also said that our questions into these numbers has sparked a reaction by the department.

“It's certainly something now that I think we'll go back to and look at in depth and actually look at some of the calls and more specifically what they involved because we were surprised about the number,” Chief Heigh said.

22News also discovered just how many police calls were made for the other western Mass. communities with hotels housing homeless. Since January 2015:

  • In Springfield, police were called 86 times to the Howard Johnson Express
  • In Chicopee, police were called 44 times to the Quality Inn
  • In Holyoke, police were called to the Days Inn 80 times

Some of the families who have not yet made the transition to more apartment-style housing, have been moved from hotel shelter to more traditional shelters, like the Prospect House in Springfield.

Homeless hotels impact on emergency services

Midnedy Carrucini manages Prospect House, where her ties go back to her childhood when she and her family were sheltered there. “When you are in that situation it can be traumatic and you feel very alone and at times hopeless,” Carrucini said. She added she has positive memories of the support she received while at the Prospect house.

She also said life has improved for some of the families now living in Prospect House who came from hotel shelter. “They just feel safer, they feel more secure, they're staff that are present 24-7 so is they ever have any issues they are able to come and speak to someone at any time of the day or night.”

While improvements are noticeable and numbers of homeless families sheltered in hotels have gone down, those doing the work to transition families said getting down to zero may not ever be a reality. “Homelessness doesn't end. We might be able to close the motels, but that doesn't mean that stops homelessness and that new families aren't entering the system every day,” Brehem told 22News.

She also told 22News the newest efforts by the state are preventing families from ever becoming homeless. She said there is now a greater focus on attacking the issue that could lead to homelessness before it happens.

The Arrest Logs from Holyoke Police from Days Inn 2015-April 2016

Reason Calls Unfounded Incidents Arrests
Check Well being/Assist 5 1
Assist DCF 4
911 Hang Up 3 1
Ambulance / Fire 31 17
Assist State Police 1
Disturbance / General 5 2
Domestic 1 1
Service 3 3
Stolen M/V 1 1
Follow up 5 1
Assault 2 2
Assist / Public 4 1 1
Disorderly 1
Larceny 4 4
Loud Music 1
Missing Person 1 1
M/V Stop 1
Safety Hazard 1
Summons / Order Service 1 1
Suspicious Person 1
Threats 1
Unwanted Guest 3
Violation 209A 2 2
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