I-Team: Homeless families living in hotels in West Springfield, Chicopee

Taylor Knight and Amy Phillips

3 weeks ago

WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – It’s a story the 22News I-Team has been covering for more than a decade, homeless families being housed in hotels.

Massachusetts is the country’s only right-to-shelter state. That means the state guarantees that homeless families have access emergency housing, and that includes hotels.

The 22News I-Team can confirm that about 40 families from Haiti have been staying at the Clarion Hotel on Riverdale Street in West Springfield since at least October. West Springfield Mayor Will Reichelt referred to these families as refugees.

“My understanding is that they traveled through a couple different countries to get here,” explained Mayor Reichelt. “My understanding also, is that they came to Boston and were bussed out this way to the western part of the state for housing. We didn’t know until they showed up on our door and said, ‘Hey we’re at the Clarion. We were told to come here and enroll in schools.’”

The Mayor says the hotel’s only use now is a shelter for the homeless and their children enrolled in local schools. Bussing these kids to school is one of the biggest costs for the town when it comes to this situation. The other costs are paid for by the state.

The 22News I-Team found out this isn’t just happening in West Springfield. Dave Foley, the president of SEIU Local 509, which represents homeless coordinators in the state, confirmed that homeless families have also been put in hotels in Chicopee. A spokesperson for Chicopee Mayor John Vieau said he has no comment on this at this time.

Back in March, a spokesperson for the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) sent 22News a statement saying in part the state’s Emergency Assistance system is currently at capacity. Some activists are calling this lack of available housing and shelter in the state “a crisis.”

The 22News I-Team contacted the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development (EOHED) for this story and received this statement:

“With our shelter system at capacity due to increasing arrivals to the state and increasing housing costs, we need all communities to play a role in helping to meet our state’s housing needs. Our administration will continue to take an all-hands-on-deck approach to this crisis to ensure we can connect families with shelter and meet our obligations under state law.” -DHCD spokesperson

They also provided this information:

  • Since the fall of 2022, DHCD has seen a steady rise in shelter demand as a result of rising housing costs in every region in Massachusetts, and new arrivals to the state.
  • There are 633 total families with 2,320 total people in the EA system sheltering in Hampden/Hampshire/Franklin/Berkshire. This includes 112 families in West Springfield.
  • Approximately 1/3 of new eligible families entering shelter are new arrivals, which we define here as those families without citizenship/legal permanent residence (aka a ‘green card’) AND who arrived in last 30 days.
  • Additionally, with an increasingly tight housing market, fewer families are able to find stable housing, resulting in low exit rates from shelter.
  • DHCD is working with state partners to increase shelter capacity and help more families find stable housing, including by increasing the HomeBASE benefit, which can provide up to $20,000 to families across two years to support housing stability.
  • Since the beginning of 2023, DHCD has added more than 700 hotel units and additional permanent shelter units through partnerships with Salem State and other partners.
  • Earlier this year, the Healey-Driscoll Administration put forward a supplemental budget proposal, which was passed by the legislature, to provide additional support for schools absorbing new students and new funding to expand the shelter system.
  • DHCD is continuing to work with stakeholders, including municipalities, schools, and non-profit service providers to increase shelter capacity to ensure DHCD meets its legal obligations to shelter eligible families.
  • Our FY24 budget proposal (H.1) recommends $324 million budget for the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities Emergency Assistance (EA) program (48% increase above the FY23 budget). This will allow the Office to maintain 4,755 units of Emergency Assistance Family Shelter (31% increase over FY23 baseline capacity), depending on final per-unit costs. 
Month Total Caseload (# Households) Shelters Hotels/Motels
Apr-22 3,029 3,011 18
May-22 3,064 3,045 19
Jun-22 3,125 3,104 21
Jul-22 3,181 3,156 25
Aug-22 3,257 3,223 34
Sep-22 3,314 3,269 45
Oct-22 3,412 3,288 124
Nov-22 3,503 3,303 200
Dec-22 3,618 3,363 255
Jan-23 3,883 3,452 431
Feb-23 3,972 3,467 505
Mar-23 4,136 3,512 624
Apr-23 4,338 3,471 867

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