I-Team: State paying for hundreds of families to live in hotels in western Massachusetts

WEST SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Massachusetts is the country’s only right-to-shelter state, which means the state guarantees that homeless families have access emergency housing. That includes hotels.

As of April, 4,338 homeless families were in the Department of Housing and Community Development’s Emergency Assistance Shelter Program, 3,471 are in shelters and nearly 867 are living in hotels. A year ago, the state only had 18 families in hotels.

In western Massachusetts, there are 633 families sheltering in Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshires counties, according to data from DHCD. This includes 112 families in West Springfield, about 40 of them arrived from Haiti last fall. They have been living at the Clarion Hotel on Riverdale Street.

Mayor Will Reichelt told the 22News I-Team that West Springfield has been one of the largest resettlement communities in the country.

“I think we have a larger stock of multifamily housing, and we have a large multicultural community in general,” Mayor Reichelt said. “Some of the agencies are right around here and it fits, and we are a very welcoming community.”

DHCD says that about one-third of eligible families entering shelters right now are new arrivals, defined as families without citizenship or legal permanent residence here and who arrived in last 30 days. These new arrivals, along with the high cost of housing, is causing a “crisis.”

In a statement to 22News, a DCHD spokesperson said, “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.”

The Department says to meet those obligations, they’ve added more than 700 hotel rooms and they are partnering with organizations, like Salem State, to use their campuses as housing for homeless families.

Included in Governor Maura Healey’s recently passed supplemental budget is more funding for school districts that are absorbing children from these homeless families and funding to expand the shelter system across the state.

Here is a month-by-month breakdown of the numbers from the DCHD:

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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