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Homeless In Hotels

Human rights panel plans hearing on hotel homeless

GREENFIELD — The town’s Human Rights Commission will weigh in on the recent issues surrounding a surge of homeless families living in Greenfield hotels when it holds a public hearing on Monday at 6 p.m. in Town Hall.

Chairman Lewis Metaxas said the public hearing will specifically seek testimony on how the surge over the past couple of months came to be, what relief and support is being provided the families, and what the town needs from the state to help support the families moved here by the state primarily from the Boston area. The state has essentially turned two of the town’s three motels into homeless shelters.

Metaxas said what the commission learns will help it draft a proposed protocol between the state and the town regarding the hosting of homeless families.

“The community has responded in an extraordinary manner to support the needs of our homeless families on a temporary basis, while they are residing in our local hotels and motels,” said Metaxas. “Our town government, our public school system and our human services community are to be commended and thanked.”

Metaxas said the commission would like to hear from the town, schools and human services agencies about what they’ve done, how they’ve done it and what they need so they can continue their support.

“Further, we need an understanding, a protocol between the state and the community,” said Metaxas. “We need, at a minimum, to have notice as to when homeless families are coming to the community.”

He and other town officials were disappointed that they didn’t know about the recent surge until after it happened, leaving more than 90 homeless families living in two hotels and sending dozens of children into the public schools.

Since the surge, more than a dozen homeless families have returned to the eastern part of the state. No one knows how long the families will be here.

Metaxas said the town needs to be able to prepare for homeless families coming into the community and needs some support from the state to help them with services, including schooling.

“Communication, coordination and compensation are essential,” said Metaxas. “My hope is that people will come to the public hearing with ideas on how we may make such a protocol or understanding a reality in order to further the best interests of all parties.”

Metaxas said he expects Mayor William Martin and Superintendent Susan Hollins to speak, as well as School Committee Chairman John Lunt and Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority Housing Consumer Education Director Charity Day.

He said Rep. Paul Mark plans to be at the meeting if the state Legislature is not in formal session.

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