Human Rights board to hold hearing on homelessness
GREENFIELD — The chairman of the town’s Human Rights Commission said his panel will take up the issue of homeless families in hotels during a public hearing it will hold in November.
Chairman Lewis Metaxas said he has not yet set a date and time for the public hearing.
“I’d like to invite a representative from the state Department of Housing and Community Development, as well as our legislators,” said Metaxas. “The mayor has called this a crisis and I have to agree.”
Metaxas said he sees the more than 90 families living in the Days Inn and Quality Inn as a tragic situation.
“Raising children in hotels should not be an option,” said Metaxas. “But, it has to be one because there isn’t any room in shelters and there aren’t enough apartments under the state’s program.”
Metaxas said less than a year ago, Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration said homelessness in hotels would end by 2014.
“Well, here we are and it doesn’t look that way,” said Metaxas. “Instead, we’ve had a recent surge. That’s not a criticism, just an observation.”
Metaxas said it still isn’t clear what effects the town will eventually see from that many more families living in Greenfield in “less than desirable” conditions, but it is “terribly unfair,” because the state isn’t providing reimbursement to the town for its services, including police, fire and schools.
He said the town also has to start looking at the fact that the two hotels are currently “working for the state” and that the town needs to think about how that will affect the local economy and tourism.
“This is a case of a classic unfunded mandate, only we don’t even have the legislation that usually comes along with such a mandate,” said Metaxas. “Our legislators need to be looking at this.”
Metaxas said he plans to invite Sen. Stanley Rosenberg and Rep. Paul Mark to the public hearing.
“This issue requires discussion with and some help from our legislators,” he said.
Metaxas said he envisions the public hearing as being two-tiered, with a representative from the DHCD explaining what the state is doing and which direction it is headed in, and the commission and public asking Rosenberg and Mark for legislative advocacy.
Mayor William Martin said he will listen to anyone and everyone who has ideas about the situation, but isn’t yet sure what the town can do about it.
“Uprooting these families and putting them in hotel rooms is traumatic, I think we all can agree,” said Martin. “All the town can do is what it’s doing right now — helping decrease the stress of the families and accommodate the children by providing them education.”
Martin said several in the community have stepped up to help.
“We’ve seen some heroic acts and hope to see more as time goes on,” he said.
“The first priority for all of us should be the children living in our hotels,” said Metaxas. “I can’t imagine what it is like to wake up in a hotel room every morning, leave to attend a strange school, come home to a place that does not provide meaningful recreation, go to bed, and start the same thing all over the next morning.”