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Homeless In Hotels

Homeless numbers inch up

GREENFIELD — The number of homeless families living in two Greenfield motels has increased slightly in the past month and some children may enroll in the Greenfield schools this week.

The Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority notified the school department last week about the possibility of new students and Superintendent Susan Hollins said she was preparing for at least 15. Officials said it is hard to pin down an exact number because some families are able to transport their children from Greenfield back to the schools in their hometown.

There are just under 40 families, with approximately 90 children, now living at the Quality Inn on the Mohawk Trail and the Days Inn on Colrain Road, according to Robin Sherman, executive director of Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority.

Families are constantly coming and going as the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development tries to quickly transition them into affordable housing. For the past few months, there has usually been 30 families at the two hotels at any given time.

According to state department spokesman Matthew Sheaff, 32 of 38 families at the hotels are from Franklin, Hampshire and Berkshire counties. Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority officials estimated that half of the families are from within the county.

The other six families are from Hampden and Worcester counties, said Sheaff. It’s not like the situation last fall when homeless families from eastern Massachusetts were sent to live in hotels across the state. At one point there were about 90 families living in two Greenfield hotels.

School staff have been happy to instruct and assist homeless students, but Hollins acknowledged that enrolling any new students in June can be a complicated task.

“Registering in a new school at this time of year means Greenfield teachers and administrators would have to make year-end decisions about which students pass and fail for the year, decisions that would have to be made most likely without time to even receive the other school’s records,” wrote Hollins in her online superintendent’s journal last week.

“Students in older grades would arrive just in time to take final exams in courses where they may have never seen the particular textbook or covered the same material the teacher in Greenfield covered or thinks is important to test,” she wrote. “There would not even be time to gather records to see what we are to provide students who have a plan for special education.”

Across the state, there are 1,897 families placed in emergency shelters, said Sheaff. The state typically sees a bump in emergency shelter use each summer and the total went as high as 2,190 last year.

Gov. Deval Patrick is calling for the expansion of 24-hour shelter facilities, with support services, which the state believes will help reduce the burden on hotels and motels, said Sheaff.

Last year, organizations rallied to the aid of homeless families. Charity Day, of the Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, urged any organizations or individuals that want to help the families to contact her directly. The housing authority will be able to distribute any donations to all of the families.

She can be reached at cday@fcrha.org or 413-863-9781.

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