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Homeless In Hotels

Homeless still living in Greenfield hotel

GREENFIELD — While some hotels and motels across the state are reporting increases in the number of homeless families living in them, even after state officials promised to phase out a program that places them there, the number of homeless living in Greenfield hotels has gone down slightly.

In summer 2012, there were 37 families living in two Greenfield hotels. Those were the Quality Inn on the Mohawk Trail and the Days Inn on Colrain Road.

Today, there are 30 families living in the Days Inn, according to state Department of Housing and Community Development. The Quality Inn is no longer in the program.

According to the state, summer demand for housing has been higher based on past trends, possibly because people lose their jobs, housing, or both, at the end of a school year, but do not want to leave the area, because they want their children to attend the same school in the fall.

Matthew Sheaff, spokesman for DHCD, said applications for emergency assistance were high across the state in July 2013 but overall have decreased in the past year.

But there were still fewer than in the previous two summers.

Sheaff said there were 513 families living in hotels or motels throughout the state this summer, while there were 558 living in them last year and 539 the summer before.

He said the state’s RAFT and HomeBASE programs have prevented even more families from being placed in hotels and motels.

“Phasing out the program that places them in hotels and motels is still our goal,” said Sheaff.

He said budget cuts have prevented the state from moving as quickly as it had wished to phase out the hotel-motel program.

Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), the state-funded homeless prevention program gives low-income families, who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, short-term financial assistance to help with rent, mortgage payments and utility bills. The program also helps move families by providing security deposits, first- and last-month rent payments, and utility startup costs.

The HomeBASE program finds permanent housing for homeless families, or those at risk of becoming homeless. Families in that program have to make 30 percent less than the median income for their city and can receive up to $4,000 per month in aid.

According to census information, the median income for Greenfield in 2010 was about $40,000, which means a family of four would have to make less than $28,000 a year to qualify for the program.

The state decided to start getting families out of hotels and motels earlier this year, because it said it was becoming too expensive for taxpayers, and for the state, which spent more than $45 million putting hundreds of families across the state in hotels and motels in 2012.

The number of homeless families in Massachusetts living in hotels and motels reached a peak of about 1,800 in December 2012, according to the state.

It was down 30 percent by March, which was just three months after the state announced that it would phase out the hotel-motel program.

But, for some reason, that number has risen again.

The state still plans to stop placing homeless families in hotels and motels sometime next year, because they lack play space for children, and because families cannot cook in the rooms.

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