Human rights group weighs in on hotel homeless
Greenfield needs to be prepped, compensated for another surge
GREENFIELD — The town’s Human Rights Commission wants the town to be better prepared if there is ever another surge of homeless families into Greenfield hotels.
“We want more notice from the state so we can be more organized next time,” said Chairman Lewis Metaxas, who added he believes there will be a next time. “We also need compensation from the state.”
Mayor William Martin, also speaking at a commission hearing on the hotel homeless Monday, said the recent surge, especially of families from the eastern part of the state, was a result of poor planning by the state.
School Superintendent Susan Hollins, who was also invited to the hearing, said the town’s schools were educating 66 homeless students as of Monday. She said that number dropped from 123 at its highest.
Hollins said what has been most difficult for school administrators and teachers is the absence of student records, the language barrier with some students’ parents and some accommodations for special needs students.
She said many students needed clothing when they arrived in Greenfield. She said meals are an issue for many of the students and their families.
“It would also be good to get the families out for movie or book nights,” said Hollins.
“This could happen to anyone at any time in this economy,” she said.
Robin Sherman, executive director of Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, the organization that has taken the lead to help homeless families in local hotels, said there are currently 58 families in two Greenfield hotels.
“Community response has been wonderful,” said Sherman, who said the authority has been in constant contact with state legislators.
“Food is the single biggest need for these families,” said Sherman. “They are living in hotel rooms with a microwave and small refrigerator.”
Rose Evans, associate director for the authority’s Division of Housing Stabilization, said the greatest influx of families from the eastern part of the state to Greenfield happened in July and August. She said 15 families from that area are still living in Greenfield, but the state is hoping to move them back soon.
“The state doesn’t plan to bring people from the eastern to the western part of the state once they’ve all been relocated,” she said.
Evans said part of the reason for the recent surge into Greenfield was because the state faced an unprecedented number of homeless this past summer.
“We were seeing 40 to 45 families a day throughout the state,” said Evans, who said the number is typically 20 to 23 per day.
She said there weren’t enough shelters or hotel rooms available in the eastern part of the state, so some people had to be relocated.
Only two hotels in Franklin County and none in Hampshire County contracted with the state to house the homeless.
“We learned a lot, but didn’t solve a lot tonight,” said Metaxas.
Metaxas said the commission will contact legislators, including Rep. Paul Mark and Sen. Stanley Rosenberg, to see if there is anything they can do for the town.
“We’ll get there,” said Metaxas.