GREENFIELD, Massachusetts — The number of homeless Massachusetts families being placed by the state in motels and hotels has surged to an all-time high, driven in part by cuts in state and federal housing subsidies.
The state Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development reports that nearly 2,100 families per night on average were temporarily housed in hotel rooms in October, a practice that costs the state tens of millions of dollars annually.
The demand is so great that some homeless families from the Boston area are being placed in western Massachusetts.
The surge has followed cuts in state and federal housing subsidies, soaring rents in the Boston area, and still-high rates of unemployment and underemployment among the poor, Aaron Gornstein, state undersecretary for housing, told The Boston Globe (http://b.globe.com/1cMNAjG ).
"The state as a whole has recovered from the Great Recession faster than most other states, but in many ways we're still struggling," Gornstein said. "Federal budget cuts have made the situation worse."
Motels cost $82 per night. State spending on motels has exploded to more than $46 million from about $1 million in 2008, according to state records.
The average motel stay is about seven months, although some families live in motels for a year waiting for affordable housing, according to state housing officials.
Jim Greene, director of the Emergency Shelter Commission of Boston, said Massachusetts needs more long-term rental assistance programs that target families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Short-term solutions, like hotels, don't work, he said.
Gretchen Vazquez and her two children were moved to a Greenfield hotel when the state subsidy for her Boston apartment ran out.
The hotel is cramped, far from her church, and her older daughter missed about two weeks of school.
"I'm stuck," Vazquez said. "I don't know what's going to happen next."
Information from: The Boston Globe, http://www.bostonglobe.com