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More and More Families Seeking Shelter in MA

April 16, 2008

BOSTON - Housing prices are rising, and not surprisingly, so is the nation's homelessness rate. A national conference in Boston this week aims to get families and children back into homes.

According to the most recent data, 100,000 children are homeless at some point each year in Massachusetts. Sue Heilman, executive director of Horizons for Homeless Children, says many families are living in cars or shelters or are making their way from couch to couch every night. She says this takes a particular toll on children.

"Potentially, one could handle that for awhile, but for a child needing the stability and structure of knowing where they're going to sleep every night, where they're going to eat dinner or breakfast, and so on, their normal routine is completely disrupted."

Heilman says more could be done to prevent homelessness before it happens. One idea is to help families pay their rent with the money it would take to provide them a shelter. One service Horizons for Homeless Children provides is education for children in shelters, so they don't fall behind in their studies.

Ed Shelleby with the Children's Defense Fund says many families who used to be able to afford their rent are now having trouble.

"With housing costs going up and up, and housing policy more and more benefiting wealthier families at the expense of lower-income families, it's getting increasingly difficult for lower-income families to find affordable housing for long periods of time."

The "National Conference to Focus on Needs of Homeless Children and Families" takes place at the Hynes Convention Center through Wednesday.

Kevin Clay/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - MA