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MA Homeless Update: Bad News and Good News

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The high cost of housing is a driving factor in the growing problem of homeless families in Massachusetts, according to a new report. (Eganjm18/Wikimedia)
The high cost of housing is a driving factor in the growing problem of homeless families in Massachusetts, according to a new report. (Eganjm18/Wikimedia)
February 28, 2017

BOSTON – A new report that tracks the homeless population in Massachusetts offers both bad and good news as to how the Bay State is coping with the problem.

Becky Koepnick is the project manager for the Boston Foundation report. She says in fiscal year 2016, almost 4,800 families entered the emergency assistance system. Koepnick says families have a legal right to shelter in the state and twice as many families are in a shelter now, compared to nine years ago.

"The main conclusion is that homelessness over the past nine years has doubled basically, but in the past two years there has been a dip in the number of homeless families in Massachusetts," she explained.

To move more families out of shelters the report recommends more concentrated resources to help families locate housing in tight housing markets. Advocates for the homeless held a lobby day at the state capitol on Monday. Among their goals is to get the state to provide more subsidies to help move families into affordable housing.

The report, called The Growing Challenge of Family Homelessness, shines a spotlight on homelessness as a family problem in Massachusetts. Koepnick says on any given day children under age 18 account for 60 percent of the 13,000 people experiencing family homelessness.

"A higher percent of homeless are families in Massachusetts, because of the high housing cost; in most states you would see there is a lot of focus on the individuals, but homelessness in Massachusetts is families, which is very different from the rest of the country," she said.

Gov. Charlie Baker says the state is making progress, noting that there were only one hundred families sheltered in hotels over the past two years. That's a drop from more than 1,500 families in previous years.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - MA