, Salem, MA

Local News

January 3, 2013

State to stop using motels as shelters

Danvers officials will learn more next week

DANVERS — Town officials will know more in a conference call next week about state plans to phase out the use of motels as temporary homeless shelters here and across the state.

Town Manager Wayne Marquis, who sits on an advisory board to the governor’s Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness, said the call will detail how the state plans to end the use of motels as emergency homeless family shelters by June 30, 2014.

By then, Marquis said, it is expected that “all contracts (with motels) will be over and it will be no more.”

Matthew Sheaff, director of communications for the state Department of Housing and Community Development, confirmed plans to stop contracting with hotels and motels for shelter space in a year and a half. The state wants to shift from using shelters to providing financial assistance for families to secure housing.

State officials, Sheaff said, realize that the use of motels as shelters has been less than ideal for families with children, as they have a single living space with no cooking facilities or places for kids to play.

The use of motels has also proved costly. Last year, the state spent $45 million to house homeless families in motels, paying a rate of $80 a night, Sheaff said. The number of homeless families peaked in motels last month around 1,800, and that number has dropped to 1,700 families today statewide.

The state houses families in motels when its 2,000-shelter-bed system overflows. Ending that practice, even though it will not be for 18 months, is a positive sign, Marquis said.

“Any commitment in that direction is potentially a good thing,” Marquis said.

Danvers has received its fair share of homeless families from various cities and towns throughout the state, who live in one of four budget motels in town. In the winter of 2010, for instance, during a prior influx, Danvers was home to about 10 percent of families living in motels statewide.

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