SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

October 2, 2013

Danvers sees rise in motel families

DANVERS — The number of homeless families living in Danvers motels is spiking upward again.

The town has seen nearly a 27 percent increase in the number of families in less than a month — from 112 on Aug. 20 to 142 on Sept. 17.

The numbers had leveled off to 100 to 110 during the summer months.

One factor in the increase may be a $20 million cut in the Section 8 housing program because of federal budget cuts. That took away an avenue the state was using to move homeless families out of motels and into more permanent housing, according to the state Department of Housing and Community Development.

“We have had to freeze Section 8,” said Matthew Sheaff, director of communications for the agency.

The Section 8 program allows families to get a voucher for rent and pay 30 percent of their income for rent, while the government picks up the rest. The program is administered through local housing authorities.

Other factors include rising rents in the Greater Boston area, as vacancy rates have dropped, increasing the demand for apartments. That means many families are struggling to make ends meet, leading to more evictions, according to Aaron Gornstein, undersecretary of the state Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“We are working very hard to re-house the families out of the hotels and motels,” Gornstein said, noting that one-room hotel and motel rooms are not appropriate for families, as most have no cooking facilities and few have play spaces for kids.

The state is scheduled to phase out the use of motel rooms as emergency assistance shelters by June 30, but it’s not clear where people will go after that.

As a town, Danvers has struggled to recoup costs associated with the influx, especially those related to school-age children.

There are 225 children — 98 of them of school age — living with these 142 homeless families. Those children are allowed to attend Danvers public schools or, if their parents prefer, be bused for free back to their home communities for schooling.

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