, Salem, MA

October 29, 2011

Our View: State should pay more for care of homeless families

The town of Danvers, which has displayed great compassion while enduring the high cost of educating the homeless children housed in four highway motels, got a reward of sorts this week with a ruling that the state must assume some of those expenses.

Credit goes to state Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers, for pursuing the case for the town, and state Auditor Suzanne Bump's office, for ruling that transporting these children to attend class in their former communities is a state mandate that merits reimbursement from the commonwealth.

"For some communities, this plan cuts into their school district's overall ability to provide a quality education," Bump told reporter Ethan Forman, and that's certainly true for Danvers, which has 8 percent of the 1,140 families in Massachusetts that are being temporarily housed in budget motels.

Town Hall and the community at large have been equally generous in making sure these families are properly cared for while living in what are less than ideal conditions. We expect preparations are already well underway to once again provide them with a dinner at Thanksgiving and a few gifts at Christmas. That's simply in this town's nature.

But having this number of homeless families in town has been a financial strain which, as Town Manager Wayne Marquis points out, is particularly burdensome because the number of children who will be attending classes locally or will have to be transported elewhere, varies so much from year to year. (The cost of out-of-town transportation alone was $145,140 last year, according to Bump.)

The auditor's Division of Local Mandates has now properly ruled that the state, which receives federal assistance for the care of homeless families, must step up to the plate and reimburse the town for at least some of the costs circumstances have imposed on it.