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Mass. to phase out motels for homeless

Jan. 2, 2013 at 4:00 PM

BOSTON, Jan. 2 (UPI) -- Massachusetts housing officials said they're phasing out a controversial program that has taxpayers paying for homeless families to live in motels.

The program, which since the housing crisis began in 2008 has seen record enrollment, costs taxpayers $80 per night, per family. At its height earlier this year, 1,800 families were staying in government-subsidized motel rooms, a cost of $45 million in fiscal year 2012, The Boston Globe said.

Massachusetts is the nation's only right-to-shelter state, meaning families who fall below a $2,200 monthly income threshold and lack a place to live are guaranteed a roof over their heads, either at a state-run shelter or, if they're full, a motel.

Advocates for the homeless say phasing out the motel provision by June 2014 will lead to more families on the street because the state lacks the resources to shelter people otherwise.

There are about 2,000 rooms in state-run shelters across Massachusetts and they regularly run at full capacity.

State housing officials advocating for the end of the practice said not only is the program cost-prohibitive, families shouldn't be living in motels for months at a time.

"The motels have no cooking facilities. There is no play space. It is difficult in terms of transportation, child care,'' said Aaron Gornstein, undersecretary of the state Department of Housing and Community Development. Eliminating the motel system, he said, "is better for the families and it is better for the taxpayers. That is why we are moving forward."

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