Gov. Charlie Baker has long worked on an effort to reduce the number of families staying in motels at state taxpayer expense.
Now, five mothers struggling with finding housing have filed a lawsuit against the Baker administration, alleging that Massachusetts illegally denied housing to its most vulnerable residents.
The state's reluctance to place people in motel rooms has resulted in homeless families being turned away from shelters because those facilities are full. That leaves them without accommodations, according to thesuit. These people are legally entitled to receive immediate shelter placement due to dire conditions.
Paul McMorrow, a spokesman for the DHCD, denied the allegations of the lawsuit.
“The administration is proud of its record rehousing and resheltering thousands of homeless children, reducing the number of families sheltered in motel rooms from 1,500 to under 160,” he told the Boston Globe.“Massachusetts is the only state in the nation that offers homeless children a right to shelter, and DHCD has consistently upheld that right, and acted in compliance with the law, while substantially reducing the state’s reliance on motel shelters."
The lawsuit, filed by Greater Boston Legal Services on behalf of the mothers, shares the women's individual stories of being affected by these practices. One woman who provided documentation showing that she and her three children were eligible for shelter placement says in the suit thatthe Department of Housing and Community Development reached out to her own mother.
Instead of sheltering the family, DHCD contactedthe woman's mother to convince her to house them all, even though the mother currentlylives in public housing and is at risk of eviction for having unauthorized occupants, according to the suit.
As of Dec. 6, there were 175 families in motels as reported by DHCD. Between July and September of 2015, there were about 1,256 families in motels. The suit notes that the decline in the number of families in hotels is greater than the decline in the total of families in the shelter system.
By not immediately placing families who are eligible, the suit alleges thatthe state “is seekingunlawfully to reduce the demand for shelter placements, which in turn enables the agency to assert that there is no longer a need for motel placements.”
Read the full lawsuit here.