Emergency Shelter for Families Experiencing Homelessness Expanded in Greenfield
Mayor Roxann Wedegartner received notification earlier this week from Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll and the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing & Livable Communities that a number of families with children will be provided emergency temporary housing in Greenfield.
Massachusetts is facing a critical shortage of affordable housing, and that shortage is contributing to housing instability among our neighbors. To address this shortage, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing & Livable Communities intends to use a Greenfield hotel as the temporary shelter for these families, which may include many school-age children. The city is working with the state agency to understand the impact on various town services and identify key supportive needs in preparation of welcoming these vulnerable families.
The mayor convened several meetings this week with city officials, including school, public safety, health officials and our legislative delegation - Representatives Whipps and Blais, and Senator Comerford - to discuss support and welcome for these families, and how the presence of additional families in Greenfield may impact the community. Superintendent Christine Debarge is working with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to see what support may be needed for children in the shelter for the remaining ten days of school.
As of Thursday, June 1, 2023, fourteen families had arrived, and Housing & Livable Communities expects as many as fifty rooms to be occupied in the coming days. Health Director Jennifer Hoffman, Emergency Management Director and Fire Chief Robert Strahan and Mayor Roxann Wedegartner have all visited the temporary shelter to offer guidance and support.
The city will be coordinating with a nonprofit service provider and Housing & Livable Communities to keep the public updated.
“Although this is quite sudden and could have some significant impacts for the city, we are willing to work cooperatively with the provider and the Executive Office of Housing & Livable Communities to make our city as welcoming as possible within our means. We will continue to work daily with the State until we are certain that all of the families are settled safely and the city remains safe,” said Mayor Wedegartner.
Below are some FAQs regarding this shelter program; more information will be released in the coming days.
Who will be staying at the family shelter?
All shelter guests will be low-income families with children under 21 or pregnant women who qualify for the state Emergency Assistance Program, with a priority for families from Greenfield.
What can we do as a community to support these families?
There has been an outpouring of offers to support the family shelter and its residents since news of the family shelter was announced. We are pleased to report several ways to help. Once contracted, the onsite service provider will work with the city to identify opportunities to donate in meaningful ways. Service providers have requested that no donations be dropped off directly at the hotel, though ways to support will be identified shortly.
Will the children enroll in Greenfield public schools?
Some school-aged children may enroll in Greenfield public schools, while others may remain enrolled in other area schools. The school will be reimbursed for transportation, enrollment and other extra costs incurred that are associated with educating these students.
Have city officials been in contact with Housing & Livable Communities?
Lieutenant Governor Kim Driscoll and Housing & Livable Communities staff alerted Greenfield officials to the establishment of an Emergency Assistance shelter in late May 2023. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education informed the superintendent of plans for potential school enrollments shortly thereafter. HLC staff continue to work with Greenfield officials to provide updated plans for operation of the Emergency Assistance shelter.
Why is an emergency family shelter necessary?
There is a critical shortage of shelter beds in Massachusetts. For the past few months, Housing & Livable Communities has been experiencing record numbers of entries into the system, which coupled with low exits, have led to this critical shortage.
What is “Right to Shelter"?
Massachusetts is the only state in the country with a right-to-shelter law, meaning low-income Massachusetts families who meet certain eligibility requirements have a legal right to shelter. Because of this law, Massachusetts has one of the lowest rates of unsheltered family homelessness (i.e., sleeping outside) in the country.
What is Housing & Livable Communities’ role in addressing family homelessness? What role does the city play?
The Massachusetts family homelessness system is called the Emergency Assistance program. Housing & Livable Communities oversees the program and manages placements of new families into the system, while shelters are operated by non-profit service providers from the community. All services at the site will be coordinated and paid for by Housing & Livable Communities, and the agency will coordinate closely with the city throughout the process.
How long will families stay at the shelter?
The on-site service provider will work with families to help rapidly place them into stable housing of their own. There is no minimum or maximum length of stay.
How is the family shelter managed?
Housing & Livable Communities shelters typically have a designated on-site service provider. In this case, HLC is working to finalize a contract with one of our usual providers for this site. One contracted, the service provider and state partners will provide clients with case management, connections to resources, housing search assistance and the coordination of direct care.
How is the family shelter funded?
The Emergency Assistance program is fully funded by the state. Governor Healey has made affordable housing her first legislative priority. She recently signed a supplemental budget that prioritizes additional funds for emergency shelters across the state. For those interested, more can be read about this here: Governor Healey Signs $389M Supplemental Budget.
How will meals be provided?
Hotel ownership has agreed to provide families with three meals per day until a service provider is able to take over those responsibilities.
How will individuals and families in temporary shelter receive the resources and support they need?
Service providers will ensure families have meals and necessities, provide case management and connection to resources, assist with housing searches, and provide routine cleaning, maintenance, and security of the property. In the interim, the Executive Office of Health & Human Services is sending staff from multiple departments to perform health assessments and coordinate with local providers. These departments include:
- The Department of Children & Families Homelessness Team.
- The Department of Public Health rapid response nursing staff.
- The Department of Mental Health.