Massachusetts is a “Right to Shelter” State

Massachusetts is a Right to Shelter StateMassachusetts is a “right to shelter” state. This means that if you are eligible, typically, if you are a Massachusetts resident (there are dozens of different ways to prove that you live here) and you have children, you cannot by law be left out in the cold. Whether we have room in a shelter or have to pay for a hotel room, we’ll make sure you sleep under a roof. There is only one other place quite like Massachusetts in this regard, and that’s New York.

The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), other state organizations and non–profits coordinate getting families off the street.

Unfortunately, we spend a great deal of money to provide emergency assistance. When shelters are overly full, we put people up in motel rooms (Days Inn, Holiday Inn, Howard Johnson, and Quality Inn are the most common participants). According to information gathered up in recent conversation, there are over 3,000 homeless families currently receiving “emergency assistance”, 1,000 of which are in motels. The numbers have gone up and down over the years as we swing from caring to cost saving. The Commonwealth pays thousands of dollars per family per month for motel rooms and social services.

The solution to homelessness may remain out of reach. Certainly it requires a combination of prevention, temporary shelter, and “end game”. Whether the “end game” is self-sufficiency or perpetual subsidy depends on each person’s unique abilities (or disabilities).

Read more about motels here.

5 Responses to Massachusetts is a “Right to Shelter” State

  1. Sean says:

    I have 3 children, 5, 7 & 16 and have been homeless for over a week and have not been offered anything or anywhere to stay at all, and I have filled out the emergency cash assistance papers and anything else they have asked of me, I have a job but my house was unsafe environment for me and the boys

    • Chad says:

      Sean, this is a year or so late, and I hope you have found your way.

      For Western Massachusetts, Department of Transitional Assistance #413-858-1000 with business hours of 0730-1700.

      Even if this info doesn’t help you, hopefully it will help others.

      Be well.

  2. Jasmin says:

    Hi my name is Jasmine and I was leaving with my mom and my mom was evicted from the apartment and now me and my children are going to be in the street I need help getting in to a shelter for me and my kids

  3. Denise says:

    Here’s some background about what the situation is like for people who are homeless right now in our state:

    From the Boston Globe:
    Massachusetts is the only state in the nation with a “right to shelter” law guaranteeing emergency housing for homeless families that qualify — and the only state with its own shelter system, which includes complexes with shared bathrooms and kitchens, apartments, and motel rooms. But as the number of people who can’t afford to keep a roof over their heads keeps increasing, those who work to find them housing worry that help isn’t coming quickly enough. Some even call the “right” to shelter a myth.

    Lindsey Collins was eight months pregnant in the fall of 2012 when her mother told her to leave their home, forcing Collins and her young son to spend the night on a Quincy beach. When she applied for shelter the next day, the worker told her to return with a picture showing she had slept outside. Collins said she later produced a cellphone image of her son wrapped in blankets in the sand, but the worker again denied her assistance, saying she could have staged the photo.

    “What if I stayed out that night and something really terrible happened? My kid could have gotten up and walked out into the street,” said Collins, 22, who was eventually placed in a series of motels, and said she was sexually assaulted in one of them. “It’s hard to be in position like that in general, never mind to be scolded for it.”


    Hopefully this gives your audience some context!

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