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.

17 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!

  4. Crystal Rogue Storm says:

    My name is Crystal and I have been the last three to four days trying to call the right to shelter act with no success and they have not gotten back to me so I am trying the website now I have heard that after 30 days that qualifies you as a resident of Massachusetts even if it’s in the homeless shelter which I have been staying at I do not have a family with me but I am a person with both mental and physical disabilities now that it has been about 30 days or more I am wondering what is the next step in getting out of the shelter and into a more safe and private environment that is the worst part about being in a shelter that I cannot get over it is never having any real privacy and always being around a lot of other people I don’t care if it’s a group home a hotel or motel or something else please let me know what the next step is and have a good day

  5. Crystal Rogue Storm says:

    My name is Crystal as I have been in Boston Massachusetts for over 31 days and one of the homeless shelters I do not have a family but I am somebody with physical and mental disabilities I do believe I am somebody who qualifies for assistance and being put in a hotel or motel or group home or something else like that I am wondering what the next step will be to get out of the shelter and into something that is safe and more private being around a lot of other people and not having real privacy he is a real strain on me please let me know what the next step is as soon as possible and have a good day

  6. Dante Linares says:

    Ive been living in Massachusetts my whole life. Im 26 and will be homeless soon but i dont have no kids. Do i qualify?

  7. Nancy says:

    I have 4 kids i was given custody of from being extremely neglected by their mom. I brought my mom to live with me from 1000 miles away just to help each other out. My mom also cares for a very young boy with autism… My home is a health hazzard at this point… And my landlord wants me to pay to resolve the issues because he says i can apply for state assistance to help pay his requested extra fees.. he is basically trying to exhaust my help for his personal gain. He has threaten to evict me and my family… Just when I thought everything was settling well… Im so stressed… I feel helpless .. idk what to do .. any advise or help would be a blessing right now.

  8. Jeff says:

    I am a single 47 year old white male with no kids and can’t afford a thing. I work full time but make just over minimum wage. Looks like people like me are dead last priority. Screwed….

  9. PAmmy nickerson says:

    when I lost my life long home to a reverse mortgage on the coldest day of the year 3 yrs ago I became aware of how horribly flawed and in adequate our system really is. I have been homeless since bouncing around for the whole time. we r now in a hotel for the winter struggling to pay for it then we have to leave by the middle of may when it becomes $1500 weekly instead of monthly,! so where do we go when we have to leave here with 4 cats, no money and no updated immigration papers for my boyfriend? There is so much descrimination in public housing and that needs to stop!

  10. Jackie Benson says:

    So because I don’t have human children, I don’t qualify for this “right”??? Not a right then.

    I’m glad there are systems in place to help homeless families, but what about everyone else? There are thousands of homeless PEOPLE all over the state/country.

    Also why is this not a federal thing?! Shelter SHOULD be a true RIGHT for everyone. How is one supposed to “pursue happiness” without a roof over their head and a place to keep warm?
    This country is a load of crap.

  11. SW says:

    There is no right to pursue happiness. If you like your job and it’s enough to support you, that’s the best offer you can get. We don’t want kids or vulnerable women on the streets. Go to any police station and prove you are homeless. They will help you.

  12. Christopher says:

    Unfortunately the right to shelter law only applies to those who have children! What about people who don’t have children and who have lost their homes and are currently homeless living on the streets or in their car? What help is available for us?

  13. Sheilla Mojena says:

    Me and my family just moved from Georgia. We’re trying to get into a shelter or have them help us pay for our hotel. I’m working since I got here, but I don’t work enough hours to continue to pay for a hotel I have a voucher to find an apartment, but I don’t work in our hours to qualify if anybody can help me figure out how to get me my 18-year-old daughter my 18 year old son, In Law , and my 26 year old son, into a shelter or someone that can help us pay for our hotel. I would greatly appreciate it if anyone knows about job opportunities in West Springfield for my children my adult children at that I would greatly appreciate it. Anything would help any guidance due to the fact that we’re not from here and we don’t know what to do.

  14. Brooke says:

    Funny, I was becoming homeless and tried everything and every resource possible, and no one helped. Once I became homeless, I finally got in touch with someone. I was told the only way I could get help, was by providing a copy of my lease. My lease was in another state in storage, plus, it wasn’t valid anymore. I provided the court order and all other necessary documents. No help. My son and I were homeless.
    RAFT was trying to help by paying my back rent, however, the landlords (a corporation) refused to sign off on it. I found out after that they did mass evictions so they can raise the rents. My rent was $2,445; it’s not listed as being $3,600. We are going to see more and more homelessness; we need rent regulations. People cannot afford the current rent prices. We also need a cap on how long someone can receive housing assistance. It’s not fair that there are people who have had rental assistance for 20+ years; while there’s families in shelters and hotels waiting for a voucher. This whole state is backwards. When I became homeless, I had to stay in another state. I will never return to Massachusetts. The state does NOT care about it’s citizens.

  15. Frank Mantino says:

    This should not apply to illegal aliens. Our govenor is failing our residents . I fully support legal immigration, but what we are seeing now is not good for Massachusetts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *