Homeless Families Filling Hotels

By Joe Shortsleeve, I-Team Chief Correspondent WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – It’s been one of the most heart breaking aspects of this recession – so many people losing their homes.

So just how bad has it been?  The I-Team has obtained new numbers which shed light on the extent of the housing crisis.  And behind those numbers, Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve found families who never thought they’d be in this situation.

For more than three months, a Boston hotel room has been home to 29-year-old Tiffany LeClaire and her eight-year-old daughter.

LeClaire, who is from East Boston, says “it is a little more private than living in a normal shelter and sharing bathrooms and living space with people you do not know.”

Homeless and desperate, LeClaire is one of almost a thousand young families living in more than three dozen motels across the state.  Hotels like the Howard Johnsons in Kenmore Square and the Knights Inn in Danvers.

LeClaire is grateful for the state help “I don’t feel as scared here compared to if I was in a regular shelter.”

WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve reports.

In the Brighton neighborhood of Boston half of the 117 hotel rooms at the Days Hotel are occupied by homeless families and have been since late 2008.  The general manager tells the I-Team he does not see that changing anytime soon.

Numbers obtained by the I-Team show the scope of the problem.  In 2007 the state spent less than five thousand dollars on hotel rooms for homeless families.  By 2008 that number was almost two million dollars.

Last year it jumped to almost $20 million.  And in 2010 it’s spiked to more than $28 million.

The situation is so bad, the I-Team has learned there aren’t any rooms left in Brockton or Springfield.

Tina Brooks oversees the state’s emergency shelter program for at risk families.  “I am not seeing a lessening of demand right now.”

She says the “hotels are just an interim strategy to keep the kids, the children safe and secure until we can get them into another option.”

Vivian Kargbo and her daughter have found that other option, a state subsidized apartment.  Last year she spent five months with her two-year-old daughter at the Gateway Inn in Cambridge.

Now for about one-third of the cost to the tax payer the state will pay a portion of her rent for one year.  Kargbo says “the state help has pretty much saved our lives for the past year or so.”

The average stay at one of the 37 motels for a family with small children is four months, or roughly ten thousand dollars.

State officials say they are trying to find more apartments but they are scarce.  Homeless families in the Brockton area are now being sent to other parts of the state, because the 147 rooms available there are all taken.

  • ed disante

    Thank you for this report. I run a family shelter on the south shore. One thing yyour report did not mention is that there are more than 2000 families in shelters in the state then add the number of families in the motels to get a better picture of the extent of the problem

  • John Joseph Grimes

    Most of these unfortunates would not listen to anyone, including their parents, when they were young. Many quit school, brought kids into the world without benefit of a good home and now they are in dire straits. So is it society’s fault or is it theirs? There must be a reason that most of their families won’t help them. I do have sympathy but there are times when individuals themselves are to blame for their situation.

    • Mary McLaughlin Phd

      It is a common reaction in situations of disenfranchisement to ” blame the victim.” truth is, many families don’t help…. There is no one who wants to be homeless.

  • Antonella

    this is true ,they are plain street people,smokers,drinkers no education

  • Thomas Hood

    Wow. Ramarkably un-Christian responses there JJG and Antonella… It’s the poor people’s fault they’re poor!! THey’re just riff-raff. “just street people”… If you met Jesus in the flesh you’d no doubt think the same thing. Merry Christmas you grinches!

  • Chacha

    How can you say that? You dont even know that! Im a divorced woman with 2 children and I just had to take a pay cut- I am educated, and come from a good family foundation, but if I got laid off- I HAVE NO ONE TO HELP ME. Everyone in my family has passed away- and there are NO JOBS out there. Im sorry – when your a single parent its tough- and the child support I get every week goes right to daycare. So before you want to go judging people because they are down and out- you should really think twice- its ignorant! There are two good rules which ought to be written on every heart; never to believe anything bad about anybody unless you positively know it to be true; and never to tell that unless you feel that it is absolutely necessary, and that God is listening while you tell it.

  • Barbara Lussier

    contact Allyson Rice of the Housing Assistance Corporation of Hyannis 5087715400 or contact me 5083628835 and either of us would be happy to tell you about the program shich for the longest time kept all families out of Motels. The state decided to do away with the prevention progrem, not sure why as it cost alot less to run. But then again that is the state.

  • Cindy-Lou Who

    The short term subsidy that helped Vivian Kargbo and her daughter move out of the Gateway may very well be a “life saver” as well as cheaper for the state, but what happens when the year is up and she can no longer afford the rent at that apartment? No doubt they will be back at the shelter or motel doors. The state needs to find a better long term solution for families like these.

  • Allym

    This is one of the expensive states to live in, so maybe the state should be investing in long term affordable housing. In addition to lowering the cost of living

  • steve

    I saw your report on the homeless in hotels. I thought it was informative except I was wondering where all the fathers of the children were and are the being held accountable.

  • Lou F

    Did anyone notice that the woman at the end of this video who has successfully moved out of a taxpayer funded hotel and into an aparatment that is still being subsizied by you and me as taxpayers, has a kitchen that I, as a self-sustaining member of society, could NEVER afford? Granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances??? How is that fair? I appreciate what she and her family must be going through is very difficult, and I don’t expect them to live in the worst housing projects, but I would expect some better cost management by the state.

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  • Louise Jenkins

    With the money the state is paying for motels and subsidized apartments wouldn’t it be better spent on building apartments for short term stays until people get back on their feet. Each with one or two rooms, kitchen and bath depending on the number of people in a family that needed the short term housing. They wouldn’t have to be elegant, just private and comfortable. It would put some of our unemployed back to work and be helping others at the same time. I sure seems like it would be cheaper and better than putting people up in motels.

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