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Homeless Families Filling Hotels

By Joe Shortsleeve, I-Team Chief Correspondent WBZ-TV
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A Boston hotel room that was used by a homeless family as part of the state program.

A Boston hotel room that was used by a homeless family as part of the state program.

WBZ-TV's Joe Shortsleeve Joe Shortsleeve
Joe Shortsleeve is chief correspondent for WBZ-TV News weekdays a...
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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.

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