BEDFORD (CBS) — Bedford, Massachusetts, population 14,500, is facing an unexpected increase in students at its schools.
The issue is a spike in the number of homeless families the state is sending to live at the Bedford Plaza Hotel, from 30 to 80 families this year.
The town must pay for the education, and transport them to Bedford schools or to schools in the last city or town where they lived. The state is expected to reimburse the town for the transportation costs, which adds up to $45,000 a month, but not until next year.
Taxpayers in Bedford my cover the additional $90-120,000 in expected personnel costs.
Many say the town wants to help people who are in need, but they feel their town is bearing more than their fair share of the burden. Bedford has two-times as many homeless students living in hotels and motels per-capita than any other city or town in the state.
Superintendent Jonathan Sills says, “There is an inequity here that is stretching the resources of the town, and that we’d like to see some relief.”
Crystal Kiklis is living at Bedford Plaza Hotel. She says she understands people’s concerns, but feels for families like her’s, this is the only option.
“Just because we’re in a hotel, it’s not a beautiful situation. We’re eating out of a microwave. we have our kitchen in the bathroom.”
Representative Ken Gordon got to work, and met with House Leaders on Beacon Hill and state officials. He says the state has agreed to stop sending more families to the Bedford Plaza Hotel, and they will work to transition some of the families already there to other housing.
Rep Gordon says, “The solution will continue until we get to a more reasonable level which will be consistent with the other towns that have motels in their program. We will continue to do our share.”
Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein shared this statement:
“Massachusetts is a right to shelter state and we are required to place all families who qualify for emergency assistance into a shelter. Due to the high demand, the State, for years, has used motels as an overflow shelter system. We know that these environments are not ideal places for children and families and we are working with every family to help them find a permanent home in the community. The Patrick Administration has made historic investments in homelessness prevention and affordable housing and that’s why we’ve been able to prevent thousands of families from becoming homeless and have moved thousands more from shelters into permanent affordable housing. From bringing back online vacant public housing units to issuing new rental vouchers — we are engaged in a comprehensive strategy to get these families back on their feet. Everyone, including all levels of government, charitable organizations, non-profits, and the private sector, has a role to play in this process and it’s going to take all of us working together to solve this problem.”
Crystal Kiklis says she hopes to move out soon and have her own home again for her infant son.
Below is a chart from Rep Gordon showing the different downs and the percentage of students in hotels and motels per capita.