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Future of Program Placing Homeless Families in Bedford Hotel Uncertain

The program could cost Bedford taxpayers up to $180,000 for the 2012-13 school year in transporting students from homeless families to school.

 

The state Dept. of Housing and Community Development plans to end a program that places homeless families in hotels, including one in Bedford, according to the Boston Globe.

The program, which started during the 1980s, would end by June 30, 2014.

There are 20 homeless families residing at the Bedford Plaza Hotel, according to a report by the State Auditor, including five school aged children.

While the program gives needy families shelter, it leaves them without places for their children to play or to cook a meal, and burdens taxpayers with a hefty bill, according to the Globe. The program costs state taxpayers $45 million annually.

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Bedford taxpayers are footing the bill to transport school-aged children from the homeless families to their previous school district, or, in some cases, back to Bedford schools, according to Bedford Superintendent Jon Sills.

These costs are reimbursed by the State directly to the Town.

Year Students Transported Cost To District 2011-12 11 $32,185 2012-13 28 $29,262.38 

The cost for the 2012-2013 school year include the summer, September and October of 2012. According to Sills, there is additional $9,500 unpaid bill for October 2012 due to additional students transported. 

If the trend for the 2012-13 school year continues, the cost of transporting students from homeless families could climb to anywhere from $150,000 to $180,000, according to Sills.

Other costs include hours spent by teachers and other school personnel with students from the families and costs for translator and interpreters for the students. 

The cost of translators for students from homeless families in Bedford schools for the 2012-13 school year to date is $1,569.32.

Between transporting the students from homeless families to school and the costs of translators and interpretors, the cost of having these students in Bedford schools is at least $40,336.95 to date for this school year. 

According to the Globe report, the state plans to find permanent housing for the families currently in hotels across the Commonwealth as the program comes to a close in 2012.

However, housing experts fear permanent housing may not be found for all program participants as the number of families in the program jumped from 771 in December 2010 to 1,700 in December 2012. 

The decision to bring the program to a close comes as the economic downturn stretched the program to its 2,000 hotel room limit, according to the Globe. 

Aaron Gornstein, undersecretary for DHCD, told the Globe the program is not an "efficient" use of taxpayer money.

While the program gives needy families shelter, it leaves them without places for their children to play or to cook a meal, and burdens taxpayers with a hefty bill, according to the Globe. The program costs state taxpayers $45 million annually.

The program also places families in hotels in Framingham, Chelmsford, Burlington, Bedford, Danvers, Malden, Marlborough, Natick, Northborough, Tewksbury, Woburn and Framingham,according to the Massachusetts State Auditor's Office. 

Originally, the program was meant as temporary shelter for families, but some have stayed more than a year, according to the Globe.

Despite the plans to end the program, housing advocates believe some families may no have no place to go when they lose their hotel rooms, according to the Globe. Several months ago, the state tightened requirements for emergency shelter which some housing advocates say will result in families living in their cars, the Globe reported.  

The state is already working on help for impacted families, planning to make  1,000 “supportive” housing units available for families, according to the Globe. Also, last year the state created a program to provide eligible families financial assitance to avoid becoming homeless or find new and permanent housing, according to the Globe. 

Stay tuned to Bedford Patch for more on the program placing homeless families in the Bedford Plaza Hotel and the impact on Bedford taxpayers.

 

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