A final version of proposed new state regulations governing which homeless families qualify for emergency shelter is expected to be released today. While still not finalized, the new regulations are already being implemented—resulting, say homeless activists and advocates, in many needy families being turned away.
“Families are being left with no safe place to stay as a result of this restrictive policy,” said an email alert sent out this week by Western Mass Jobs With Justice, which urged the public to contact Gov. Deval Patrick and state legislators about their concerns. “Across Massachusetts, families are sleeping in cars, vans, parks, outdoor porches, and other unsafe places. Others are turning up in emergency rooms in unprecedented numbers, burdening our already overwhelmed health care system. The Administration says most of these families don’t need shelter from the Emergency Assistance program because ‘someone else’ will take them in. But many families have used up all their options for staying with others. And other families are being taken in by people who do them harm.”
In an interview with the Advocate this fall, Aaron Gornstein, undersecretary for the Mass. Department of Housing and Community Development, which oversees the program, denied those claims. “If they're in an emergency situation, they will get into shelter,” he said. Gornstein also said his department is sensitive to concerns about the new regulations and listening to public suggestions for revisions.