Three hour wait, three days in a row: Massachusetts shelter hotline leaves some families desperate (WBUR)
A Nov. 22 WBUR article quoted Greater Boston Legal Services attorney Liz Alfred on the difficulties families face accessing the Massachusetts family shelter system. Alfred helped a mother—recently-evicted and a survivor of domestic violence—and her child find a room at a state-run shelter, and commented on the conditions that make the system challenging to navigate. An excerpt from the article is below.
Frustrated and feeling desperate, Paula turned to Greater Boston Legal Services. A staff attorney there, Liz Alfred, emailed her contacts at the state’s shelter program. Within an hour, Alfred said they found a place for Paula and her daughter.
Unlike the system for single adults who don’t have housing, which is primarily run by nonprofits, the family shelter system in Massachusetts is run by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). There are a few nonprofit family shelters, but most families with children receive services through the state. Experts say a state-run shelter system like this is highly unusual.
The phone line troubles Paula encountered have become the norm, Alfred said. During the pandemic, the state closed field offices and directed families to apply for shelter by phone. Program staff continue to instruct people to use the hotline.
“Pre-COVID, you could go into the office, and you could sit there all day,” Alfred said. “But at least if you were there with your suitcases and your kid, there is some way that DHCD understands that they need to deal with you.”