Springfield – State Senate Candidate Melvin Edwards is proposing an overhaul of the system currently used to house homeless families in motels in the Hampden District.
"The system we are using now is not working, in fact it is doing harm to both our communities and the families it is designed to help" said Edwards.
Under the current system, motels, many of which are located in West Springfield and Chicopee, are paid 3,000 dollars a month for each unit occupied by a homeless family.
But Edwards says that placing families in welfare motels does nothing to change the situation of homelessness in Western Massachusetts.
"We have a homelessness crisis in Western Massachusetts. The numbers of homelessness are rising dramatically. There are entire hotels that have stopped renting to the tourist population because they are filled to capacity with homeless families" Said Edwards "We have not, as of yet, put any tools in place to combat this crisis. This needs to change."
Edwards says the current system that is in place actually harms the surrounding community and the homeless population.
"Simply warehousing the homeless will not solve this crisis. In fact, it leads to crime, drugs, and a never ending cycle of poverty." Said Edwards.
Edwards is proposing that the state cease placing homeless families in welfare motels, and instead begin investing that money in abandoned, foreclosed, and tax title properties in the community to house the homeless.
"Any market rate apartment in Springfield or the surrounding communities is going to cost well below the 3,000 dollars we are paying each month per homeless family in a welfare motel." Edwards said "Instead let’s invest that money in homes that would otherwise fall into disrepair in the communities. In restoring these properties we will not only add them back to the tax rolls and provide housing, but we will be improving the communities where they are located. Where abandoned properties are copious, so is crime."
Edwards went on to point out the shortcomings of housing homeless families in welfare motels.
"Not only are we spending far too much tax payer money, but we are getting very little for what we are paying" said Edwards "If we place a single mother with two children in a hotel unit, she is equipped with what? A bed? A television? At the most a microwave or a hot plate. How can she cook her children a nutritious breakfast and
send them off to school?" said Edwards "If we move these families into real homes, with a kitchen, then she can feed her children a real meal and send them off to school. They can have a chance to be truly successful."
Edwards went on to point out the extravagant cost of bussing that will be eliminated if we place children in neighborhood schools instead of bussing them to and from West Springfield and Chicopee motels.
Edwards does not want to just relocate homeless families though, he wants to use the money that will be saved by eliminating the hotel costs to end the cycle that the welfare motels create.
"Placing a family in a welfare motel or just giving them housing does not make them employable." Said Edwards "With the money we will save by eliminating the hotel costs, we can reinvest those funds in job training programs to make the homeless more employable, let’s give them the tools they need to be successful."
Of course a portion of the saved funds would be returned to the tax payers.
"We won’t be spending all the money we save, a portion of the savings will be passed on to the taxpayer. We need to reduce our spending when possible. This will benefit tax payers." Said Edwards.
In a recent article by the Republican, Edwards opponent was confronted with the issue of rising homeless numbers in welfare motels (MassLive - Shelter Tenants Increase at Area Motels, 7/9/12).
"My opponents ‘solution’ to this crisis is ‘tighter residency restrictions’" said Edwards. "That is not a solution. That will reduce the number of homeless in hotels, yes, but those families rejected from the system to be placed in hotels will be on the street. That solves nothing."
"That represents weak leadership by my opponent. That is a failure to the people of the Hampden District. We need long term solutions to put people back to work and prevent homelessness. I propose solutions, not empty rhetoric." finished Edwards.