Sun, Jul 12, 2009 - Page 7 News List

FEATURE : Homeless move into hotels

REUTERS , CAMBRIDGE, MASSACHUSETTS

Some Americans are swapping homes for motels as the ranks of the homeless swell during the recession, crowding out shelters and forcing cities and states across the country to find new types of housing.

In Massachusetts, a record number of families are being put up in motels due to high unemployment and the rising number of homes going into foreclosure, costing taxpayers US$2 million per month but providing a lifeline for desperate families.

“I feel like this has saved my life,” said Tarya Seagraves-Quee, a 37-year-old former nurse.

Seagraves-Quee has lived in a cramped one-bedroom suite in a hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with three of her four children for nearly two months.

“I’m managing the best way possible. I’ve learned to make things in the microwave oven,” she said.

In Massachusetts, homeless shelters are at capacity. State law requires temporary accommodation for those without shelter, leading authorities to place 830 families, including 1,125 children, in 39 motels — an unprecedented number.

Other cities are noticing a similar trend. In Indianapolis, Indiana, overcrowded homeless shelters are turning families away, forcing growing numbers to seek vouchers for hotels provided by nonprofit groups such as United Way.

In Phoenix, demand for emergency accommodation is swamping available services as the recession and spiraling foreclosures turn even more families out of their homes.

One nonprofit bought two former hotels — a Days Inn and a Super 8 — in a gritty downtown neighborhood to provide emergency accommodation for homeless and low income families.

In many cities, foreclosures are a big part of a spike in homeless and rise in families living in hotels or motels.

Nearly 80 percent of homeless services providers and advocacy agencies say at least some clients became homeless as a result of a foreclosure, according to a joint report by four of the largest US homeless advocacy groups.

Staying with family or friends and in emergency shelters were the most common post-foreclosure living conditions, followed by hotels or motels, the report said.

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