‘Status Quo Isn't Working': Healey Weighs in on NBC10 Housing Crisis Investigations

As the country’s only right-to-shelter state, Massachusetts guarantees housing to families in need but the financial cost is staggering.

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The NBC10 Investigators spoke one-on-one with Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey about the state’s housing crisis. During the past few months our team has been looking into the challenges and struggles facing homeless families and the department trying to help them find shelter.

Healey says she has big concerns because the system is already at capacity and more and more people need help.

“Hotels isn’t an ideal situation. It costs a lot of money, and the system really wasn’t built to handle what the numbers are looking like today, that’s the reality,” she said.

Hundreds of homeless families are being housed in hotel shelters by the Department of Housing and Community Development. The rooms were supposed to be a temporary solution but the state’s housing crisis has left many of these families stuck living in challenging conditions for more than six months.

One mother of three young children who was living in the Baymont Hotel in Kingston said, “It’s just not enough space for three kids. Kills me, my son said 'where’s my home?' the other day. I don’t know what to say, it’s just awful.”

Healey told us, “People can’t get out of a hotel or get out of shelter space because there simply isn’t housing out there for them to go to. So that’s also what we’ve got to work on. It’s why we’ve got to build tens of thousands of housing units across the state.”

While the Department of Housing and Community Development struggles to find emergency shelter for families in need, sources say state investigations are underway involving complaints against upper management and concerns about how cases are being handled.

State data obtained by the NBC10 Investigators shows the system is overwhelmed. There are only forty homeless coordinators handling the entire state caseload for DHCD with almost 6,000 new applications for emergency shelter filed last year. Since January the state has only been able to find permanent housing for five of the families living in hotels.

“This cannot be a sustainable situation right now, right? The status quo isn’t working right now," the governor said. "We’ve got numbers coming in that exceed the capacity that we have right now in terms of staffing and places for people to go."

As the country’s only right-to-shelter state, Massachusetts guarantees housing to families in need but the financial cost is staggering. Our investigations found the state was paying a premium price per night for many of the hotel rooms and local cities and towns are also left with some of the burden.

When asked what her number one concern in the housing crisis is Healey responded, “Not enough housing."

"We’ve got to get production going and that’s going to require participation and investment from developers, from the state, our local communities right," she said. "We all gotta work together to just build, build, build across the state.”

The governor said she created a housing secretary to make this a priority. We asked her about the investigations into upper management and employee concerns at DHCD, and she said she wants to make sure every state employee is treated well and working under appropriate conditions.

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