Program helps find housing solution
HomeBASE, a new state program to help place homeless families in permanent housing, has received at least 1,000 requests from families who applied at the state welfare office in Salem.
“It’s pretty astonishing,’’ said Beth Hogan, executive director of North Shore Community Action Programs in Peabody, which is managing HomeBASE for the region. “They were either homeless or on the verge of being homeless.’’
Only homeless families are eligible for help under HomeBASE (Building Alternatives to Shelter), launched statewide on Aug. 1 by the Department of Housing and Community Development.
Families who were eligible were enrolled in the program. Those who weren’t were directed to other services.
“It’s not always clear to people in distress just what their status is,’’ Hogan said.
So far, 35 families have been placed in low-cost housing, and 55 more have moved temporarily into apartments while they await a long-term placement, Hogan said.
The Lynn Housing Authority works with North Shore Community Action Programs to identify landlords across the region for short-term placements and permanent housing.
“We’ve had some wonderful landlords, many of whom we’ve had long relationships with, step up,’’ Hogan said. “A lot of people are working very hard on this.’’
Short-term placements, lasting only a few weeks, are often cheaper than motels, she said.
“The landlords know that they’re only for a couple of weeks, and many of them will prorate the monthly rental charge. It often is less expensive than a hotel,’’ she said.
The state pays an average of $80 per night to house a family in a motel. It has contracts with hotels located in 35 communities across the state, including eight north of Boston.
Since HomeBASE began two months ago, 313 families statewide have been moved from motels to permanent housing, according to the Department of Housing and Community Development.
In September, 1,465 homeless families were living in motels across the state, compared with 1,778 the prior month, state data show.
“The Commonwealth now has the ability to offer alternatives, as opposed to just sheltering people,’’ said Robert Pulster, associate director of the housing and community development. “We believe this is a viable and effective response.’’
HomeBASE provides rental assistance and household subsidies to stabilize homeless families. The program is available to families that earn 30 percent or less of the median income for Greater Boston.
The income limit for a family of four is $29,800, according to North Shore Community Action Programs.
Families are given up to $4,000 in rental and household assistance. Social workers assigned to a family determine the level of need. A family is eligible for up to three years of assistance.
“We’re trying to build some stability into a family’s housing situation,’’ Pulster said.
Locally, HomeBASE has helped to move 28 families out of motels in Danvers. As of last week, 119 homeless families were living in Danvers motels, according to the state.
Danvers officials in August criticized the state’s use of motels to house families. But state Representative Ted Speliotis, a Danvers Democrat, said the reductions show the state is serious about moving families out of motels.
“It seems like every week we make some gains,’’ Speliotis said. “It shows they are aggressively attacking the issue, and seeking alternative housing for these families.’’