By The Republican Editorials  April 20, 2010, 12:47AM

A motel is no place to raise a secure, productive and happy family.

So we were pleased to see that the number of homeless families living in motels in Massachusetts has fallen from 1,078 in November 2009 to 836 on April 7.

Robert I. Pulster of the state Department of Housing & Community Development said the decline is a sign “we are moving the system in a positive direction.”

Pulster is right, but everyone agrees that the state has a long way to go before this problem is licked.

The 836 families living in motels in Massachusetts – including 261 in Western Massachusetts – are 836 too many. While a motel is preferable to the streets, the practice puts too many stresses on the system.

Children suffer. Many have problems in school and difficulties socializing with others. Communities where the hotels are located get saddled with unexpected education and school busing costs. In West Springfield, transportation costs quadrupled to nearly $200,000.

Paying $79 to $89 dollars a night to house a family in a motel is far more costly than finding a family an apartment. There must be a better way, and we think Massachusetts is on the right track to solving the problem.

Transferring responsibility for the homeless from the Department of Transitional Assistance to state housing officials looks like a smart move. Housing officials, as Lt. Gov. Timothy P. Murray said, have the contacts with private developers and housing agencies.

Here in Western Massachusetts, the Housing First approach works aggressively and practically to provide or preserve housing for people at risk. We hope the latest state figures are a sign that the approach is bearing fruit.

State officials deserve praise for their work, and we urge them to push harder. A motel is no place for a kid – except for a family vacation.

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