The National Public Radio Affiliate in Boston – WBUR – did a story last week on hotel-based shelter during the pandemic titled “Hotel-based homeless shelters changed lives in pandemic. Some want them to be a model moving forward” that featured success in Holyoke and Springfield, as well as Boston. You can listen here and below is an excerpt:
“This is a new piece of strategy that really helped,” said Gerry McCafferty, director of housing for the city of Springfield. McCafferty said Springfield hired outreach workers shortly after the pandemic started to ask people living outside if they wanted to stay in a motel or hotel.
People responded, ” ‘Oh, yeah, that I’ll go to. I won’t go to a shelter, but that I’ll go to, sure,’ ” she recalled from the outreach workers’ accounts.
“I can’t think of a single instance where someone said no,” McCafferty said. “We found someone in a park here who had been severely mentally ill and had been really off the grid, and had been living outside for 13 years … never interested in any conversation. [He was] never interested in any services, but the hotel room, he was willing to take. And he’s someone who is now moving toward housing.”
That’s happened over and over again, according to McCafferty. Advocates and leaders in Springfield have found it much easier to bring people into hotel- and motel-based shelters. And, they’ve seen more success moving people out of those facilities and into permanent housing with supportive services.
City officials examined data over a 22-month period that ended in April and found 46% of people who left local hotel shelters did so to enter permanent housing. By contrast, just 16% of people who stopped staying at the traditional adult homeless shelters in the area left them to enter permanent housing.