FOX UNDERCOVER (MyFoxBoston.com) -- Living in a budget hotel room is supposed to be temporary housing for homeless families, but new information released by the state shows that nearly 400 homeless families have been living in hotels – free of charge – for more than a year, with some families living in hotels since 2011.
The new information comes as a lawmaker is touting a bill he has filed that would stop out-of-state families from being able to secure taxpayer-subsidized emergency housing. FOX Undercover reported yesterday that about 250 families – 12 percent of all families that have obtained emergency housing in hotels – had an out-of-state address as their last address.
"To have 10 to 15 percent of all the people that are housed in hotels and motels just moving in in a matter of a few days just seems wrong to me," state Rep. Ted Speliotis, D-Danvers, said on the FOX 25 Morning News.
Speliotis' bill would require people to be residents for six months before being eligible for emergency hotel housing. The bill would also suspend the program if the state's unemployment rate falls to six percent or less.
He says Massachusetts' policies make the state a magnet for people from other parts of the country.
"If you're in a desperate state, and you're a thousand miles away and you know there's a guaranteed roof over your head and you just travel a couple of days away or take a train ride away, why wouldn't you do that?" he said.
Gov. Patrick acknowledges he's not happy with using hotels for emergency shelter, but says the numbers of families in hotels is decreasing.
"We have a law here and a policy commitment that goes back a long, long time that anybody who needs shelter should get it. Fortunately the numbers of families in motels is going down. But I hate that as a solution," he said today.
While the number of families is down slightly to about 2,000 families in hotels compared to a peak of 2,200 last summer, the state has spent more money than ever under Gov. Patrick's watch on the emergency assistance program. The state spent $46 million dollars last year and is on track to spend the same this year.
And FOX Undercover's investigation found more problems with the program: a Level 3 sex offender, Gladimy Fleuranvil, convicted of raping a 3-year-old girl in 2002 was placed in taxpayer-subsidized emergency housing at the Best Western in Marlboro – in a room he shared with two children.
"This is a Level 3 sex offender living with two small children. So I think we have to do a better job in screening these families when they're coming out and making sure that we're not putting other children and other families at risk," said Marlboro Mayor Arthur Vigeant.
"How the heck did a Level 3 sex offender get placed there?" Beaudet asked him.
"I can't answer that," Vigeant replied.
Aaron Gornstein, Massachusetts Undersecretary for Housing and Community Development, which runs the state's emergency assistance program, said the screening process includes looking for sex offenders but wouldn't say how the Marlboro offender was missed.
"Shouldn't the state have known he was there?" Beaudet asked him.
"I think we followed all the procedures that were in place," Gornstein replied.
"I don't understand. How did he get in there if you're screening?" Beaudet asked.
"I can't talk about the specifics of this particular case, but I can tell you that the procedures were followed," Gornstein replied.