KINGSTON – The number of homeless people being housed in a hotel in Kingston has grown in the last two weeks to roughly 200. It likely means that the governor-elect, Maura Healey, will have to deal with a problem that has long perplexed her predecessors: the practice of using hotels to house the homeless.
In more than two weeks, two babies have been born and brought home to the Baymont hotel, five children have enrolled in Kingston schools, and there is no near term plan to place the residents elsewhere.
“The challenge they’re having is it’s expensive, there’s a shortage of housing and frankly from what I understand there seems to be some hesitance by property owners to lease on longer term basis from the state,” said Kingston Town Administrator Keith Hickey.
For years, Governor Charlie Baker mounted a campaign to stop sheltering the homeless in hotels.
Katie Young, a tutor for School on Wheels, a non-profit serving homeless children, recalls that teaching kids in hotels was not a pretty picture.
“It was a place where the parents would just allow the children to walk down the hall and into the tutoring. They didn’t always know that the children made it there,” Young said.
Now, an immigration wave is reversing Baker’s progress. There are 230 people housed in hotels according to the latest state numbers. Massachusetts is also a right to shelter state, meaning it is mandated to provide emergency shelter to anyone who needs it.
Plymouth Area Coalition CEO, Sue Giovanetti, normally manages a family shelter in Kingston. Now, she is in charge of caring for the people at the hotel too. She says the state and local services are doing their best to provide the same quality of care to these residents as they would to people housed in shelters.
“They’re all getting personal care products as they need them, certainly diapers,” Giovanetti said, “We have 24-hour security on hand at all times, we have multiple staff onsite.”
Giovanetti said that re-housing managers have been connected with the hotel residents to discuss more permanent housing options. At the same time, the state is grappling with a housing shortage.
According to a spokesperson for the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, the Baker Administration proposed significant investments in housing which the Legislature did not pass. The Governor proposed spending $1 billion in American Rescue Plan Act funds on affordable home ownership and rental opportunities, but the Legislature approved the spending of about half of that.