Submitted by Bedford’s State Representative Ken Gordon
Two weeks after Rep. Ken Gordon organized meetings in Boston including key state and town officials and persuaded the Commonwealth to reduce the number of families assigned to Bedford Plaza Hotel, the number of families has been reduced.
According to Bedford Plaza hotel manager Sal Patel and the Department of Housing and Community Development (“DHCD”), six families have been transferred away from the Bedford Plaza since the meeting, and the number of school aged-children has been reduced by eight. DHCD undersecretary Aaron Gornstein confirmed that no new families have been assigned to the Bedford Plaza in that time, an DHCD has no plans to assign any new families.
“This is welcome news to town officials dealing with the strain of educating or transporting more than 100 children assigned by DHCD,” said Rep. Gordon, who plans to file a bill in the legislature this week to provide impact aid for communities hosting more than a proportionate share of homeless families in transition. “Just relying on the math, it is an average of almost one family every other day. These families have been moved to permanent housing, so everyone wins.
“I am grateful for the help of Senator Mike Barrett, who has been there from the beginning, and I appreciate that Undersecretary Gornstein and House Ways and Means Chair Brian Dempsey listened to the issues facing Bedford and were receptive to our proposed solutions, which provided that Bedford would do its part to address the homelessness crisis that challenges the Commonwealth, but could not continue to do more than its part.”
Gordon explained that program-wide, the number of school-aged children is almost equal to the number of families, so he is not surprised that the number of children leaving the school system is not much higher than the number of families leaving the hotel.
“Progress is being made,” he said. “We cannot predict the number of families who will seek shelter in the coming months, or the number of motel units that may become available in that time, so if I was to predict how fast families would be transferred from the hotel it would be unreliable. But the proof that DHCD is addressing our concern is that the department did not wait to begin reducing the number of families.”
On October 3, 2013 Gordon joined Bedford selectmen Margot Fleischman and Mike Rosenberg, school superintendent Jon Sills, town manager Rick Reed and others to report to more than 300 residents that the number of families at the Bedford Plaza would begin to be reduced, as they had obtained the assurance of DHCD that no new families would be assigned to the hotel as families were placed in more permanent housing. The assurances came at meetings with state government officials involving Reed, Sills and resident Ann Guay. They reported that DHCD promised they would begin to transition some families to other facilities.
More than 100 residents attended Gordon’s regularly scheduled office hours at town hall two weeks prior to that forum, reporting then that he had discovered that Bedford housed more transitional families than any town or city other than Brockton or Chicopee, which are larger communities with more schools. Bedford was tied with Brighton with respect to the number of school-aged children housed in their communities. Before meeting with state officials, Gordon created graphs that showed the number of school-aged children housed in Bedford compared with other communities in the Commonwealth, and how Bedford housed twice as many school-aged children as a proportion of its population.
“The reaction was impressive,” Gordon said. “Chairman Dempsey said that our approach was reasonable and persuasive. I told him Bedford does not want to eliminate the Bedford Plaza from the program, just reduce the number of families so that it was comparable to the number of families housed in other towns in proportion to their population. Undersecretary Gornstein was prepared to address our concerns and provide his promise of a reduction in the number of families then and there.”
Gordon welcomes residents with further questions to his next scheduled office hours, Saturday, Oct. 26, 2013 at Prince Street Café at 200 Great Road in Bedford, or in the alternative at True North, Cambridge Street, Burlington.