Thursday, November 7, 2013

A rat in the pool: Does protesting injustice make a difference?

A few things of note from yesterday:

I missed a call from a woman from the Econolodge welfare motel, who had just taken a photo of a rat in the motel's swimming pool......I hope to reach her today and will post her photo if I can.

Then we got a call from the Chicopee Police Department-- it was pretty noisy in the office, but I'm pretty sure the caller said he was Police Chief Charette.  He wanted to let us know that the Econolodge owner had called and, not surprisingly, we are NOT allowed on the Econolodge property.  The chief was concerned about where we would stand for our protest, as the street is very busy and there is no sidewalk. He said the owner felt like he was being unfairly targeted.  He said the owner has plans to tear down the motel and build a Comfort Inn.  More power to him.

Of course the Econolodge is not our primary target-- it's the head in the sand homeless and housing policy of the Department of Housing and Community Development.  It's always tricky protesting a welfare motel, because the last thing we want to have happen is for DHCD to close motels as long as they are needed.  This is what happened two years ago (not as a result of protests) when DHCD policies about shelter eligibility lead to a denial rate of homeless families of about 60%.  (We'll have to make sure we ask for the current denial rate in our FOIA request.)  But assuming for a moment that the denial rate is the same, and knowing there are about 4,200 families in shelters and motels, then we can assume there are close to 11,000 homeless families in Massachusetts.You understand that DHCD is not saying these families aren't homeless-- just that they don't meet the eligibility criteria.

We did hear yesterday that 100 new shelter beds are coming online in Western Mass, to be managed by the Center for Human Development and the New England Farmworkers Council.  That's good news.  But it's still a bandaid on a bandaid. If we can't stop the market trend of ever-increasing rents, then we're going to need permanent subsidies and massive investment in new housing.

Last but scarcely least, we got a call yesterday from staff at Worthington St. Shelter, saying they had "good news" for Lisa, and that she should get in touch.  Now all we have to do is find her.

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