Yvonne Abraham’s column (“A safety net that leaves them out,” Page A1, Oct. 7) highlights the need for thoughtful assessment of families seeking housing through Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development programs. It is important, however, not to let an admittedly tragic situation that the column describes diminish the valuable contribution that the recently redesigned system has made to help bring an end to family homelessness in Massachusetts.
Some families clearly need emergency shelter, some may be able to turn to family or other resources in the community, and some are ready for more permanent housing choices. The department’s flexible array of programs helps us and each family to put a housing plan into action and to connect the family to critical support services that will help them sustain their housing.
We support the work of advocates such as the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute who ensure that families do not fall between bureaucratic cracks. When situations such as the one Abraham described arise, it is our collective responsibility to respond quickly and respectfully to meet family needs. Our experience with the department is that the agency operates in good faith and responds appropriately to extremely challenging situations.
We applaud the Patrick-Murray administration for changing the emphasis away from emergency shelter to more permanent housing options.
Sadly, emergency shelter is occasionally necessary and must be available. However, long-term shelter as a way of life is a failed model, and the new approach is a big step in the right direction.