Chicopee and state leaders discuss homelessness in city - Western Mass News - WGGB/WSHM

Chicopee and state leaders discuss homelessness in city

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On Thursday, state officials said Massachusetts has seen a 10 percent decline in its homeless population since the start of the year.

But those numbers do not reflect what has been happening in the city.

For Mayor Richard Kos, the homeless situation has been front and center often since he took office earlier this year.

Within a matter of months, he said he was in the state's ear about what was going on.

"We brought this issue to the state's attention in March," said Kos. "Since then, there's been a 30 to 40 percent increase in our presence here in our city."

With that increase, Kos said around 11 percent of the Massachusetts homeless population lives in Chicopee.

Earlier this year, officials said 170 homeless families were living in three hotels in the city: the Days Inn and Quality Inn on Memorial Drive, as well as the Econo Lodge on Burnett Road.

The mayor said currently there are 450 children living in the hotels.

Of those, 250 are school age, which put a strain on the city as the school year was already underway.

"They need to be educated," said Kos. "So, we're doing that, but the challenges are trying to find the resources, hiring personnel and hiring teachers one week into the school year."

Thursday, Kos and state legislators met with the Massachusetts Undersecretary for Housing and Community Development Aaron Gornstein, who said along with additional funds to help the homeless find permanent housing, the state is committing to help with more resources.

"Just working more closely with the families on a daily basis," said Gornstein. "Every single day, we'll have staff in there working with each family in a very intensive way, [which] will help on the whole re-housing effort and the whole stabilization."

Gornstein said a homeless family's average length of stay statewide is seven months and that might not change for a while.

"Until that demand subsides somewhat, which we hope will occur as the economy improves, then we're going to be faced with a challenge on sheltering families every day," said Gornstein.

CBS 3 attempted to speak with a representative from each of the three hotels, but they did not want to go on camera.

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