The Boston Globe reported Wednesday on how record numbers of families are now being sheltered in motels.
In October 2007, 27 families were housed in Massachusetts motels. The number rose steeply in the last year, as the economy collapsed, many became unemployed, and foreclosures skyrocketed. The number of families sheltered in motels went from just over 100 in May 2008, to 751 families (including 1,000 children) in 39 motels as of June 2009.
This is necessary because there just aren’t enough places to rehouse people right now. But one effect is that people are living in places not equipped for cooking, bringing up children, or other aspects of daily life.
One of the problems people rehoused in motels often face, according to the article, is bed bugs:
The city’s health department is concerned about bedbugs, after complaints from residents and reports from school nurses that children from the [Cambridge Gateway Inn] motel appeared to have suffered bites. Sam Lipson, director of environmental health for the Cambridge Public Health Department, said officials worked with the motel in February to address the problems and have heard no new complaints. But hotel guests might be reluctant to complain for fear of being forced out, he added.
“They should feel confident that reporting the presence of bedbugs won’t put them at any risk,’’ Lipson said.
Of course, bed bugs are a problem now in many shelters as well as in permanent housing of every kind (from subsidized affordable units to fancy condos and mansions).
But the state does need to be accountable for keeping people safe and in appropriate housing.
And people living in any kind of housing should not have to worry they will be kicked out if they report the presence of bed bugs.