Governor Deval Patrick set a noble goal in 2008 of ending homelessness in Massachusetts within five years, and ambitious efforts were launched to attain that goal. That the battle has not been won testifies to the difficulty in attacking a problem whose roots are to a large degree in the national economy.
The Associated Press reported this week that the state’s shelter system is being strained by record numbers of homeless families, with about 2,000 living in hotels and motels, a costly solution the state had wanted to phase out by now. In spite of some progress, the lack of affordable housing continues to be a major problem in the state, including in the Berkshires. The state has established three programs to help the homeless find housing and pay rent and the programs are successful to a degree, just not successful enough to fully address the situation.
The root of the problem -- and so many problems -- is the essentially jobless economic recovery, in which stocks rise but the employment rate does not. A stagnant minimum wage is another factor, which could be addressed at the state and/or federal level in 2014. If people earn enough money to pay rent then they don’t need rent subsidies from the state, which reduces that burden on taxpayers. A livable wage does far more than benefit the wage-earner. It gives a jolt to the economy.