Chronic homelessness has doubled in western Mass.
Greta Jochem is reporting for The Berkshire Eagle across all four western Massachusetts counties, more than 2,800 people faced homelessness one night in February, more than double the previous year. "We have nowhere near enough housing and then our renters spend far more than what is reasonable on housing costs," said Keleigh Pereira, director of the Three County Continuum of Care. The number of people found to be chronically homeless across western Massachusetts more than doubled this year, jumping from 118 to 303 people. The data is collected annually in the Point-in-Time Count, a survey for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "Our chronically homeless number is very high and the highest it's been in this five-year period," Gerry McCafferty, director of Springfield's Office of Housing and the Hampden Continuum of Care. While the number of homeless families stayed about the same, the number of homeless individuals have increased since 2021. Overall, risk factors for homelessness increased during the pandemic, McCafferty said. "The pandemic continues to take a severe toll." And homelessness is impacting people of color more. Compared to the general western Massachusetts population, there are 2.6 times the number of black people and three times the number of Hispanic and Latino people who are homeless, McCafferty said. Construct, a southern Berkshire housing nonprofit, has 77 units of permanent housing available in the southern Berkshires and 800 households on the waiting list, said Jane Ralph, the organization's executive director. The wait list has always been long, but it has increased over the last several months. While Berkshire County housing groups are working to address the need, there are not enough resources, she said. Housing stock needs to be increased, Keith Fairey, president and CEO of Wayfinders, a regional housing organization. "We need more supply," he said. "We need to decrease the local barriers in our region. ...We need to work together toward that vision." Read the full story in The Berkshire Eagle.