SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Homelessness rates have been increasing nationwide and here in western Massachusetts. Ahead of the winter season, local agencies are trying to match people at homeless encampment sites with needed resources.
“It’s a lot more homeless people in the street lately, in the past year I’ve seen,” said Keisha Riley of Springfield.
Recent data shows that homelessness rates throughout western Massachusetts have reached a five year high and in cities like Springfield, that’s led to an increase in encampments.
“We’re seeing an influx in these camps raising all over, in places you wouldn’t even expect it to be happening,” said Kevin Ramsdell, Executive Director of the Springfield Rescue Mission.
In Springfield, a large group occupying a site on Taylor Street has been the recent focus of the city housing authority department. Multiple agencies are working to connect individuals with resources.
“Really focusing these folks, let’s get them off the streets so that we’re not facing a crisis in the winter, has been really what the planning has been about,” said Gerry McCafferty, Director of Housing in Springfield.
One way the city does that is with a “housing first model,” which provides shelter without barriers like sobriety or treatment. A state grant has allowed this kind of shelter to be provided to some of the folks on Taylor Street. Homelessness advocates say informing people on these kinds of options is the first step toward a solution.
“What we need to do is really educate them and help show them that there are resources available out there to them. One of the goals here for us is we don’t just want to be a hand-out, we want to be a hand-up,” said Ramsdell.
If residents locate an expected homeless encampment, calling 311 is the best way to alert city agencies.