Chronic Homelessness Just Doubled Across Western Massachusetts

According to The Berkshire Eagle’s recent article, Chronic Homelessness Just Doubled Across Western Massachusetts. Experts Are Clear About Why: The number of people found to be chronically homeless across western Massachusetts more than doubled this year, jumping from 118 to 303 people. The reasons are known. The solutions remain elusive. “We have nowhere near enough housing and then our renters spend far more than what is reasonable on housing costs,” Keleigh Pereira, director of the Three County Continuum of Care, which includes Berkshire County, told a recent gathering of people working to find answers. Overall, risk factors for homelessness like substance use, domestic violence and job loss all increased during the pandemic. The pandemic continues to take a severe toll.

Homelessness is hitting some racial groups more than others. “People of color are disproportionately represented in the homeless population,” McCafferty said. 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, she said.

That disparity is also true in the Berkshires. From 2017 to 2020 in the Berkshires, Black residents made up 2.9 percent of the county’s overall population, but 17.3 percent of the county’s homeless, according to data from the Three County Continuum of Care. Hispanic residents made up 4.6 percent of the population and 12.7 percent of the homeless, the same analysis shows. One trauma or event can lead to homelessness, Marisa Perez, program director at ServiceNet and assistant director at the Center for Human Development, told the network at its virtual session Friday.

“We don’t wake up one day and say, ‘Today I’ll become homeless,'” Perez said.

Construct, a southern Berkshire housing nonprofit, has 77 units of permanent housing units available in the southern Berkshires and 800 households on the waiting list, Jane Ralph, the organization’s executive director, told The Eagle this week.

Some of those 800 families may be on other housing waiting lists, she said. “There’s just not enough affordable or workforce housing to go around.”

“My concern is as those costs go up and other costs go up, it’s going to be harder and harder to make ends meet,” she said.

“The wait list has always been long, but it has increased over the last several months,” Ralph said. “While Berkshire County housing groups are working to address the need, there are not enough resources,” she said.

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