Massachusetts is the only state in the country where the state, by law, is required to find housing for homeless families. But a lawsuit filed this month claims the state is failing to meet that obligation.
Earlier this year, Governor Charlie Baker made a pledge to stop using motels as temporary housing for homeless families, calling it an ineffective solution to homelessness. Since then, the number of families living in motels decreased from 1500 to 160.
But the reduction in motels as shelters is violating the state's right to shelter law, according to the suit filed on behalf of five homeless families.
Attorney Ruth Bourquin is one of the lawyers behind the lawsuit. She spoke with WGBH All Things Considered host Barabra Howard.

Interview Highlights

On what prompted the lawsuit

"Over the last several months, the administration has set a goal of eliminating motel rooms as shelter placement for homeless families. What the lawsuit is alleging, is that because they're refusing to use motels, and they haven't been able to replace motels with an adequate number of non-motel shelter placements that families who, under the law, have a right to be placed within 20 miles of their home communities and placed within a distance where their children can continue in their schools are ended up being placed very far away from their home communities. Motels often enable a placement to be made that's closer to the home community." 

On the difficulty in finding reliable and safe shelter for homeless families

"It is a very desperate situation. There's supposedly a right to shelter in Massachusetts. In fact, the eligibility criteria for shelter are very strict. Not only do people have to have very low incomes and no other place to stay, they also have to be fit into a certain category of homelessness that the very most desperate are eligible for shelter. But now we're seeing that even the people who meet those harsh standards are not being placed in a timely way or when they're being placed they're being placed much too far away from their home communities and their children's schools which is very destabilizing for these children."