Concentrating poverty in our cities

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The Globe reports in “Warehouse for the Poor” that Holyoke and other cities in Western Massachusetts are serving as destination cities for the poor and homeless, who are nudged there by the state agencies.

Holyoke’s homeless shelters can accommodate four times the number of families per capita than homeless shelters in Boston. And when shelters are full in other places, the state Department of Transitional Assistance sends homeless families to shelters with open spots, often in Holyoke. Last year, 40 families from the Boston metropolitan area were referred to Holyoke, Sullivan said.

“Our goal is to place families as close to the local office as possible, based on the availability of units,” said Alison Goodwin, a spokeswoman for the state Executive Office of Health and Human Services, which oversees the agency. But if local shelters are full, state regulations require that homeless families be housed in the first unit available, Goodwin said.

Agencies operating emergency shelters in Holyoke received more than $4 million from the state in fiscal year 2008, Goodwin said.

As you have now grown to expect, Pioneer had the story first. Yup, right here, folks. Not just once, but twice. Mayor Sullivan of Holyoke is right to note that he cannot realistically turn away families and individuals in need. But the state has to stop concentrating poverty in our cities–especially older industrial cities which already face any number of fiscal, education, public safety and economic problems.

If we are serious about addressing poverty, it must be dealt with statewide. Otherwis, we create poverty traps for generations to come. Folks, where’s the plan?