Baker Administration Accused of Denying Motel Rooms to Homeless Mothers

A lawsuit alleges the Guv put the state's vulnerable at risk to fulfill a campaign promise.

Charlie Baker

Charlie Baker Photo via AP

On the campaign trail, Gov. Charlie Baker vowed to end the practice of placing homeless families in hotels and motels at the state’s expense when shelters are full. After presiding over a dramatic drop in the number of families receiving such emergency shelter, Baker now faces a lawsuit from five homeless mothers alleging his administration illegally denied housing to the state’s most vulnerable.

The suit, filed in Suffolk Superior Court by Greater Boston Legal Services lawyers on behalf of the mothers, alleges the Baker administration denied their legal right to shelter in order to fulfill the Guv’s campaign promise. The state “seeking unlawfully to reduce the demand for shelter placements” by not immediately placing eligible families, “which in turn enables the agency to assert that there is no longer a need for motel placements,” the lawsuit reads.


Paul McMorrow, a spokesman for the Department of Housing and Community Development, firmly denied the charges.

“The administration is proud of its record rehousing and resheltering thousands of homeless children, reducing the number of families sheltered in motel rooms from 1,500 to under 160,” McMorrow told the Globe. “Massachusetts is the only state in the nation that offers homeless children a right to shelter, and DHCD has consistently upheld that right, and acted in compliance with the law, while substantially reducing the state’s reliance on motel shelters.”

As the nation’s only right-to-shelter state, Massachusetts provides emergency housing in a shelter or motel for those living near or below the federal poverty line, who can show they have been displaced for any number of reasons, from domestic violence to no-fault evictions. State housing data indicates there are 157 homeless families living in motels, down from roughly 1,500 when Baker took office in January 2015.

You can read the full lawsuit here.