Lost in the Woods: Housing Crisis Pushing More People Into Encampments
Massachusetts is experiencing a housing crisis that is leaving many individuals and families homeless and forcing them to live in encampments. The unhoused population has grown rapidly in the state, according to Leah Bradley, CEO of the Central Mass Housing Alliance. Many cities in Worcester County have seen an increase in homelessness of up to 46% over the past few years. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made matters worse, with the unsheltered population rising and making it difficult for outreach workers to reach those in need.
Encampments: A Last Resort for Many
Alex Medina is an outreach worker in Lowell, Massachusetts, who visits almost a dozen homeless encampments across the city each week. His work not only involves providing the usual supplies like blankets and food but also picking up used syringes and handing out harm-reduction supplies like wound kits, which are particularly needed with xylazine prevalent in the drug supply. Medina has become a support system for many, as most of them have burned bridges with their families and are no longer able to stay there.
One such encampment is run by Robert Waylein, who has been living there for the past decade. Despite his efforts to find a stable job, his two-time conviction has made it difficult to secure one. Waylein and the others in the camp are always on the lookout for employment opportunities, but it’s a struggle.
Another encampment is home to Cambodian immigrants who have been living there for the last few months. They have experienced thefts from other camp residents, making the situation dangerous and stressful.
Ann Isler-Korbaj, a grandmother of 12, previously owned a house in Florida. However, financial problems led to her living in an encampment in the Massachusetts woods. She also received a Section 8 voucher, but due to her past rental history and owning a house before, landlords are hesitant to rent her a place. Thus, she and many others have found themselves living in encampments as a last resort.
– According to data released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, since the COVID-19 pandemic started, the unhoused population living in shelters has gone down, while the unsheltered population has gone up.
– Data on the unhoused population living in encampments for 2022 released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development will not be released until later this year.
The housing crisis in Massachusetts has left many people homeless and living in encampments, making outreach work more difficult and dangerous. The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened the crisis, with the unsheltered population increasing. The state government must take immediate action to provide affordable housing for the unhoused, supported by mental health treatment, job training, and community services to prevent homelessness from becoming a vicious cycle.
The situation in Massachusetts is dire, with the unhoused population growing rapidly. Homelessness can happen to anyone due to various reasons such as financial difficulties, criminal records, or mental health problems. As a society, we must work together to provide affordable housing and support to prevent homelessness from threatening the well-being of our communities. We need to demand our government to take action and stop turning a blind eye to the issue of homelessness. Everyone deserves a roof over their head and a place to call home.