Number of homeless families in Massachusetts has doubled since 2008

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A Boston Foundation study reports that the number of families who entered emergency housing system grew in Massachusetts in 2016. —File photo by Sam Moore

Since 2008, Massachusetts has experienced one of the largest increases in family homelessness in the nation. A Boston Foundation report disclosed the information, based upon the rise in the number of Bay State families receiving emergency housing assistance, the State House News Service reports.

On the other hand, the number of homeless families nationwide has been decreasing steadily since 2012, declining by 22 percent since 2007.

Families and children make up the largest group of homeless or people on the brink of homelessness in Massachusetts. There are 13,000 people who experience family homelessness on a given day in the state, and children under 18 years of age account for 60 percent — roughly 7,800 children.

The Boston Foundation study found that in 2016, 4,794 families entered the emergency assistance system, in addition to 3,560 whose enrollment continued from a previous year.

Families who entered a shelter in 2008 stayed an average of 247 days, while those entering in 2013 stayed 360 days. The report found that families with longer stays are more likely to have a female head of household who is African American or Hispanic.

To help families leave shelters more quickly and be more likely to find stable housing, the foundation recommended helping working families save money while in a shelter, assessing job skills, providing job training, and allocating more resources to help families find housing in challenging housing markets.

Gov. Charlie Baker, in his State of the Commonwealth address last month, said the number of homeless families sheltered in hotels and motels has fallen from more than 1,500 to fewer than 100 in the past two years. He said his administration works with housing authorities and other providers to help families avoid homelessness when it begins for them.