NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

PortWatch

December 5, 2012

As winter nears, nonprofit officials fear impact of spending cuts

(Continued)

“Unfortunately, as we all know, the economic recovery has been slow and a bit uneven. Many residents are struggling to make ends meet,” said Blake Jordan, executive director of the Highland Street Foundation, one of founding organizations of MassNeeds.

A lack of affordable housing compounds problems for many people struggling to pay rents or mortgages in a tough economy, Joe Finn, executive director of Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance, said.

“It is no secret that here in Massachusetts over the past decade or so, we have had a serious issue around the supply of housing,” Finn said. “This is a problem that impacts all of our lives. If you are poorer, it becomes a far greater crisis, often developing into homelessness.”

On Monday night, about 16,000 men, women and children were homeless across the state, Finn said.

For many people, living in a shelter has become a way of life, Finn said, adding his organization recently found housing for a 74-year-old woman who lived in shelters for 15 years. After she was placed in permanent housing, she was diagnosed with cancer, he said.

Many in their own homes cannot afford to heat them, according to Kathy Tobin, energy programs director for Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD). With oil at about $4 a gallon, it costs approximately $800 to fill an oil tank that could heat a home for about a month and a half, Tobin said.

“We are very concerned about how people will be able to get through the winter when we are looking at not just higher fuel costs, but the change in weather,” with temperatures expected to be colder this year than last, Tobin said.

The ABCD sees less federal money coming in to help, and additional funds they had hoped for from the state to fill the gap do not look likely, Tobin said, as the Patrick administration announced Tuesday midyear cutbacks because tax revenues are not meeting benchmarks.

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