State officials announced this week that the homeless families living in Danvers hotels and motels will be moved into more permanent housing over the next year.
The state Dept. of Housing and Community Development said the program, which started during the 1980s, would end by June 30, 2014.
Bill Clark, chairman of the Danvers Board of Selectmen, said it still remains to be seen exactly how the transition occurs.
"They're giving themselves a year and a half to get it settled," he said.
Much of what he knows about the state's plans have come from press reports, but he expects to get an update from Town Manager Wayne Marquis when the Board of Selectmen meet on Thursday night.
"It's a very encouraging step," Clark said.
While the program gives needy families shelter, it leaves them without places for their children to play or to cook a meal, and burdens taxpayers with a hefty bill, according to the Globe. The program costs state taxpayers $45 million annually.
The lack of a place for children to play helped create Project Sunshine in Danvers, an award-winning program where the town Recreation Program hosts a summer camp for the children living in motels and hotels in town.
Seperately, Danvers this year has budgeted $160,000 for bus costs to transport students back to schools in their hometowns.
In Danvers, the families reside at Days Inn, Extended Stay America, Knights Inn and Motel 6.
If the moves goes ahead as scheduled, it could have a positive effect on the fiscal 2014 budget, Clark said.
With the closing, the state plans to bolster efforts to find permanent housing and prevent homelessness, according to the Boston Globe in a story about the announcement on Wednesday. However, housing advocates fear permanent housing for program participants may never be found, according to the Globe.
The decision comes as the economic downturn stretched the program to its 2,000 hotel room limit, according to the Globe.
Aaron Gornstein, undersecretary for DHCD, told the Globe the program is not an "efficient" use of taxpayer money.
The program also places families in hotels in Framingham, Chelmsford, Burlington, Bedford, Malden, Marlborough, Natick, Northborough, Tewksbury, Woburn and Framingham, according to the Massachusetts State Auditor's Office.
Originally, the program was meant as temporary shelter for families, but some have stayed more than a year, according to the Globe.
Despite the plans to end the prorgram, housing advocates believe some families may no have no place to go when they lose their hotel rooms, according to the Globe. Several months ago, the state tightened requirements for emergency shelter which some housing advocates say will result in families living in their cars, the Globe reported.
The state is already working on help for impacted families, planning to make 1,000 “supportive” housing units available for families, according to the Globe. Also, last year the state created a program to provide eligible families financial assitance to avoid becoming homeless or find new and permanent housing, according to the Globe.
The move comes as the number of families in hotels statewide has jumped recently. In December 2010, 771 families were in hotels rooms. By December 2012, around 1,700 families were in hotels.