Homeless Stage Sleep-In At Statehouse
CHRISTOPHER B. DALY
Mar. 21, 1987
BOSTON (AP) _ More than 200 homeless women and children who camped overnight in the Statehouse pleaded today with legislators for more money so they can afford a place to live.
The families, who came from throughout the state, had taken over the elegant Doric Hall, one floor below the office of Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, as a way to dramatize their demand for higher welfare benefits.
After spending the night in what they dubbed the ''Golden Dome Shelter,'' after the gold-leaf dome of the Statehouse, the families went to a House Ways and Means Committee budget hearing this morning.
''There's roughly 250 here,'' Capitol Police Sgt. Jim Horgan said shortly after 2 a.m. ''About 200 adults and about 50 children.''
''It is a shame that I have to come out here and tell everybody that I am homeless,'' Klare Allen, a homeless mother, lamented during a rally outside the building Friday.
She and other speakers criticized the governor for not requesting more than a 6 percent increase in Aid to Families with Dependent Children in next year's state budget.
''I need a 50 percent raise, to tell you the truth,'' Ms. Allen said. ''I need all the money I can get.''
Katherine Mainzer, executive director of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, said current AFDC benefits in Massachusetts, which average just under $500 a month for a family of three, are 37 percent below the federally defined poverty level despite Boston's high rents.
Mainzer said it was ironic that Dukakis was in Washington moderating a panel on child welfare Friday afternoon when the homeless families converged on the Statehouse.
State Human Services Secretary Philip Johnston defended the Dukakis administration, noting a 32 percent rise in AFDC benefits in the past four years and nearly $1 billion in housing proposals.
''We cannot win this battle alone,'' Johnston said. ''The federal government must renew its commitment to families and once again become a partner in our effort to provide decent, affordable housing to every citizen in Massachusetts.''
The homeless coalition won a court ruling that ordered the state to increase benefits to a level roughly double the current benefits, but the state is appealing.
Elsewhere, most of about 200 squatters camped along the Salt River in Phoenix, Ariz., abandoned the site to comply with a court order, but 16 homeless people, including two ministers, stayed and were arrested Friday.
Authorities declared the site a public nuisance on health and sanitary grounds and because of neighborhood complaints of vandalism and theft. The Rev. Harold Kueneman, who was charged with trespassing, said a small wooden shack along the river was his church.
In Los Angeles, a panel of local congressmen held a hearing at which officials told them the city is turning into the homeless capital of the nation.
''It is not confined to the Skid Row area,'' City Councilman Ernani Bernardi testified Friday. ''It's too common a sight to see helpless, homeless unkempt people everywhere, pushing shopping carts that, in effect, are their homes.''