For years, the Commonwealth has stuffed needy individuals and families into motels and hotels and has done little to address their permanent housing needs. An old motel room beats the woods behind Price Rite, but it is no place to raise a family.

Once upon a time, the quaint little motels that dotted Route 6 from Westport to Fairhaven were packed with tourists, drawn to the area's beaches and other attractions. Since the construction of I-195 in the 1960s, tourists have generally bypassed the area, and some of the motels that survived became notorious for other reasons.

Larger, more modern facilities have replaced the motels in serving the needs of travelers.

The Commonwealth has come to rely on some of the old motels for transitional housing for needy individuals and families. In other words, the state pays to house the needy in cramped motel rooms, most if not all of which fail to meet basic needs.

These aging motel rooms were not intended to house folks for an extended period. They have no kitchen facilities, which means residents, often without transportation, are forced to walk along Route 6 to find food and other supplies. It is not unusual to see motel residents walking along the roadway or crossing the busy highway near the Walmart store in Dartmouth.

Two pedestrians have died on Route 6 in Dartmouth since last year. The most recent death was on New Year's Eve, less than a week ago.

To its credit, the Dartmouth Board of Selectmen will examine ways to improve safety in the area. According to DartmouthWeek.com, board members recently suggested "asking the building commissioner or Board of Health to conduct inspections for overcrowding, speaking with property owners about maintaining existing sidewalks and cutting back vegetation, and requesting help on the issue from state legislators."

Improving safety for those in need who value the shelter of the old motels is a positive step. However, the Commonwealth must refocus its attention away from saving the climate and find a permanent solution to the lack of housing for low-income residents.

An old motel on Route 6 is no place to raise a family.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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