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(NECN: Kristen Carosa) - U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern spent the night away from home, but he wasn't in Washington.
He slept on a couch at a homeless shelter in Worcester, Mass.
"We need to focus more attention locally, statewide and nationally on low-income families that are struggling in this economy," said McGovern.
McGovern spent the night at Worcester's Interfaith Hospitality Network, known as IHN. It is a shelter located on June Street that serves six families.
The organization was created in 1997 and has helped nearly 300 families. The facility receives funding from federal grants and its congregational partners.
"The people who stay here - a lot of them are working, but they just earn a little bit too much to qualify for state-subsidized facilities," said McGovern.
The overnight stay is a first for McGovern and a first for the shelter. Even though this isn't something the residents are used to, Joanne Alley, the director, says they were eager to talk about their challenges.
"He has thanked us for giving him this opportunity, but we thank him back for taking the time to do this, and to find out more about IHN and more about the issues that the families are facing here," said Alley.
IHN allows families to live at the shelter for no cost. There are no income requirements or time limits on their stays, but they do have to work and save money so that they can move on to affordable housing.
But making that transition isn't easy.
"The demand is just far greater than the supply of shelter spaces, and we really need to do something about it," said Alley.
McGovern says he's learned a lot, and he plans on taking his findings to Washington.
"I'm glad I did this," said McGovern. "I've learned something here. And I've come to better appreciate the importance of programs like this."