* Legislative Action Day Follow-Up Action: Please take one-minute to sign our latest online action to support deeper investments in homelessness prevention, housing, cash assistance, and emergency services.*
Thank you to everyone who participated in Legislative Action Day 2018 on Tuesday, February 27th! The event was held at the Massachusetts State House in Boston, hosted by Representative Jim O'Day. We are grateful to everyone who raised their voice to help end homelessness!
Click here to download the flyer (PDF).
The day began with registration and a light breakfast at 9 a.m. The legislative speakers included Representative Jim O'Day, Senate President Harriette Chandler, Senator Pat Jehlen, Senator Joe Boncore, and Senator Jamie Eldridge, and State House staffer, Cinda Danh. We also had speakers from Worcester Fellowship, Boston Youth Advisory Board, the Massachusetts Poor People's Campaign, Glass House Shelter Project, Boston Center for Independent Living, Women's Lunch Place, and other allied organizations who shared their lived experiences of homelessness and housing instability. The agenda is available here. (Please note that due to the untimely death of Representative Peter Kocot, a true friend of the Coalition, several of the previously scheduled legislative speakers were be unable to attend.)
Photos from the day are available here. (Thank you to our main photographer, Kevin Lilly!)
Read our press release and media advisory.
Here is some of the Legislative Action Day media and online coverage:
- Homeless advocates to converge on Massachusetts State House
- Chandler: State Senate 'ready to go' on housing bill
- "Homeless, not worthless"
Fact sheets for our overall budget priorities, top four budget priorities (Emergency Assistance, housing and services for unaccompanied youth and young adults, Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children program, and the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program), and details about our bill priorities are on the Current Policy Campaigns page. We also have an online spreadsheet with details and status updates on our bill priorities.
A key part of the day were meetings with state legislators and their staff to talk about why participants support investments in housing, homelessness prevention, emergency shelter, income support programs, and related resources. If you are doing additional meetings, here are some tips to help guide your legislative meetings (PDF).
If you met or called your legislators as part of Legislative Action Day, please complete this online response form to share your feedback.
Thank you also to everyone who participated in our training call on Tuesday, February 13th to help participants prepare for the day.
Thank you for taking action with us! Click on the image to go to the action page, or click here.
Please sign and share our online letter to Senator Barbara L'Italien and Representative Danielle Gregoire, the Chairs of the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs
Here is the EAEDC bill fact sheet.
January 2nd update: Thank you to everyone who took action with us! We heard today that the Governor has released all of the youth homelessness funds (totaling $675,000). We are awaiting final confirmation that the RAFT homelessness prevention funds also willl be released. Here is coverage from State House News and WCVB: http://www.wcvb.com/article/gov-baker-lifts-hold-on-spending-earmarks/14532127 and the Boston Globe: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/01/01/baker-withholds-money-for-human-service-programs/f0dLFUjgb35Am34E2WLkSJ/story.html
January 3rd update: The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) still is awaiting confirmation that the increased RAFT funds will be released.
Please join us in asking Governor Charlie Baker to release key homelessness funds already allocated by the Legislature for fiscal year 2018: $675,000 for housing and services for youth and young adults experiencing homelessness (line item 4000-0007) and $2 million in homelessness prevention funds for elders, people with disabilities, and youth through the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program (line item 7004-9316).
Even though the fiscal year is halfway over and there is tremendous need, these funds have not been spent.
Read the Coalition's letter to the Governor here and sign/share our online action today.
You also can reach the Governor's office by calling 617-725-4005, 888-870-7770, or TTY: 617-727-3666.
If you have questions or receive any feedback, please contact Kelly and Tina.
Thank you for taking action with us!
Please Actively Support House Bill 695 and Senate Bill 46!
Please join us today (Tuesday, November 21st), at the State House for a hearing on the Senate version of the bill of rights for people experiencing homelessness, Senate Bill 46.
Download the 2017-2018 legislative session bill fact sheet here (updated 6-19-17); fact sheet for 11-21-17 hearing.
Read the Coalition's testimony for the June 20th Housing hearing and for the November 21st Children and Families hearing, as well as testimony from people experiencing homelessness that was gathered last session: Sherry's testimony, Charlie's testimony, and shelter residents' testimony.
Add your organization as an official endorser of the campaign here.
An Act providing a homeless bill of rights (House Bill 695) and An Act creating a bill of rights for people experiencing homelessness (Senate Bill 46) would establish a definition of homelessness and protect key rights of all residents, whether or not they are experiencing homelessness. The bills are modeled after landmark legislation passed in 2012 in Rhode Island. Similar legislation has passed since in Connecticut, Illinois, and Puerto Rico.
The bills were filed in January 2017 by lead sponsors Representative William Smitty Pignatelli and Senator Linda Dorcena Forry. House Bill 695 was sent to the Joint Committee on Housing, and was heard by the committee on June 20, 2017. It was reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Housing on July 10, 2017. Now the bill is awaiting action by the House Committee on Ways and Means. Senate Bill 46 has been sent to the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, and will be heard on November 21, 2017.
The bills are nearly identical to House Bill 1129 from the 2015-2016 session. That bill was reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Housing in December 2015 and sent to the House Committee on Ways and Means. In spite of considerable support, the bill did not pass last session. We are hopeful that the momentum from last session and the pressing need to uphold human rights and dignity will propel the bills forward this session.
People experiencing homelessness often are subjected to discrimination and mistreatment based on their housing status. The bill of rights is a guide for state and local officials emphasizing that people experiencing homelessness are entitled to the same rights as any other resident of Massachusetts. The bill of rights seeks to outline those rights so as to prevent discrimination based on housing status. The legislation recognizes the increased prevalence of homelessness in Massachusetts due to widespread economic hardship, the insufficient availability of safe, affordable housing, and a weakened social safety net.
The rights specifically included in the bill of rights are the right to move freely in public spaces, the right to equal treatment by municipal agencies (such as police departments), freedom from discrimination in employment, the right to emergency medical care, the right to register to vote and to vote, freedom from disclosure of records, and the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy of property.
The bill of rights for people experiencing homelessness seeks to have the rights outlined to be treated as a statement of legislative intent, as a guide for state and municipal agencies.
Click here for the legislative pages for the bill: House Bill 695 and Senate Bill 46.
List of Endorsing Organizations:
Allston Brighton Health Collaborative
American Friends Service Committee Material Aid & Advocacy Program
Arise for Social Justice
Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee
Boston Women's Fund
Bridge Over Troubled Waters
Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance
Children's League of Massachusetts
City Life Vida Urbana
City Mission Boston
Emmanuel Church in the City of Boston
Family Promise MetroWest
First Baptist Church, Everett
First Church Shelter
Horizons for Homeless Children
Massachusetts Alliance of HUD Tenants
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless
Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance
My Brother's Table
New Bedford Homeless Advocates Inc.
Poor People's United Fund
Samaritans Steps, Inc.
Somerville Homeless Coalition
South Congregational Church
Spare Change News/Homeless Empowerment Project (HEP)
Women's Lunch Place
Y2Y Harvard Square
(List as of 11-21-17)
Protect the Rights of All Residents of Massachusetts, Regardless of Housing Status: Actively Support the Bill of Rights for People Experiencing Homelessness, House Bill 695/Senate Bill 46!
Join Us to Increase Access to Massachusetts Identification Cards for People Experiencing Homelessness
* Great news! The Joint Committee on Transportation has reported out favorably House Bill 2737/Senate Bill 1906, An Act to Provide Identification to Homeless Youth and Families. House Bill 2737 is now at House Ways and Means, and Senate Bill 1906 is at Senate Ways and Means.*
Obtaining a state identification card is a critical first step for youth and adults experiencing homelessness to accomplish typical life tasks and access opportunities. ID is required for a broad range of life activities, such as:
· Applying for jobs
· Enrolling in education programs
· Getting a library card
· Picking up a package from the post office
· Opening financial accounts
· Entering certain government buildings
· Accessing services
· Interacting with law enforcement
Join our campaign to pass legislation to eliminate fees and reduce barriers to accessing Massachusetts identification cards by people experiencing homelessness: An Act to Provide Identification to Homeless Youth and Families, filed by Senator Harriette Chandler (Senate Bill 1906) and Representative Kay Khan (House Bill 2737).
The updated fact sheet is linked here as a PDF and posted below.
*If your organization would like to become an official endorser of this campaign, please complete this form. *
Current campaign endorsers (as of 11/14/17):
The Joint Committee on Transportation heard the bills at two hearings, on November 13, 2017 and December 6, 2017. Read more about the November 13th hearing, watch videos from the December 13th hearing on our YouTube channel, and read testimonies from both hearings below:
- Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, 11/13 testimony (and PDF) and 12/6 testimony
- Homeless Empowerment Project
- Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth
- Y2Y Harvard Square
- Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice
See related coverage on this issue:
- Washington Post: "The invisibles: The cruel Catch-22 of being poor with no ID" (6-15-17)
- American Bar Association:"Proving I exist: Strategies for assisting youth in obtaining identification documents"(10-2-17)
- Boston Globe:"When ‘public’ buildings cease being fully public" (12-17-17)
- Boston Globe: "When public buildings put up a wall" (12-21-17)
For more information, please contact Kelly at kelly @mahomeless.org.
Last updated March 9, 2018
The Coalition is proud to be a lead collaborator once again with the Massachusetts Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth for the 5th annual Massachusetts Youth Count. The Massachusetts Youth Count mobilizes youth, young adults, Continua of Care, and youth providers to survey young people under the age of 25 from all across the Commonwealth who are experiencing homelessness and housing instability. The insights and data gathered from the survey process are used to influence advocacy and programming to address youth and young adult homelessness.
We are thrilled to be partnering with the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth to recruit Youth Ambassadors for this year's Youth Count. Learn more here and help spread the word.
Thank you to everyone who participated in this year's Youth Count conference on Thursday, February 15th at the College of the Holy Cross. The conference agenda is here (PDF).
For more details about the Coalition's advocacy on addressing and ending youth and young adult homelessness, please click here: unaccompanied youth and young adult homelessness page or contact Kelly. Follow the Massachusetts Youth Count on Facebook: Youth Count Facebook page.
The Massachusetts Senate voted this afternoon to restore funding and expanded eligibility language to the RAFT homelessness prevention program so that unaccompanied youth/young adults, elders, and people with disabilities can access critical resources to avoid or exit homelessness. Thank you to everyone who has been weighing in in support of the veto override! Stay tuned for implementation updates here: www.mahomeless.org/advocacy.
** Please see our latest update at http://www.mahomeless.org/advocacy/item/raft-override **
The Senate continues to override FY'18 budget vetoes, while the House successfully overrode all of the Governor's vetoes in its chamber.
During their September 28th veto override debate, the Senate overrode the Governor's elimination of funding for the unaccompanied youth and young adult homelessness line item, 4000-0007, by a vote of 35-2. This means that $675,000 now will be restored to the FY'18 budget to once again provide housing and wraparound support services for young people experiencing homelessness out on their own. It previously was overridden in the House on September 13th by a vote of 140-12.
On October 4th, the Senate also took action to override the Governor’s Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC, line item 4403-2000) veto that would have reduced the annual children's clothing allowance from $300 to $250, and struck language requiring advanced notice before eligibility restrictions or benefits cuts are made. This override was particularly important as the Governor was looking to count Supplemental Security Income when determining eligibility for TAFDC which would have rendered an estimated 5,800 families ineligible for TAFDC and/or only eligible for reduced grants. The Senate vote was 35-2, and the House vote was 132-20.
The Senate will be back in formal sessions on October 19th. We will be advocating for the override of the Governor's Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316) veto. A Senate override would restore the proposed $2 million increase to RAFT, and restore the language that would allow the program to keep serving unaccompanied youth, elders, people with disabilities, and other households without minor children.
During FY’17, 3,980 households were served by RAFT. This included 124 households who previously were ineligible under the more limited definition of family, 56% of which were households with disabilities. With $15 million in FY’18 (including the earmark of $2 million for households without minor children), we anticipate that the state would be able to prevent homelessness for an estimated 4,878 households, based on the average FY’16 RAFT expenditure of $3,075/household (including the $539 administrative fee for each household approved). According to the 2015-2016 RAFT report published by the Regional Housing Network of Massachusetts, the state’s FY’16 RAFT investment of $12.5 million saved the Commonwealth an estimated $137 million. This veto override already was approved by a 135-20 vote in the House.
Please sign our updated online action on the RAFT veto override to State Senators here. Stay tuned for more details on this page; read more about our original list of veto override requests here.
Take Action to Help Override Governor Baker's Vetoes to Key Homelessness and Housing Programs in the FY'18 Budget
Governor Charlie Baker just issued his FY'18 budget vetoes. Among the $320 million in vetoes were cuts to important language and funding related to homelessness, housing, and benefits programs. Fortunately, he does not have the final word. The Legislature can override his vetoes with 2/3 votes from both the House and Senate. Help make that happen by signing our one-minute online action to State Legislators.
What did he cut?
The Governor zeroed out the unaccompanied youth homelessness line item, 4000-0007, saying that the $675,000 appropriated by the Legislature was too small: "I am vetoing this item because it is too small to be effective at the enacted level of funding." (Fortunately, this veto did not cut the funding for the Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Commission and the annual Massachusetts Youth Count. $150,000 will be provided for those initiatives through the Executive Office of Health and Human Services administrative line item-- even though there is no direct language/earmark.) See our latest campaign fact sheet here.
He also eliminated the $2 million increase to the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316), and struck the language that would allow the program to keep serving unaccompanied youth, elders, people with disabilities, and other households without minor children.
In the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (TAFDC, line item 4403-2000), the Governor reduced the annual children's clothing allowance from $300 to $250, and struck language requiring advanced notice before eligibility restrictions or benefits cuts are made. This is particularly concerning as the Governor is looking to count Supplemental Security Income when determining eligibility for TAFDC and render an estimated 5,800 families ineligible for TAFDC and/or have their grants reduced.
The Governor also eliminated language from the Department of Housing and Community Development administrative line item (line item 7004-0099) that allows families participating in the HomeBASE program (line item 7004-0108) to retain preferences and priorities for long-term state-funded subsidized housing opportunities.
In some good news, the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, line item 7004-9024, increase to $92.7 million was approved.
We already started to push for veto overrides and will push for supplemental funding for programs that were vetoed. As noted above, the Legislature can restore language and funding by 2/3 votes in both the House and Senate.
** Please sign our online action to State Legislators, asking them to override these vetoes swiftly. **
Please also join the Coalition in letting Governor Charlie Baker know that you are disappointed in his cuts to key programs like youth homelessness, RAFT, and TAFDC. Click here for the Governor's contact information. ** You also can call your legislators via the State House switchboard: 617-722-2000.
If you have any feedback from the Governor's office or from your State Representative and Senator, please share it with us: kelly @mahomeless.org or call 781-595-7570 x17.
Thank you so much for your continued support and advocacy. Please stay tuned and engaged!
Related Budget Materials:
- The Coalition's budget chart, tracking from the initial House 1 budget to vetoes
- Veto listings
- Veto override overview for legislators
- Youth homelessness veto override fact sheet and advocacy letter on impact of cuts from our colleagues at LUK, Inc.
- RAFT veto override fact sheet
- TAFDC veto override fact sheet
- Pre-veto advocacy letter to Governor Baker
Youth without homes can't wait
Please invite your State Representative and Senator to join us this Tuesday, September 19th for a briefing at the State House on the need to restore funding for housing and wraparound services for unaccompanied youth and young adults experiencing homelessness. See our campaign fact sheet, media advisory, and below for additional briefing details. To find out who your legislators are, use the Legislature's search feature or go to www.wheredoivotema.com.
This event is organized by the Coalition and hosted by Representative Jim O'Day, Senator Harriette Chandler, Representative Kay Khan, and Representative Marjorie Decker.
We also have room for a limited number of members and supporters to join us as well. RSVP here if you would like to attend.
If you haven't signed our online petition asking the Legislature to override the Governor's youth homelessness and other key vetoes, please click here and enter your address at the bottom to get started.
Who: Legislators, staffers, youth and young adults experiencing homelessness, providers, advocates, and others
EAEDC Bill Hearing Recap: Taking Action to Improve Benefits for Elders, People with Disabilities, and Youth
Join the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless for the bill hearing on An Act relative to assisting elders and people with disabilities in the Commonwealth (House Bill 2077/Senate Bill 2039)!
Hearing Room A-1*
Boston, Massachusetts 02133
The Committee is chaired by Senator Barbara L'Italien and Representative Danielle Gregoire. Here is the full committee list and the list of bills that will be heard that day.
* If you are able to provide oral and/or written testimony, please RSVP here or contact Kelly. *
- Bill fact sheet (updated 10-5-17)
- A closer look data sheet
- House bill 2077 legislative page (lead sponsor: Representative Jim O'Day)
- Senate bill 2039 legislative page (lead sponsor: Senator Patricia Jehlen)
- Legislative sign-on letter from Representative O'Day, Senator Jehlen, and 37 of their colleagues sent to the Chairs of the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs
- Coalition testimony 1 and testimony 2
- Boston Area Rape Crisis Center
- Emmaus, Inc.
- Greater Boston Legal Services
- Massachusetts Senior Action Council
- My Brother's Table
- Pax Christi USA - Beverly
- Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
Good news for families participating in the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) program: For the month of September, the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) is once again increasing the income eligibility limits and payment standards for the TAFDC program. This increase in the payment standard is known as the children's , and occurs only for September.
Families currently participating in the TAFDC program will receive an additional $250/eligible child. Families that are not currently receiving TAFDC benefits but apply before the end of September and are approved also will receive the full clothing allowance benefit in the fall. If you are looking to access the benefit, here is a link to local DTA office locations and contact information.
Families may receive an additional $50/eligible child later, too, if the Legislature overrides a veto issued by Governor Baker that reduced the benefit from the $300 recommended by the Legislature back down to $250. The Legislature will begin to take up veto overrides after Labor Day. Learn more about the veto override efforts here and sign our online action to your state legislators to encourage them to take this important action.
Learn more about House Bill 659, An Act to protect families experiencing homelessness from having to sleep in unsafe places, here.
“Government policies or regulations should never deliberately put people, and especially children, in danger. This regulation without any nuance forces parents to place children in harm’s way in order to receive shelter. This is unjust and cruel.” - Representative Marjorie Decker, the bill's lead sponsor (D-Cambridge)
“I am proud to cosponsor H.659. Children and families who are facing homelessness shouldn’t be forced to risk their health and safety for even a single night before they are given access to Emergency Assistance shelter. I have supported this policy change for years, and I hope this session it will finally be enacted into law.” - Representative Kay Khan (D-Newton)
“Nobody should have to face the dangerous and undignified experience of sleeping in public areas, especially kids. This legislation affirms Massachusetts’ commitment to supporting families and providing all our kids with safe, happy childhoods. This starts with a roof over their heads, something which everyone deserves and which we will continue to pursue for everyone in the Commonwealth.” - Senator Barbara L'Italien (D-Andover)
“Being able to safely go to sleep every night with a roof over one’s head should be considered a basic human right. I cosponsored H. 84 and H. 659 because homelessness and housing instability remain chronic and still-too-common ills in our Commonwealth. These important bills will take concrete steps to address and prevent homelessness and housing instability.” - Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester)
“I am proud to continue being a vocal advocate for increased investment in resources for families experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. Preventing homelessness and ensuring that families are provided with support programs are imperative to the welfare of the Commonwealth.” - Representative David P. Linsky (D-Natick)
“The issue of ensuring safe shelter for our most vulnerable children and families experiencing homelessness is urgent and tragic. This bill would reduce the risk of harm to families by providing emergency housing assistance for those who would otherwise be sleeping in exposed, unprotected areas. The goal is to keep these families intact and their children safe.” - Representative Jim O'Day (D-West Boylston)
Organizational Testimony (PDF):
- Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless
- Greater Boston Legal Services
- Justice Center of Southeast Massachusetts, LLC
- Action for Boston Community Development
- Advocacy Network to End Family Homelessness
- Julie's Family Learning Program
- Project Hope
- Dr. Mia Kanak, MD/MPH
For videos from the hearing, check out our YouTube playlist.
For audio from the hearing, check our new SoundCloud account.
Stand Up with Families Experiencing Homelessness: Join Us for a State House Bill Hearing on August 22nd!
Massachusetts currently requires many families experiencing homelessness to prove that they already have stayed in a place not meant for human habitation before being eligible for a shelter placement through the state's Emergency Assistance (EA) program. In fact, between the policy's implementation in the fall of 2012 and June 30, 2017, at least 2,682 families with children first stayed in an unsafe place before ultimately being placed in shelter.
Please join us at the State House on Tuesday, August 22nd to show your support for House Bill 659, An Act to protect families experiencing homelessness from having to sleep in unsafe places. This bill was filed by Representative Marjorie Decker of Cambridge. See our bill fact sheet here and listen to the personal testimony of advocate/mother, Lynnette.
The Joint Committee on Housing will be taking testimony that day on this and other bills related to the Department of Housing and Community Development and manufactured housing. The hearing will begin at 10 a.m., and will be held in Room B-2. The committee is chaired by Senator Joe Boncore and Representative Kevin Honan.
Please contact Kelly if you are able to provide in-person, written, and/or video testimony in support of the bill.
*Please also complete this form if your organization is able to be an official endorser of the legislation.*
Current endorsers include:
- Advocacy Network to End Family Homelessness
- Allston-Brighton Health Collaborative
- Arise for Social Justice
- Boston Area Rape Crisis Center
- Central West Justice Center
- Greater Boston Legal Services
- Horizons for Homeless Children
- Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless
- Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
- MetroWest Legal Services
- National Association of Social Workers, Massachusetts Chapter
- Northeast Justice Center
- Out Now
- Partners HealthCare
- Poor People’s United Fund
- Project Hope
- Media advisory
- Legislators speak up and stand up with families experiencing homelessness: Quotes from state legislators on House Bill 659
- Hearing flyer
- Bill fact sheet
- Boston Globe editorial in support of the bill
- Organizational endorsement form
- Lynnette's testimony of sleeping in a vehicle with her children and service dogs
- Abstract for a study from a Boston pediatric emergency department on the impact of the places not meant for human habitation policy (PDF)
- Emergency Assistance monthly report from DHCD, including data on families entering shelter after staying in places not meant for human habtitaion (see bottom of page 1)
- Springfield Republican/MassLive coverage and additional media links
- Videos from hearing (YouTube playlist)
- Audio from the hearing (SoundCloud)