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The Senate's FY'18 Budget Recommendations

The Senate's FY'18 Budget Recommendations

May 16, 2017; last updated May 30th

On May 16th, the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Ways and Means (SWM) released its version of the FY'18 state budget. We are thrilled to report that Senate Ways and Means has recommended:
  • A $5.5 million increase to the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program (line item 7004-9316) to bring the funding to $18.5 million, the retention of language that will allow families of all configurations to access the program-- including elders, people with disabilities, and unaccompanied youth, and an earmark of up to $2 million to serve households without children under 21 (up from the FY'17 earmark of $500,000)
  • Language to ensure that families experiencing homelessness are able to access the Emergency Assistance family shelter program (EA, line item 7004-0101) before being forced to stay in places not meant for human habitation
  • An increase in funding to serve unaccompanied youth and young adults experiencing homelessness to $2.5 million, up from the FY'17 funding level of $2 million and $2 million more than the House's recommended FY'18 funding level of $500,000 (line item 4000-0007)
  • An investment of $100 million in the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, line item 7004-9024), a $13.5 million increase over the final FY'17 funding level so as to provide 350-400 new housing subsidies
  • An increase to HomeBASE benefits (line item 7004-0108) so that families can access up to $10,000 to be diverted from entering shelter or rehoused from Emergency Assistance shelter (up from the current $8,000/family cap) and language that would require the Department of Housing and Community Development to change their regulations so that families terminated from the program can access services again after 12 months, instead of the current 24-month bar
  • An increase to the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (line item 7004-9030) from $4.6 million to $5.5 million 
  • An increase to $300/child for the annual clothing allowance for children participating in the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (line item 4403-2000)
Wow! We are so grateful to Senate President Stan Rosenberg, Senator Karen Spilka, Chair of Senate Ways and Means, and the full SWM Committee for their support of so many of the Coalition's key budget priorities. Our work continued through the amendment process. 

We worked with Senator Jason Lewis and Senator Julian Cyr on two youth homelessness amendments. Senator Lewis' amendment, Amendment #481, focused on increasing the unaccompanied youth homelessness funding to $4 million in line item 4000-0007, and Senator Cyr's amendment, Amendment #306, sought to add language and $150,000 in funding to the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) line item, 4000-0300, to support the work of the Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth. Amendment fact sheet.

Amendment outcomes: Unfortunately, Amendments #481 and #306 did not pass. We did, however, receive assurance from EOHHS that they intend to fund the work of the Commission at $150,000 for the year ahead, and we are working with them to develop a plan for allocating the funds for the Commission, the annual Youth Count, and a second year of hiring young people with lived experience of homelessness as consultants to the Commission. 

Senate youth homelessness amendment outreach

We also worked with Senator Tom McGee on an amendment to eliminate the homelessness penalty in the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children program (EAEDC, line item 4408-1000), Amendment #323. Here is the amendment fact sheet

Amendment outcome: Unfortunately, this amendment was withdrawn after it was rejected (put in the "no" pile) behind the scenes.
eaedc senate amendment fact sheet 5 17 17 page 001
In addition, we worked with allied organizations and Senators on amendments to strengthen housing and benefits line items, including amendments to:
  • Further increase funding for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (line item 7004-9024) to $120 million and allow participants to use the subsidies in units at the current fair market rents: Amendment #656, filed by Senator Joe Boncore. Amendment outcome: Withdrawn.
  • Strengthen tracking and reporting requirements for the Emergency Assistance family shelter program (line item 7004-0101)  to better understand who is served/not served by the EA program, and to allow families to retain EA benefits without triggering the 6-month time clock if they exceed the program's income limit of 115% of the federal poverty guidelines for fewer than 90 days: Amendment #720, filed by Senator Jason Lewis. Amendment outcome: Redrafted version was approved; the redraft included the tracking and reporting language.
  • Allow families that are in compliance with their rehousing plans to renew their HomeBASE (line item 7004-0108) subsidies for an additional 12 months and to further increase HomeBASE funding: Amendment #651, filed by Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz. Amendment outcome: Rejected, but a related amendment reiterating Senate Ways and Means decrease in the period of ineligibility following a HomeBASE termination, Amendment #667, filed by Senator Vinny deMacedo, was included in the final Senate budget. (Under current practice, a family cannot access HomeBASE or EA benefits for 24 months following a HomeBASE termination. The Senate is recommending reducing the ineligibility period to 12 months.)
  • Eliminate the family cap rule in the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (TAFDC, line item 4403-2000): Amendment #389, filed by Senator Joan Lovely. Amendment outcome: Rejected.
Here is a database of the key amendments, which Senators signed on, and their contact information. Please reach out to your State Senator today to thank them for their support of the key amendments and key priorities. (The link above can help you figure out who your Senator it, or you can call the State House switchboard: 617-722-2000.)

Now, we are waiting for the House and Senate to officially name the members of the FY'18 Budget Conference Committee. The Conference Committee will meet throughout June to work out the differences between the two budgets.

Thank you for taking action and for your ongoing commitment!

Amendment fact sheets:
Amendment Outcomes: Final House FY'18 Budget Recommendations

Amendment Outcomes: Final House FY'18 Budget Recommendations

Posted April 26th
This week, the Massachusetts House of Representatives debated House Bill 3600, their version of the 2018 state budget for the fiscal year that will begin on July 1st. Representatives filed 1,210 amendments to the House Committee on Ways and Means budget, which was released on April 10th.

Thank you for all of your calls, emails, visits, and completed online actions to Representatives in support of key homelessness, housing, and benefits amendments! The final budget that emerged late last night includes some important improvements as the budget process now heads over to the Senate for the next phase. While many key amendments were not included in the final House budget, the high levels of support for those items will strengthen the likelihood that they will appear in the Conference Committee and final FY'18 budgets.

Please check out our database of the main House amendments for which we advocated, and which House members were sponsors/cosponsors. If your Representative was a sponsor or cosponsor, please thank them today. You can call them via the State House switchboard: 617-722-2000, or look up their contact information via https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator. Check below to see if your Representative was a cosponsor on at least one key amendment and also is on Twitter, and then you can tweet your gratitude. (Twitter handles are listed alphabetically by last name of the House member.) 


twitter cosponsor 1
twitter for facebook
You also can thank Speaker Robert DeLeo (@SpeakerDeLeo, robert.deleo@mahouse.gov) and House Ways and Means Chair Brian Dempsey (brian.dempsey@mahouse.gov) for the positive elements of the House Ways and Means and final House budgets.

Key Amendment Outcomes:

Housing and Services for Unaccompanied Youth and Young Adults (line item 4000-0007): Good news! House leadership included language and partial funding from the unaccompanied youth homelessness amendments, Amendment #1088, filed by Representative Jim O'Day of West Boylston, and Amendment #378, filed by Representative Marjorie Decker of Cambridge. Consolidated Amendment F on Health and Human Services and Elder Affairs includes $540,000 for the line item. It would provide up to $500,000 for the housing and wraparound services for unaccompanied youth and young adults under the age of 25 and an earmark so that no less than $40,000 would go to the Y2Y Harvard Square shelter in Cambridge. For the current fiscal year, FY'17, the line item is funded at $2 million: $1 million in direct appropriations and $1 million carried over from unspent funds from FY'16. The House Ways & Means Committee initially proposed zero funding for the line item for next year, so $540,000 is an important step forward. See the unaccompanied youth amendment fact sheet (updated 4-21-17).

Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth (within line item 4000-0300): House leadership did not include the language and funding from the youth commission amendment, Amendment #1013, in Consolidated Amendment F on Health and Human Services and Elder Affairs. Representative Jim O'Day had filed the amendment to add language and $150,000 in funding to the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) line item, 4000-0300, for the work of the Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth and the annual Massachusetts Youth Count. While it is disappointing that the amendment was not adopted, EOHHS has indicated their intention to keep funding the Commission in FY'18. See the unaccompanied youth amendment fact sheet (updated 4-21-17).

Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316): House leadership did not include the language and funding from the RAFT amendment, Amendment #90, in Consolidated Amendment D on Housing, Mental Health, and Disability Services. The amendment, filed by Representative Marjorie Decker, sought to increase RAFT funds from $15 million to $18.5 million and maintain the FY'17 expanded eligibility language allowing households without children under 21 (such as elders, people with disabilities, unaccompanied youth, and other household types) to access RAFT homelessness prevention benefits. On a positive note, the HWM budget (and final House budget) would increase overall RAFT funding by $2 million, from $13 million to $15 million. See the RAFT amendment fact sheet (updated 4-21-17).

Emergency Assistance (EA, line item 7004-0101): House leadership did not include the language and funding from the EA amendment, Amendment #85, in Consolidated Amendment D on Housing, Mental Health, and Disability Services. The amendment was filed by Representative Marjorie Decker. This means that the final House budget would maintain the current harmful Emergency Assistance eligibility criteria that requires many families to prove that they have stayed in a place not meant for human habitation before being approved for EA shelter or for HomeBASE rehousing/stabilization resources (line item 7004-0108). See the general FY'18 EA campaign fact sheet and the EA amendment fact sheet (updated 4-21-17).

Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children Program (EAEDC, line item 4408-1000): House leadership did not include the language and funding from the EAEDC amendment, Amendment #1055, in Consolidated Amendment E on Social Services and Veterans. This means that the final House budget would maintain the "homelessness penalty" that leaves EAEDC participants experiencing homelessness with drastically reduced monthly benefits as compared to EAEDC participants with housing costs ($92.80/month vs. $303.70/month). Representative Jim O'Day filed the EAEDC amendment to promote dignity, fairness, and opportunity for participants experiencing homelessness. See the EAEDC homelessness penalty fact sheet (updated 4-21-17).

Outcomes for Other Important Amendments: 
    • Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program amendment (TAFDC, line item 4403-2000), Amendment #79: The final House budget does not include Representative Marjorie Decker's amendment to "lift the cap on kids" so that children born after a family begins participating in the TAFDC program also would receive vital cash assistance benefits; fact sheet
    • Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program amendments (MRVP, line item 7004-9024), Amendment #382 and Amendment #780The final House budget does not include Representative Mike Connolly's amendment, Amendment #382, to allow MRVP voucher holders to use the subsidies in units that are up to the current fair market rent (instead of 2005 FMR levels), require the Department of Housing and Community Development to issue new subsidies earlier in the fiscal year, and make other improvements to the MRVP program. It also does not include Representative Paul Donato's amendment, Amendment #780, to increase the proposed MRVP funding from $100 million to $120 million.
    • Alternative Housing Voucher Program amendment (AHVP, line item 7004-9030), Amendment #298: The final House budget includes partial funding from Representative Marjorie Decker's amendment. While the original amendment would have increased AHVP funding from $4.85 million to $7.5 million to serve more adults with disabilities who are under the age of 60 and experiencing housing instability, the final House budget added $150,000 to bring the proposal to $5 million.
    • Emergency Assistance amendment (EA, line item 7004-0101), Amendment #344: The final House budget does not include Representative Aaron Vega's amendment that sought to strengthen the tracking and reporting requirements to better understand who is served/not served by the EA program, and to allow families to retain EA benefits without triggering the 6-month time clock if they exceed the income limit for fewer than 90 days.
    • HomeBASE amendment (line item 7004-0108), Amendment #1045: The final House budget does not include Representative Christine Barber's amendment that sought to allow families that are in compliance with their rehousing plans to renew their HomeBASE subsidies for an additional 12 months, reduce the bar on further assistance for families that have been terminated from 24 months to 12 months, and lift the $300,000 cap on funding to families in the domestic violence and substance use treatment shelter programs.
    • End Family Homelessness Reserve Fund amendment (line item 1599-0017), Amendment #1052: The final House budget does not include Representative Kay Khan's amendment that would have reinstated this line item and provided $1 million for the work of the eight regional consortia established last year to coordinate on homelessness and housing issues.
    • Home and Healthy for Good (line item 7004-0104), Amendment #534: The final House budget includes Representative Byron Rushing's amendment to add $200,000 to the Home and Healthy for Good line item, which would increase funding for "housing first" resources for individuals experiencing chronic homelessness. The final House budget would provide $2.2 million for the program.

For background materials, please see the Coalition's House Ways and Means and House debate webpage, our April 13th action alertApril 21st action alert, and our April 24th handout to Representatives.

Thank you!

For more details, email Kelly at kelly @mahomeless.org. 

Housing for Youth and Young Adults Experiencing Homelessness

Posted November 7, 2017

Here is a list of housing development projects targeting youth and young adults experiencing homelessness that have received funding from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) in recent years. (Information courtesy of DHCD.)

Paige Apartments; Lowell (funded in 2012)
The Caleb Foundation partnered with the Lowell office of the Department of Children and Families to rehab a 10-unit apartment building and provide affordable housing for youth aging out of foster care. DCF provides supportive services designed to help residents successfully transition to independent living.

DIAL/SELF; Orange (funded in 2012)
DIAL/SELF operates a 9-unit SRO building for teenagers experiencing homelessness. Supportive services help residents learn to live independently and avoid backsliding into homelessness. 

St. Mary’s Transitional Housing; Boston (funded in 2014)
St. Mary’s Center operates a 12-unit transitional program in Dorchester for pregnant and parenting women and girls under the age of 25 who previously experienced homelessness and/or have extremely low incomes. Services offered include case management, parenting skills groups, financial literacy, education and job training, domestic violence services, family health literacy, and recovery support.  

Our House; Westfield (funded in 2014)
Domus, Inc. operates 10 units of permanent supportive housing for extremely low-income unaccompanied youth who are experiencing homelessness or at risk of homelessness. Domus employs a live-in site manager, and works with Westfield High School and the local YMCA to provide support services.

Waverly Abby; Boston (funded in 2015)
Sponsored by Bridge Over Troubled Waters, this Brighton-neighborhood project produced and preserved a total of 28 units of affordable housing for young adults, including young mothers with children, who previously experienced homelessness.

Harbor and Lafayette Homes; Salem (funded in 2017)
North Shore CDC was recently awarded funds for Harbor and Lafayette Homes in Salem, which will rehab 27 single room occupancy (SRO) units. Twenty-six units will be affordable, including sixteen that will provide housing and services to youth aging out of foster care.
Important Hearing on Key Homelessness Prevention and Benefits Bills: Join Us on Tuesday, May 16th at the State House

Important Hearing on Key Homelessness Prevention and Benefits Bills: Join Us on Tuesday, May 16th at the State House


Please join us this Tuesday, May 16th starting at 1 p.m. for an important hearing in front of the Massachusetts Legislature's Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities. The committee will be taking testimony of three of the Coalition's 2017-2018 priority bills:

  • House Bill 84, An Act to further provide a rental arrearage program, filed by Representative Marjorie Decker
  • House Bill 85, An Act relative to the well being and care of a child, also filed by Representative Marjorie Decker
  • House Bill 114, An Act to prevent homelessness among recipients of transitional assistance (a.k.a the No Place Like Home bill), filed by Representative Denise Provost
Bill fact sheets and/or details available here. The hearing will take place in Hearing Room B-2, and will be led by the Committee's Chairs, Senator Jennifer Flanagan and Representative Kay KhanLearn more about the hearing on the Legislature's website, and more about the committee here.

How can you be part of the hearing?

  • Come in person to let the commitee know why you support these bills and the importance of homelessness prevention resources and welfare benefits
  • Come be in the audience to pack the hearing room and show solidarity
  • Submit written testimony to the committee
  • Call your legislators to ask them to testify in suppport of the bills
  • Show your support for the bills on social media
Thank you for your commitment and action!

For more details, please email Kelly.
Massachusetts Youth Count 2017

Massachusetts Youth Count 2017

* Check out the preliminary results from the 2017 Massachusetts Youth Count here. *

The Coalition is proud to be a lead collaborator once again with the Massachusetts Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth for the 4th 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.

This year's Youth Count will take place from Monday, May 1st - Sunday, May 14th. The English language survey can be downloaded here. Paper surveys in Spanish, Haitian Kreyol, Cape Verdean Creole, Khmer/Cambodian, and Brazilian Portuguese are ready to download, and an online version of the survey is at this Survey Monkey link: www.surveymonkey.com/r/massyouth.

*If you are under 25 and have completed a paper version of the survey, or if you are able to collect paper surveys from youth and young adults, you can mail completed surveys to: Kelly Turley, Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, 73 Buffum Street, Lynn, MA 01902.*

How can you help? Please share this link with any young people you know, post the flyer in a visible place in your community, and check out the Youth Count Facebook page, Twitter feed, and Instagram page


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.

The Coalition's Youth Count action alert from May 1st is here.

Downloadable materials in PDF form:

youth count flyer 2017 general with web link

House Ways and Means Committee's FY'18 Budget Recommendations and the House Amendment Process

House Ways and Means Committee's FY'18 Budget Recommendations and the House Amendment Process

Posted April 10, 2017, last updated April 24th

** Please sign our one-minute online action to your State Representative in support of key homelessness, housing, and benefits amendments. **

On April 10th, the House Committee on Ways and Means ("House Ways and Means" or HWM) released its recommendations for the state's 2018 state budget for the fiscal year that will begin on July 1st. Coming in at $40.33 billion, the HWM budget, House Bill 3600, includes positive and negative recommendations on homelessness, housing, and benefits issues.

On the plus side, House Ways and Means proposed a $13.5 million increase to the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, line item 7004-9024) from $86.5 million to $100 million, and a $2 million increase for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316), to raise homelessness prevention funding from $13 million to $15 million. (See below for more details on RAFT). HWM rejected the Governor's proposal to cut eligibility for the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program (TAFDC, line item 4403-2000).

On the minus side, while RAFT would see an increase in funding, House Ways and Means reverted to old RAFT eligibility language in line item 7004-9316 that would cut access to Residential Assistance for Families in Transition homelessness prevention benefits for households without children. For FY'17, the definition of family was expanded to include elders, people with disabilities, unaccompanied youth, and all household types. The Coalition is seeking to maintain the expanded eligibility and increase overall funding from $13 million to $18.5 million. We are working with Representative Marjorie Decker of Cambridge, who filed a RAFT amendment, Amendment #90: RAFT amendment fact sheet (updated 4-21-17).

HWM also eliminated line item 4000-0007, which currently provides $2 million for housing and services for unaccompanied youth and young adults. The Coalition is seeking $4 million for the line item in FY'18, as well as explicit language and funding in line item 4000-0300 for the work of the Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth and the annual Massachusetts Youth Count. We are working with Representative Jim O'Day of West Boylston, who filed two youth homelessness amendments, Amendment #1088 and Amendment #1013: unaccompanied youth amendment fact sheet (updated 4-21-17) Also see the related amendment, Amendment #378, filed by Representative Marjorie Decker.

House Ways and Means also proposed to maintain current harmful Emergency Assistance (EA) eligibility criteria that requires many families to prove that they have stayed in a place not meant for human habitation before being approved for EA shelter (line item 7004-0101) or for HomeBASE rehousing/stabilization resources (line item 7004-0108). See the FY'18 EA campaign fact sheet. We are working with Representative Marjorie Decker of Cambridge, who filed the EA amendment, Amendment #85: EA amendment fact sheet (updated 4-21-17).

While HWM maintained eligibility for the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children Program (EAEDC, line item 4408-1000), the budget proposal would maintain the "homelessness penalty" that leaves EAEDC participants experiencing homelessness with drastically reduced monthly benefits as compared to EAEDC participants with housing costs ($92.80/month vs. $303.70/month). We are working with Representative Jim O'Day of West Boylston, who filed an EAEDC amendment, Amendment #1055to promote dignity, fairness, and opportunity for participants experiencing homelessness: EAEDC homelessness penalty fact sheet (updated 4-21-17).

House members were able file amendments until 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 13th. Thank you for all of your work to get as many cosponsors as possible before that deadline. We will be working over the next week to secure even more House cosponsors. Please join us by calling your State Representative to ask her/him to sign onto amendments and to thank them for the ones they already have cosponsored.

Other Important Amendments to Support (Preliminary List)

    • Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program amendment (TAFDC, line item 4403-2000), Amendment #79: Representative Marjorie Decker's amendment would "lift the cap on kids" so that children born after a family begins participating in the TAFDC program also would receive vital cash assistance benefits; fact sheet
    • Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program amendments (MRVP, line item 7004-9024), Amendment #382 and Amendment #780:
      • Representative Mike Connolly's amendment, Amendment #382, would allow MRVP voucher holders to use the subsidies in units that are up to the current fair market rent (instead of 2005 FMR levels), require the Department of Housing and Community Development to issue new subsidies earlier in the fiscal year, and make other improvements to the MRVP program.
      • Representative Paul Donato's amendment, Amendment #780, would increase the proposed MRVP funding from $100 million to $120 million.
    • Alternative Housing Voucher Program amendment (AHVP, line item 7004-9030), Amendment #298: Representative Marjorie Decker's amendment would increase AHVP funding from $4.85 million to $7.5 million to serve more adults with disabilities who are under the age of 60 and experiencing housing instability.
    • Emergency Assistance amendment (EA, line item 7004-0101), Amendment 344: Representative Aaron Vega's amendment would strengthen the tracking and reporting requirements to better understand who is served/not served by the EA program, and would allow families to retain EA benefits without triggering the 6-month time clock if they exceed the income limit for fewer than 90 days.
    • HomeBASE amendment (line item 7004-0108), Amendment #1045: Representative Christine Barber's amendment would allow families that are in compliance with their rehousing plans to renew their HomeBASE subsidies for an additional 12 months, reduce the bar on further assistance for families that have been terminated from 24 months to 12 months, and lift the $300,000 cap on funding to families in the domestic violence and substance use treatment shelter programs.
    • End Family Homelessness Reserve Fund amendment (line item 1599-0017), Amendment #1052: Representative Kay Khan's amendment would reinstate this line item and provide $1 million for the work of the eight regional consortia established last year to coordinate on homelessness and housing issues.

Here is our April 13th action alert and April 21st action alert, as well as our April 24th handout to Representatives.

Thank you!

For more details, email Kelly at kelly @mahomeless.org. 

The Coalition's 2017-2018 Bill Priorities

The Coalition's 2017-2018 Bill Priorities

Coalition’s 2017-2018 Legislative Session Bill Priorities: Preventing Homelessness and Improving Quality of Life for Families, Youth, Elders, and People with Disabilities
Last updated 11-9-17


Overview PDF (updated 3-13-17)

1.) An Act Relative to Assisting Elders and People with Disabilities in the Commonwealth
     Lead Sponsors: Representative James O’Day and Senator Patricia Jehlen
     House Bill 2077 (formerly House Docket 2295) and Senate Bill 2039 (formerly Senate Docket 2089)
     Fact sheet (updated 4-6-17)
     Heard by the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs on October 11, 2017

This bill would: 
  • Increase monthly grants under the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children Program (EAEDC) to match the benefit levels provided under the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program for households of comparable size
  • Remove the 70% benefit reduction/penalty for individuals experiencing homelessness, who have their average grants reduced from $303.70/month to $92.80/month
  • Increase the allowable personal asset limit from $250 to $2,500
  • Create an annual cost of living adjustment for EAEDC program participants

2.) An Act Providing a Homeless Bill of Rights/An Act Creating a Bill of Rights for People Experiencing Homelessness
     Lead Sponsors: Representative William Smitty Pignatelli and Senator Linda Dorcena Forry
     House Bill 695 (formerly House Docket 1113) and Senate Bill 46 (formerly Senate Docket 1548)
     Fact sheet (updated 4-5-17); organizational endorsement description; online organizational endorsement form
     H.695 sent to the Joint Committee on Housing and heard on June 20, 2017; reported out favorably and sent to the House Committee on Ways and Means
     S.46 sent to the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities; to be heard on November 21, 2017


 These bills would:
  • Ensure that people experiencing homelessness have the same rights as any other resident of Massachusetts by seeking to prevent discrimination based on housing status
  • Reinforce the rights to move freely in public spaces, receive equal treatment by municipal agencies, experience freedom from discrimination in employment, receive emergency medical care, register to vote and to vote, experience freedom from unauthorized disclosure of records (in accordance with relevant laws), and have a reasonable expectation of privacy of property
  • Outline these rights as a statement of legislative intent, as a guide for state and municipal agencies

3.) An Act to Further Provide a Rental Arrearage Program
     Lead Sponsor: Representative Marjorie Decker
     House Bill 84 (formerly House Docket 1250)
     Fact sheet on H.659 and H.84
     Sent to the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities and heard on May 16, 2017; reported out favorably and sent to the House Committee on Ways and Means


This bill would reestablish a rental arrearage program under the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), based on the successful homelessness prevention program administered by the Department for many years. The new program would continue to provide up to four months of assistance to pay for back rent or mortgage payments, and now would serve families, individuals, and unaccompanied youth with incomes up to 130% of the federal poverty guidelines. Agencies participating in the Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness would collaborate with DTA to refer potential participants and provide wraparound support services.  


4.) An Act to Protect Families Experiencing Homelessness from Having to Sleep in Unsafe Places
     Lead Sponsor: Representative Marjorie Decker
     House Bill 659 (formerly House Docket 1245)
     Fact sheet on H.659 and H.84organizational endorsement form for bill and budget campaigns
     Sent to the Joint Committee on Housing and heard on August 22, 2017


This bill would direct the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to provide Emergency Assistance (EA) shelter to otherwise eligible families with children without requiring families to prove that they already have stayed in a place not meant for human habitation, such as a car, emergency room, or campground.


5.) An Act to End Child Homelessness
     Lead Sponsor: Representative Denise Provost
     House Bill 115 (forrmerly House Docket 969)   
     Sent to the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities; to be heard on November 21, 2017   
                                                                                                           

This bill would:
  • Protect many children and families who are at imminent risk or experiencing homelessness from having to stay in places not meant for human habitation                     
  • Require the Department of Children and Families (DCF), in consultation with the Department of Housing and Community Development to conduct an assessment to ensure that no child under the age of 18 would be forced to stay in a place not meant for human habitation upon a household’s eviction from subsidized housing or termination from a publicly funded shelter
  • For children at risk of having to stay in such conditions, DCF and DHCD would develop and implement a plan to ensure that they are housed in a safe location, with every reasonable effort being made to keep those children in the care and custody of their parents/guardians

6.) An Act to Prevent Homelessness among Recipients of Transitional Assistance
     Lead sponsor: Representative Denise Provost
     House Bill 114 (formerly House Docket 968)
     Sent to the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities and heard on May 16, 2017; reported out favorably and sent to the House Committee on Ways and Means       


This bill, also known as the No Place Like Home Bill, would:

  • Establish a homelessness prevention and early intervention program within the Department of Transitional Assistance to give DTA the tools to help families and individuals remain housed.
  • Direct DTA to conduct housing stability screenings for families and individuals participating in DTA’s cash and nutritional assistance programs
  • Create a statewide homelessness prevention fund at DTA, targeting the lowest income family and individual households who are often ineligible for, or unable to access, other resources in a timely way
  • Create escrow accounts for families and individuals experiencing homelessness while they are participating in the Department’s cash assistance programs. Currently, households have their monthly cash assistance grants reduced if they do not have housing expenses. Under the No Place Like Home bill, these funds would be captured and directed into an escrow account to be used by the household to help in obtaining or retaining housing

7.) An Act to Provide Identification to Homeless Youth and Families
      Lead Sponsors: Representative Kay Khan and Senator Harriette Chandler
      House Bill 2737 (formerly House Docket 2272) and Senate Bill 1906 (formerly Senate Docket 1467)
      Fact sheet (updated 11-9-17)
      Both bills sent to the Joint Committee on Transportation; House bill to be heard on November 13, 2017


This bill would direct the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) to eliminate fees and reduce barriers for people experiencing homelessness, unaccompanied youth, and others, if needed to ease access to Massachusetts identification cards. 

According to preliminary data from the 2016 Massachusetts Youth Count, 15% of unaccompanied youth and young adults experiencing homelessness reported not being able to access the services and resources needed due to the lack of an identification card.



8.) An Act Relative to the Well Being and Care of a Child (a.k.a. Lift the Cap on Kids Bill)
     Lead Sponsors: Representative Marjorie Decker and Senator Sal DiDomenico
     House Bill 85 (formerly House Docket 1262) and Senate Bill 34 (formerly Senate Docket 1762)
     Fact sheet
     Both bills sent to the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities and heard on May 16, 2017; both bills reported out favorably and sent to their respective Ways and Means Committee


These bills would eliminate the so-called “family cap rule” that currently prohibits 9,400 children from receiving Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (TAFDC) benefits because their family was participating in the TAFDC program at the time of their conception (or shortly thereafter). This punitive and misguided policy has left thousands of Massachusetts families further in poverty. The bill would allow Massachusetts to join 33 other states that do not punish families with such limits on access to vital welfare benefits.


9.) An Act Relative to the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program
     Lead Sponsor: Senator Jamie Eldridge
     Senate Bill 719 (formerly Senate Docket 1163)
     Sent to the Joint Committee on Housing and heard on August 22, 2017


This bill would put the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) in state statute, and would connect allowable rent levels to the current fair market rents as established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (Currently, households receiving new subsidies are expected to find units at or below the 2005 FMRs, unless a waiver is issued. This makes the housing search process more arduous and sometimes impossible, given the current rental climate in Massachusetts.)


For more information, please contact Kelly Turley at 781-595-7570 x17 or kelly @ mahomeless.org.
Legislative Action Day 2017 Press Release

Legislative Action Day 2017 Press Release

Speaking Out for Housing, Homelessness Prevention, and Solutions: Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless and Representative Jim O’Day to Host Legislative Action Day Tomorrow at the State House

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Legislative Action Day 2017 Thank You List

Legislative Action Day 2017 Thank You List

We are grateful to each of the speakers, volunteers, attendees, and supporters!

Thank you to everyone who attended Legislative Action Day 2017 and special thanks to all of the people who helped to make the event possible!

Alice Harty, National Association of Social Workers, Massachusetts Chapter
Allie Godsey, Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless
Angela, Rosie's Place
Arlene Snyder, Bridge Over Troubled Waters
Ayanna Clark and the State House Events team
Barbara Barnes, Volunteer
Carlos Betancourt, PACE, Inc.
Catherine Wechsler, Boston College Media Technology Services
Charles Dietrick, Volunteer
Chris Soldt, Boston College Media Technology Services
Councillor Marc McGovern and Jamila Bradley, City of Cambridge
Dick Bauer, Greater Boston Legal Services
Donna Palombo, Boston Ward 21 Democratic Committee
Dr. Amanda Stewart, Boston Children's Hospital
Dr. Jennifer Hoffman, Boston Children's Hospital
Gena Frank, Office of State Representative Smitty Pignatelli
Henry De Lima, Charles Group Consulting
Janelle, Rosie's Place
Kate Saville, Charles Group Consulting
Kevin Lilly, Samaritans Steps
Latrese and Haley House Bakery Cafe
Lauren Leonardis, Massachusetts Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth
Lerae Kroon, Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Lucy Costa, Volunteer
Lynetta, Greater Boston Legal Services
Madeligne Tena, Mandela Residents Cooperative Association
Marybeth Bacigalupo-Worden, Worcester Fellowship
Natalie Hill, Volunteer
Rachel Lochner, Rosie's Place
Representative Denise Provost and Jordan Neerhof
Representative Jim O'Day and Cinda Danh
Representative Kay Khan, Lisa Rosenfeld, and Lauren Matteodo
Representative Kevin Honan and Colette Irving
Roxanne Reddington-Wilde, Action for Boston Community Development
Ruth Bourquin, Greater Boston Legal Services
Senator Jamie Eldridge and Danillo Sena
Senator Joseph Boncore and Kathi Young
Senator Pat Jehlen and Tara Smith
Stuart Figuero, Charles Group Consulting
Legislative Action Day 2017: Thank You for Joining Us on Monday, February 27th at the State House!

Legislative Action Day 2017: Thank You for Joining Us on Monday, February 27th at the State House!

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We hope to see you at the State House for our annual Legislative Action Day on Monday, February 27, 2017 in the Great Hall. The event will be hosted by State Representative Jim O'Day. The day will begin with check-in and light breakfast catered by Haley House Bakery Cafe starting at 9 a.m., with the speaking program from 9:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. In the afternoon, participants will fan out across the State House to meet with legislators and their staff.

Registration is still open. 
Sign up today!


The day will focus on advocating for key FY'18 budget priorities and 2017-2018 bill priorities. For fact sheets and more details, please see our 2017-2018 bill priority page and the Present Policy Campaigns page. The current agenda is here (PDF), and also below, and here is the press release.

Interested in sharing your story and being part of the call to action? Click here.

Want to be an event-day volunteer? Learn more and sign up here.

A key part of the day will be meetings with your state legislators and their staff to talk about why you support investments in housing, homelessness prevention, emergency shelter, income support programs, and related resources. We are happy to help you set up those meetings (just let us know on your registration form). Here are some tips to help guide your legislative meetings.


After you meet or call your legislators as part of Legislative Action Day, please complete this response form to share your feedback.


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FY'17 Emergency Assistance Family Shelter Supplemental Budget Campaign

FY'17 Emergency Assistance Family Shelter Supplemental Budget Campaign

Take action to protect children and families experiencing homelessness!

February 20, 2017

Governor Baker filed a FY'17 supplemental budget proposal on Friday that includes a request for $21 million more for Emergency Assistance (EA) family shelter to address the deficiency in the account (line item 7004-0101). The program currently is funded at $155.5 million for FY'17. Read more here on the state's website.

We will continue to ask the Legislature to provide needed funds and also add in language as a condition on the appropriation so that families no longer have to first stay in places not meant for human habitation.

Proposed language:  "…provided further, that temporary emergency assistance shall be provided to families who on the date of application for emergency assistance have no other feasible alternative housing, as defined in 760 CMR 67.06.1(b), and who, but for not having spent 1 night in a public or private place not designed for or ordinarily used as a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings, including but not limited to a car, park, abandoned building, medical facility, bus or train station, airport or camping ground, would be eligible for emergency assistance under clauses (i), (ii), (iii) or (iv)"

For more details, see our fact sheet.

Please ask your State Representative and Senator to support the EA supplemental funding request, and the inclusion of key line item language to protect families from having to sleep in places not meant for human habitation:
Governor Baker's FY'18 Budget Recommendations

Governor Baker's FY'18 Budget Recommendations

January 25, 2017; last updated February 1st

Today, Governor Charlie Baker released his recommendations for the state's 2018 state budget for the fiscal year that will begin on July 1st. (The budget also is available on the Legislature's website.) Coming in at $40.5 billion, the Governor's budget includes positive and negative recommendations on homelessness. housing, and benefits issues.

On the plus side, Governor Baker proposes an $11 million increase to the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program from $86.5 million to $97.5 million (line item 7004-9024; see related Boston Globe coverage) and $1 million to expand access to housing courts.

He also proposed level funding of $2 million for housing and services for unaccompanied youth and young adults, line item 4000-0007. This is below our request of $4 million, but at least would not undo important gains on youth homelessness.  

On the minus side, the Governor once again proposed drastic cuts to TAFDC welfare benefits for an estimated 5,800 families with disabilities by counting SSI benefits received by parents (line item 4403-2000; see related Boston Globe coverage). 

The Governor reverted to old RAFT eligibility language in line item 7004-9316, which would cut access to Residential Assistance for Families in Transition homelessness prevention benefits for households without children. For FY'17, the definition of family was expanded to include elders, people with disabilities, unaccompanied youth, and all household types. The Coalition is seeking to maintain the expanded eligibility and increase overall funding from $13 million to $18.5 million.

The Governor also is seeking to maintain current harmful Emergency Assistance (EA) eligibility criteria that requires many families to prove that they have stayed in a place not meant for human habitation before being approved for EA shelter (line item 7004-0101) or for HomeBASE rehousing/stabilization resources (line item 7004-0108).


More details can be found in our spreadsheet of key line items and our email update dated January 31st.
Strengthening the RAFT Homelessness Prevention Program in FY'18

Strengthening the RAFT Homelessness Prevention Program in FY'18

Working to increase funding for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program and maintain expanded eligibilty

We are working to increase funding for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT, line item 7004-9316) homelessness prevention program from $13 million to $18.5 million and to maintain expanded eligbility criteria that has allowed households of all configurations to access RAFT in FY'17: FY'18 RAFT budget campaign fact sheet (updated 3-16-17) 

 Before FY'17, only families with children under 21 could access RAFT. This year, we were able to get language in the final budget that expands eligibility to also include elders, people with disabilities, unaccompanied youth, and other household types. This expansion is critical, as homelessness and housing insecurity exist among all household types.


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Please consider supporting this year's RAFT campaign as an organization and as an individual. Read our letter to potential endorsers.

For more information, please contact Tina at tina @ mahomeless.org or 781-595-7570 x16.




Join Us in the Final Weeks of Informal Legislative Sessions to Promote Dignity for People Experiencing Homelessness: Help Pass House Bill 1129

Join Us in the Final Weeks of Informal Legislative Sessions to Promote Dignity for People Experiencing Homelessness: Help Pass House Bill 1129

December 21, 2016, updated January 3, 2017

With less than two weeks to go until the end of this two-year legislative session, please help us get House Bill 1129, An Act providing a homeless bill of rights (fact sheet) across the finish line. Currently, the bill is awaiting action by the House Committee on Ways and Means.

We are grateful for the leadership of Representative Smitty Pignatelli, the bill's lead sponsor. Today, he and his legislative aide Gena Frank delivered a letter from 62 House and Senate members in support of the bill to House Ways and Means Chair Brian Dempsey. Please read the letter (PDF) and thank your legislators if they participated.

Find your legislators contact information by going to www.wheredoivotema.com or calling the State House switchboard at 617-722-2000.

Here is the Coalition's press release on the sign-on letter and related efforts, and here are new testimonies from shelter and service providers in support of the bill.

Thank you!

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Stand Up with Families Experiencing Homelessness! Join Us in Boston on 10/18

Stand Up with Families Experiencing Homelessness! Join Us in Boston on 10/18

No One Should Have to Sleep in a Place Not Meant for Human Habitation

Posted October 7, 2016; last updated November 30, 2016

Please join us on Tuesday, October 18th in Boston for an event to call for a change in state regulations so as to better serve families experiencing homelessness. Since 2012, many families experiencing homelessness have had to stay in places not meant for human habitation before being able to access shelter and rehousing services through the state's Emergency Assistance (EA) and HomeBASE programs.

According to the most recent report from the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), for the first two months of FY'17, 141 families entered shelter only after first staying in an emergency room, car, campground, transit station, or other unsafe place not intended to be used for human habitation. These families were 22% of all families entering the EA system. We will be gathering on the 18th to amplify the call to end this policy, so families experiencing homelessness can access resources before having to subject themselves to such extreme living conditions.
 We also will be gathering to continue to call for deeper investments in housing that is affordable for the lowest income families and for more homelessness prevention resources.

We are asking the Legislature to include language in the pending FY'17 supplemental budget (House Bill 4506, line item 7004-0101) to require DHCD to provide shelter and services to otherwise eligible families who lack feasible, alternative housing before families are left to stay in places not meant for human habitation (updated fact sheet, 11-30-16). While the Senate included such language in their version of the FY'17 budget, the language was not approved by the House this summer. We hope that the Legislature will reconsider this decision so as to prevent further traumatization and suffering of children and families.
  
Scheduled speakers include:

  • Families who have stayed in places not meant for human habitation
  • Video testimony from Lynnette Martin, a mother from Framingham
  • Representative Marjorie Decker of Cambridge, lead House sponsor of proposed budget language change
  • Representative Denise Provost of Somerville, lead sponsor of related legislation, House Bill 119, to protect families with children who are being evicted from subsidized housing or terminated from shelter from having to stay in places not meant for human habitation
  • Dr. Mia Kanak, pediatrician from Boston Medical Center and Boston Children's Hospital: Written testimony here
  • Dr. Amanda Stewart, pediatrician from Boston Children's Hospital
  • Kelly Turley, Director of Legislative Advocacy at the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless
  • Providers and advocates working on the front lines
Follow these links for the event agenda (PDF) and press release (PDF).

Please see the image above for additional details, and RSVP here or on the Facebook event page

** Please also share this invitation with your state legislators. You can find their information via www.wheredoivotema.com.**

Refreshments will be served.

The event wil be hosted by the Coalition, City Mission Boston, First Church Shelter, Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee, and Poor People's United Fund.

Update:

Check out the Coalition's YouTube channel, EndHomelessnessMA, for videos from this event: