Support key amendments to the House Ways and Means budget recommendations
Yesterday, the House Committee on Ways and Means ("HWM" or "House Ways and Means") unveiled its fiscal year 2017 budget recommendations for the Commonwealth. This $39.5 billion budget marks the next step on the path to developing the state budget for the fiscal year that will begin on . afternoon at ( ) will be the deadline for House members to file amendments to the HWM budget, with the House budget debate scheduled for the week of .
See the sections linked here for preliminary information on the House Ways and Mean's budget proposals for housing, shelter, homelessness prevention, and cash assistance programs.
*Please contact your State Representative today to ask her/him to support the key amendments listed below, notably the amendments to expand RAFT, restore funding for housing and services to unaccompanied youth, and to prevent families from having to stay in places not meant for human habitation. You can find your State Representative's contact information by going to malegislature.gov/People/House or www.wheredoivotema.com, or by calling the State House switchboard: 617-722-2000.*
Stay tuned in the days and week ahead for a more detailed analysis and additional information about amendments.
As this is only the next of several proposals on the way to the final FY'17 budget, your voice will be critical to helping to protect housing, homelessness, and safety net programs for families, individuals, and youth.
To learn more about the Coalition's FY'17 budget priorities, please click here.
We are truly grateful that you are advocating with us to protect and promote investment in these programs!
- Coalition's 4-14-16 action alert on the House Ways and Means budget
- Coalition's overview of key amendments for Representatives
- House FY'17 budget page
- RAFT amendment fact sheet (updated 4-19-16) and one-minute online action: Rep. Decker's amendment, Amendment #817, would expand access to the RAFT homelessness prevention program and increase FY'17 funding by $6 million to $12.5 million; Amendment text and current co-sponsors
- Emergency Assistance amendment fact sheet (updated 4-19-16): Rep. Decker's amendment, Amendment #754, would require the Department of Housing and Community Development to provide shelter to otherwise eligible families who are experiencing homelessness and are within 24-houirs of staying in a place not meant for human habitation; Amendment text and current co-sponsors
- Unaccompanied youth homelessness amendment fact sheet: Rep. O'Day's filed two amendments on youth homelessness. One would restore the unaccompanied youth homelessness line item, 4000-0007, and provide $4 million for housing and services for youth and young adults age 24 ane younger who are experiencing homelessness out on their own, without a parent or guardian; Amendment #1270 text and current co-sponsors. The second amendment would restore language and $150,000 in funding for the work of the Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth; Amendment #1273 text and current co-sponsors.
- Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) and related amendments fact sheet
Expand Eligibility and Funding for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316)
testimonies; testimonies in support of RAFT expansion (also viewable below)
* One-minute online action: Click here to send a letter in support of the RAFT expansion to your State Representative and State Senator.*
Help Change Policies Forcing Families to Stay in Places Not Meant for Human Habitation
Under current EA regulations, otherwise eligible families who are within 24 hours of staying in places not meant for human habitation can be turned away from shelter, even if DHCD believes that the family will be forced to stay in a car, emergency room, or transit station. Massachusetts can and must do better for its most vulnerable families.
Between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015 (all of FY’15), 494 families with children were approved for EA only after first staying in a place not meant for human habitation. For the first seven months of FY’16, 364 families first stayed in places not meant for human habitation before being approved for shelter (an average of 52 families/month).
Learn more here: EA fact sheet
Sign our one-minute online action to legislators, on Emergency Assistance and other issues: FY'17 budget priorities online action
As a follow-up, please take a minute to participate in our online letter action to State Representatives and State Senators, and check out our follow-up email alert.
See our list of FY'17 budget priorities, current bill priorities, and agenda here, and check out our promo video on YouTube.
We will be posting photos soon. If you have any pictures from Legislative Action Day, please share them with us.
Thank you to everyone who participated in our Legislative Action Day training call on Wednesday, February 17th (flyer). Didn't make it? Here are some tips for meeting with legislators and aides.
After your meetings, please take a few minutes to share feedback on those meetings with us. Please complete this online legislative response form or the PDF version and send it back to us.
Unaccompanied Youth Homelessness FY’17 Budget Campaign Endorsers*
As of March 10, 2016
|Action for Boston Community Development
|Boston Area Rape Crisis Center (BARCC)
|Bridge Over Troubled Waters
|Cambridge and Somerville Housing and Welfare Coalition
|Children's League of Massachusetts
|Citizens' Housing and Planning Association
|DIAL/SELF Youth & Community Services
|Homeless Youth Providers Engaging Together
|Homes for Families
|Horizons for Homeless Children
|Justice Resource Institute/YouthHarbors
|Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy
|Massachusetts Appleseed Center for Law and Justice
|Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless
|Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership
|Regional Housing Network of Massachusetts
|Promise Place School
|School on Wheels
|Somerville Homeless Coalition
|Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness
|Y2Y Harvard Square
Help Advocate with Your Legislators with and for Bills to Better Serve Families, Youth, and Unaccompanied Adults
1.) Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children Program (EAEDC) bill:
An Act relative to assisting elders and people with disabilities in the Commonwealth
House Bill 529
Lead sponsors: Representative James O’Day and Senator Patricia Jehlen
Fact sheet and legislative page
Online action alert in support of House Bill 529
2.) Bill of rights for people experiencing homelessness:
An Act providing a homeless bill of rights
House Bill 1129
Lead Sponsor: Representative William Smitty Pignatelli
Fact sheet and legislative page
3.) Bill to protect families who are being evicted from subsidized housing or terminated from shelter:
An Act to end child homelessness
House Bill 119
Lead sponsor: Representative Denise Provost
Please see http://mahomeless.org/advocacy/policy-alerts for our current action alerts and updates.
October 27, 2015: Please invite your legislators to join the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless and the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance for an Unaccompanied Youth Homelessness Advocacy Day this Thursday, October 29th! (PDF and web version)
October 21, 2015: Join us next Tuesday at the State House to show your support for House Bill 529 to strengthen the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children Program (EAEDC) (PDF and web version)
October 1, 2015: Sign Up Today for Next Week's Basic Benefits Training on Helping Families Access Emergency Assistance and Related Benefits! (PDF and web version)
September 25, 2015: Hot Off the Press: Update on the Campaign to Stop Eligibility Restrictions on Access to Family Shelter (PDF and web version)
September 14, 2015: One-Minute Activism: Stand Up with Families without Homes: Ask Your Legislators to Oppose EA Restrictions in the Supplemental Budget
September 10, 2015: Stand Up with Families without Homes: Ask Your Legislators to Oppose EA Restrictions in the Supplemental Budget (PDF and web version)
September 3, 2015: Accessing the Clothing Allowance: Increased TAFDC Benefits and Eligibility for the Month of September (PDF and web version)
July 31, 2015: Success! Thank You for Helping to Secure the Veto Overrides to Restore Funding for Unaccompanied Youth + MRVP! (PDF and web version)
July 15, 2015: Stand Up for Equal Rights! Join Us at the State House on 7/28 for a Hearing on a Bill of Rights for People Experiencing Homelessness
July 8, 2015: Budget Update: The FY'16 Conference Committee Report Includes Many Increases for Key Housing, Homelessness, and Benefits Programs!
June 25, 2015: Update: Thank You for Asking Your State Legislators to Participate in the Unaccompanied Youth Sign-On Letter to the Budget Conferees!
June 17, 2015:Quick Action: Please Ask Your State Legislators to Participate in the Unaccompanied Youth Sign-On Letter to the Budget Conferees!
May 28, 2015: Help Shape the FY'16 Conference Committee Budget! Advocate with Us for Housing and Homelessness Programs
May 22, 2015: Senate Budget Update: Thank You for Helping Us Advocate for Key Senate Budget Amendments to Better Serve People Experiencing and At-risk of Homelessness!
May 15, 2015: The Senate Amendments Have Been Filed. Now Help Advocate for Their Inclusion in the Final Senate Budget!for Their Inclusion in the Final Senate Budget!
March 19, 2015: Update: More Action Is Needed! Please Help Ensure Adequate Funding for Family Homelessness Programs in the Pending Supplemental Budget (PDF and web version)
March 13, 2015: Take Action! Please Help Ensure Adequate Funding for Family Homelessness Programs in the Pending Supplemental Budget
March 12, 2015: Gratitude and Updates: Thank You for Your Support on Legislative Action Day + Analysis of the Governor's Budget Recommendations for Key Housing and Homelessness Programs
March 4, 2015:Youth Without Homes Can't Wait! Help Us Obtain $4 Million in the FY'16 State Budget to Create Housing and Services for Youth Experiencing Homelessness
February 18, 2015: Just Over Two Weeks to Go! Register Today to Join Us at the State House on March 5th for Legislative Action Day 2015! (PDF and web version)
December 17, 2014: Help Support the Unaccompanied Youth Homelessness Bill! Please Ask Your Senator to Sign onto the Letter to Senate Ways and Means Today!
December 11, 2014: Great News! The Unaccompanied Youth Homelessness Bill Has Passed in the House and is Moving onto the Senate!
December 1, 2014: Support the Coalition This #GivingTuesday and Throughout the Holidays!
November 25, 2014: Thanksgiving Week Gratitude and Simple Actions You Can Take to Help Address Homelessness!
November 17, 2014: Reminder: Join in Our Call-In Day Today to Help the Youth Homelessness Bill Move Even Closer to the Finish Line!
November 4, 2014: Join Us to Improve Benefits and Quality of Life for EAEDC Program Participants!
September 5, 2014: Youth Without Homes Can't Wait: Participate in Our Photo Action to Help Pass House Bill 135!
October 22, 2014: Important Housing Notice: Waiting List Openings for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program
August 26, 2014: Helping Families Access the TAFDC Children's Clothing Allowance: Increased Welfare Benefits and Eligibility for the Month of September
June 30, 2014: The Conference Committee Members Have Released Their FY'15 Budget Recommendations
June 18, 2014: Last Call! Help Shape the FY'15 Conference Committee Budget by Advocating with Us for Housing and Homelessness Programs!
June 9, 2014: Youth Without Homes Can't Wait! Please Ask Your Legislators to Sign onto Rep. O'Day's Letter to Chairman Dempsey in Support of House Bill 135!
June 5, 2014: Youth without homes can't wait! Help us end youth homelessness by supporting House Bill 135!
June 4, 2014: Looking Ahead to Fiscal Year 2015: The Conference Committee is Meeting Now to Iron Out the Differences Between the House and Senate Versions of the FY'15 State Budget
May 27, 2014: Outcomes from the Senate budget debate: Please thank your State Senator for supporting key housing and homelessness amendments!
May 15, 2014: Take action! Please call your State Senator to support amendments to the Senate Ways & Means budget!
February 25, 2014: Standing together, taking action to end homelessness: Weigh in with your State Legislators as we mark the Coalition's Legislative Action Day!
February 20, 2014: "Standing Together, Taking Action to End Homelessness": Sign up today to join us next Thursday for Legislative Action Day 2014!
February 13, 2014: Weigh in Today with Your State Senator to Push for Important Provisions in the Pending Supplemental Budget!
February 12, 2014: Updates and Actions: Pre-Legislative Action Day Training Call, Supplemental Budget Advocacy, and More
February 4, 2014: State House Call-In Day This Thursday, 2/6 to Pass the Youth Homelessness Bill!
January 30, 2014: Join Us for our Month of Action to End Homelessness
January 24, 2014: Help Secure Funding for Two Key Programs Serving Families Experiencing Homelessness!
January 23, 2014: Governor Patrick Has Released His Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Recommendations
November 19, 2013: Stand with Low-Income Families: Take Action as the Legislature Gets Ready to Vote on Welfare Reform Measures!
November 14, 2013: Ask Your Legislators to Take Action to Continue to Protect Families Experiencing Homelessness by Extending the New SDTEA Program
November 5, 2013: Update on the House Welfare Debate: Please Contact Your State Representative Today in Support of Rep. Decker's Critical Welfare Reform Amendment! (For a version with active hyperlinks, click here.)
October 2, 2013: Please Invite Your State Legislators to Mark World Homeless Day with the Coalition Next Thursday, October 10th!
August 22, 2013: Campaign to Strengthen Assistance for the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children Program (EAEDC)
August 20, 2013: Important Information for Families Timing Out of the HomeBASE Rental Assistance Program
August 8, 2013: Save the Date! Forum on Unaccompanied Youth Homelessness, November 8th in Worcester
July 25, 2013: Implementation of Key Housing and Homelessness Provisions Within the Fiscal Year 2014 State Budget
July 1, 2013: Happy New Fiscal Year! The Legislature Has Finalized the FY'14 Budget
May 20, 2013: Please Ask Your State Senator to Actively Support Key FY'14 Budget Amendments!
May 15, 2013: Looking Ahead to FY'14: The Senate Ways & Means Committee Has Released Its Budget Recommendations for the Upcoming Year
May 6, 2013: Tomorrow: Participate in a Call-In Day to the State Senate in Support of Emergency Assistance and HomeBASE!
April 25, 2013: The House Has Finalized Its FY'14 Budget Recommendations. Now It Is on to the Senate!
April 22, 2013: Take Action Today! Ask Your State Representative to Actively Support Key Amendments to the House Ways & Means Budget!
April 11, 2013: Looking Ahead to FY'14: The House Ways & Means Committee Has Released Its Budget Recommendations for the Upcoming Year
December 20, 2012: Save the Date! Please Plan to Join Us at the State House on February 27th for Our Legislative Action Day/Youth on the Hill Day
December 5, 2012: Early December News: Implementation of New Shelter Regs, FY'14 Budget Hearings, FY'13 Budget Cuts and Requests, and More
November 19, 2012: Participate in a Statewide Call-in Day Tomorrow, 11/20 to Push Back Against New Family Shelter Eligibility Restrictions!
October 4, 2012: Call to Action: Public Hearings on 10/22 and 10/25 on New Family Shelter Eligibility Restrictions
August 20, 2012: August Updates: RAFT Homelessness Prevention Program is Back and First Phase of Family Shelter Restrictions Are in Effect
July 18, 2012: Your Action Needed to Halt DHCD's Proposed Eligibility for Emergency Assistance Shelter!
July 9, 2012: Governor Patrick's Budget Signing Decisions + New Supplemental Budget Request
June 28, 2012: Contact the Governor to Ask Him to Support Key Elements of the Conference Committee Budget!
June 18, 2012: Last Call! Speak Up for Housing and Homelessness Issues in the Conference Committee Budget!
June 11, 2012: Speak Up for Housing and Homelessness Issues in Conference Committee!
June 1, 2012: Outcome of Priority Budget Amendments for Housing and Homelessness Issues
May 22, 2012: Senate Debate Alert: Please Call Your Senator Today to Support Key Housing and Homelessness Amendments
May 17, 2012: Time to Take Action! The Senate Ways and Means Committee Has Released Its FY'13 Budget Recommendations
May 1, 2012: The Final Outcome of the House Budget Debate. Your Advocacy is Needed on the Senate Side!
April 23, 2012: Weigh in Today with Your State Representative to Win Key Improvements to the House Budget Proposal!
April 12, 2012: Time to Take Action! The House Ways and Means Committee Has Released Its FY'13 Budget Recommendations
February 28, 2012: Our Legislative Action Day is TOMORROW! Will you "Leap into Action to End Homelessness"?
February 21, 2012: Countdown to Our 2/29 Legislative Action Day! Will You Join Us to "Leap into Action to End Homelessness"?
February 13, 2012: Reminder: Join Us Tomorrow for Our Unaccompanied Youth Call-in Day and on 2/29 for Legislative Action Day!
February 8, 2012: Reminder: Have a Heart for Unaccompanied Youth! Participate in our Valentine's Day Call-in Day to House Ways and Means!
February 1, 2012: Have a Heart for Unaccompanied Youth! Participate in our Valentine's Day Call-in Day to House Ways and Means!
January 26, 2012: Time to Take Action: Governor Patrick Has Released His Fiscal Year 2013 Budget Recommendations
December 29, 2011: Please Consider Making a Year-End Donation to Help Support the Coalition's A Bed for Every Child Initiative!
December 21, 2011: Online, On TV, and At the State House: Exciting Updates from the Coalition
December 14, 2011: EOHED Announces Public Hearings on FY'13 Budget
November 29, 2011: Executive Office of Health and Human Services to Hold FY'13 Public Budget Hearings
November 23, 2011: Good News for Thanksgiving! Unaccompanied Youth Homelessness Bill Receives Favorable Report
November 7, 2011: Budget Update: Legislature Approves Supplemental Funding for the Emergency Assistance and HomeBASE Programs!
October 20, 2011: Update on Your Advocacy to Protect Access to Emergency Assistance and HomeBASE for Families Experiencing Homelessness!
October 19, 2011: Take Action to Protect Access to Emergency Assistance and HomeBASE for Families Experiencing Homelessness!
September 29, 2011: Legislative Briefing on Unaccompanied Youth Homelessness Next Wednesday
September 1, 2011: Children's Clothing Allowance Campaign Victory and Public Hearings on DHCD's HomeBASE Program Regulations
August 18, 2011: Public Hearing on DHCD's HomeBASE Program Regulations, Monday, 9-12, in Boston
August 9, 2011: Coalition's Highland Kids Initiative Will Be Featured on Chronicle This Thursday, 8-11!
July 28, 2011: HomeBASE Information from DHCD
July 26, 2011: Next Steps on Unaccompanied Youth Homelessness Bill
July 18, 2011: HomeBASE Information Session Has Been Rescheduled: Join Us at DHCD Next Monday, 7-25, in Boston
July 14, 2011: The Unaccompanied Youth Homelessness Bill Will Be Heard at the State House Next Tuesday; Help Fill Gardner Auditorium!
Information on the Coalition's FY'17 Budget Campaigns Please follow these links to sections on our website with more details on the FY'17 budget process:
Overall FY'17 budget priority fact sheet(updated 5-6-16), including the Coalition's requests for line items such as Emergency Assistance, HomeBASE, youth homelessness, RAFT, Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, EAEDC, etc.
Expanding the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT, line item 7004-9316) homelessness prevention program: Campaign fact sheet (updated 4-21-16); downloadable organizational endorsement form; online organizational endorsement; testimony from Susan O. in support of the RAFT expansion
Providing $4 million for housing and services for unaccompanied youth who are experiencing homelessness: Campaign fact sheet; current organizational endorser list (as of 4-15-16); campaign endorsement form; more information about youth homelessness and the work of the Massachusetts Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth
Provide Emergency Assistance (EA) shelter and resources to families expreriencing homelessness before they have to stay in places not meant for human habitation: Campaign fact sheet; supplemental budget campaign fall 2016/winter 2017
Increasing funding for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP, line item 7004-9030): Campaign fact sheet
Maintaining TAFDC benefits for families with disabilities: Campaign fact sheet
- The Baker Administration plans to start counting SSI benefits when calculating welfare benefits for families in the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (TAFDC). The proposal, announced at the same time as the Governor's FY'17 budget recommendations were released, would lead to an estimated 6,900 families with children losing their TAFDC benefits completely, and another 1,600 families facing drastic cuts to their benefits. Such a policy would have dramatic impacts on the quality of life for those families (all of which have at least one member with a severe disability) and on the rates of homelessness and housing insecurity. Join with us in speaking up against this proposal!
Check back frequently for updates and additional campaign information.
Information on the Coalition's 2015-2016 Bill Campaigns
- Overall bill priority fact sheet (updated 2-26-16)
- Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children Program (EAEDC) bill: An Act relative to assisting elders and people with disabilities in the Commonwealth, filed by Representative Jim O'Day and lead Senate sponsor Senator Patricia Jehlen (House Bill 529): Fact sheet (updated 4-8-16), legislative page; infographic; status: House Bill 529 was reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs and sent to the House Committee on Ways and Means on December 10, 2015. The bill remains in House Ways and Means. The Coalition is working to move forward elements of the bill during informal legislative sessions, which will run from August 2016-January 2017.
- Sign the Coalition’s one-minute online EAEDC action, which will send an electronic letter to your State Representative and State Senator in support of House Bill 529.
- To participate in our Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children Program (EAEDC) bill campaign, please click here for the endorsement form (PDF), an online fillable endorsement form, and an EAEDC data fact sheet. For more information, please contact Sr. Linda Bessom at firstname.lastname@example.org or 781-595-7570 x18.
- Bill of rights for people experiencing homelessness: An Act providing a homeless bill of rights, filed by Representative William Smitty Pignatelli (House Bill 1129): Fact sheet (updated 4-8-16), legislative page; flyer for 7-28-15 bill hearing at the State House; Rep. Pignatelli's December 2016legislative sign-on letter text; status: House Bill 1129 was reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Housing and sent to the House Committee on Ways and Means on December 17, 2015. The bill remains in House Ways and Means. The Coalition is working to move the bill forward during informal legislative sessions, which will run from August 2016-January 2017.
- Sign the Coalition’s one-minute online bill of rights action, which will send an electronic letter to your State Representative and State Senator in support of House Bill 1129.
- To participate in our bill of rights campaign, please click here for the endorsement form (PDF) and an online fillable endorsement form. For more information, please contact Kelly Turley at email@example.com or 781-595-7570 x17.
- Bill 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: Filed by Representative Denise Provost (House Bill 119): Legislative page; status: The bill was heard by the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities on October 20, 2015, where it is awaiting further action.
- Sample of the Coalition's letter to legislators to request co-sponsorship of these three bills
- The Healthy Food, Healthy Homes, Healthy Children bill: An Act relative to ensuring the well-being of all children in the Commonwealth, filed by Representative Jay Livingstone (House Bill 429) and Senator Mark Montigny (Senate Bill 94): Fact sheet from the Healthy Food, Healthy Homes, Healthy Children Coalition; legislative pages for House Bill 429 and Senate Bill 94; status: The bill initially was assigned to the Joint Committee on Education, and then was sent to the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities. That committee heard the bill on October 20, 2015, and the bill is awaiting further action.
- Veto override campaign letter to Legislative Leadership to restore funding for housing/services for unaccompanied youth and for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (7-17-15); press release (7-22-15); email to Legislators (7-23-15)
Overall budget priority fact sheet (updated 4-15-15); letter to FY'16 budget Conference Committee members
Senate budget amendment fact sheet
Housing and services for unaccompanied youth (updated 5-7-15)
Emergency Assistance family shelter and services program (EA) (updated 3-26-15); House budget amendment fact sheet;
- Stand Up with Families without Homes: Ask Your Legislators to Oppose Family Shelter Access Restrictions in the Supplemental Budget: Action alert, 9-10-15 web version and PDF version; fact sheet for you; fact sheet to share with your legislators
Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP)
Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP)
Transitional Aid to Families with Dependment Children program (TAFDC) House budget amendment fact sheet
To read our analysis of Governor Baker's FY'16 budget proposal, which was released on March 4, 2015, please click here.
Across Massachusetts, an unprecedented number of children, youth, and adults are experiencing homelessness, primarily due to widespread poverty, and an insufficient supply of housing that is affordable to the lowest income households.
Join us in calling on Massachusetts lawmakers to declare a State of Emergency to End Homelessness, and taking immediate actions to help stop the crisis!
Please complete this form to let us know you (as an organization or individual) stand in solidarity with our call for a state of emergency against homelessness in Massachusetts.
The text of our call to action is below and here in PDF form:
Across Massachusetts, an unprecedented number of children, youth, and adults are experiencing homelessness, primarily due to widespread poverty, and an insufficient supply of housing that is affordable to the lowest income households. Homelessness and housing insecurity also are exacerbated by domestic violence, substance abuse, inequality, illness, and unemployment. According to numbers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's 2015 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, there were 21,135 people in Massachusetts counted as experiencing homelessness during the 2015 point-in-time counts conducted by the HUD Continua of Care across the state. We know that this figure is just the tip of the iceberg, as the HUD count is a snapshot for one day in the winter and includes only people connected to shelters and social service programs and those visibly staying in places not meant for human habitation. Families and individuals (including many unaccompanied youth) without housing of their own who are staying in temporary doubled-up situations with friends and family members are not captured in the count. Many Massachusetts residents staying in cars, campgrounds, transit stations, and other places not meant for human habitation are never captured in official counts either.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s September 2015 American Community Survey report, the overall poverty rate in Massachusetts was 11.6% in 2014. This included an estimated 757,235 people in Massachusetts living in households that fell below the poverty threshold (at the time, $24,008 for a family of four). Families and children in Massachusetts experience poverty at an even higher rate, as 13.2% of families with children under 18 have incomes which fall below the poverty line.
Homelessness reflects the statewide housing crisis and has led to a public health crisis. Research in cities and states across America, including Massachusetts, shows that individuals experiencing homelessness are four times more likely to die of any cause than similar people who are housed. The effects are equally dire for families experiencing homelessness: housing insecurity for families is associated with poor child health and increased risk for developmental disabilities among young children, as well as less-healthy children of pregnant mothers experiencing homelessness. The way to improve the health and well-being of these populations is simple: increase the stock of affordable housing so that fewer individuals and families become homeless in the first place, and provide rapid pathways back to housing for those who have lost their homes.
For more than three decades, Massachusetts has been a national leader in responding to homelessness and housing instability. At the same time, there is much more work to be done to ensure that everyone has a safe, affordable place to call home. Taking the example from the cities of Los Angeles, Portland, and Seattle, as well as the state of Hawaii, we are asking the Commonwealth to recognize the homelessness emergency here in Massachusetts, and to take immediate and sustained action to end homelessness.
We are asking state officials to prioritize homelessness and housing programs in the FY’17 state budget by taking actions including, but not limited to:
• Expanding the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316) to continue to help families with children avoid or exit homelessness and begin to provide homelessness prevention funds to elders, adults with disabilities, unaccompanied youth, and other household configurations. (RAFT fact sheet)
• Increasing funding for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, line item 7004-9024) to $120 million to maintain existing services and benefits to the more than 7,000 households currently served by the program and to significantly increase the number of low-income households (including families, elders, and persons with disabilities) struggling with housing instability who will be served by the program.
• Providing adequate funding for the Emergency Assistance family shelter and services program (EA, line item 7004-0101) and including key language to provide shelter to families who are at “imminent risk of staying in a place not meant for human habitation”. Under current EA regulations, otherwise eligible families who are within 24 hours of staying in places not meant for human habitation can be turned away from shelter, even if DHCD believes that the family will be forced to stay in a car, emergency room, or transit station. Massachusetts can and must do better for its most vulnerable families. Between July 1, 2014 and June 30, 2015 (all of FY’15), 494 families with children were approved for EA only after first staying in a place not meant for human habitation. For the first five months of FY’16, 273 families first stayed in places not meant for human habitation before being approved for shelter (an average of 55 families/month). (EA fact sheet)
• Increasing funding for housing and services for unaccompanied youth and young adults who are experiencing homelessness outside the custody and care of a parent or guardian (line item 4000-0007) to $4 million, $2 million over the initial FY’16 investment in this new line item. (Youth homelessness fact sheet and endorsement form)
• Increasing funding for homelessness assistance for individuals (Line Item 7004-0102) to $50 million, an increase over the FY’16 funding level of $44.8 million.
• Increasing funding for the Home and Healthy for Good Program for individuals experiencing chronic homelessness (line item 7004-0104) to $3.8 million, a $2 million increase over the FY’16 appropriation) and continuing to provide support to LGBT young adults who are experiencing homelessness.
• Increasing the number of voluntary treatment programs and beds for individuals of all incomes in active opioid and other forms of addiction, as well mental health services will prevent shelters form continuing to be indefinite holding areas for individuals struggling with special challenges and issues.
Outside of the budget, we are asking the Administration to increase coordination among state agencies tasked with addressing homelessness and poverty, and asking the Legislature to pass key pieces of legislation such as:
• An Act providing a homeless bill of rights (House Bill 1129 fact sheet)
• An Act relative to assisting elders & people with disabilities in the Commonwealth (House Bill 529 fact sheet)
• An Act to end child homelessness (House Bill 119 legislative page)
• An Act relative to ensuring the well-being of all children in the Commonwealth (House Bill 429/Senate Bill 94 fact sheet)
Join us in calling on Massachusetts lawmakers to declare a State of Emergency to End Homelessness, and taking these immediate actions to help stop the crisis!
As of March 17th, there are 33 organizational endorsers, as well as over 550 individual endorsers for the call-to-action. The organizations (in alphabetical order) that have signed on include those listed below. Add your name and organization today!
|AIDS Action Committee|
|American Friends Service Committee Cambridge|
|American Friends Service Committee Material Assistance Program|
|Arise for Social Justice|
|Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program|
|Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee|
|City Mission Boston|
|Community Works Inc.|
|First Baptist Church in Framingham|
|First Church in Cambridge, Congregational, UCC|
|First Church in Swampscott, Congregational, UCC|
|First Church Shelter|
|Friends of the Homeless|
|Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless|
|Massachusetts Communities Action Network|
|Poor People's United Fund|
|Sanctuary United Church of Christ|
|Somerville Homeless Coalition|
|South Congregational Church|
|Spare Change News|
|The Addict's Mom|
|The Plymouth Church in Framingham|
|Wellesley Friends Meeting|
|Women's Lunch Place|
|Y2Y Harvard Square|
Photos from our Legislative Action Day official launch of the State of Emergency campaign. Campaign endorsers and supporters dropped off materials about the State of Emergency request, along with blankets, to key legislative leaders and the Governor. The delegation underscored the message that a blanket is not a home.
Please Support House Bill 529, An Act Relative to Assisting Elders and People with Disabilities in the Commonwealth
EAEDC is a state-funded cash assistance and benefits program providing support to approximately 22,000 extremely low-income individuals, administered by the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA).
House Bill 529 would:
- Increase the EAEDC grant
- Remove the shelter reduction/penalty for individuals experiencing homelessness
- Increase the allowable personal asset limit from $250 to $2,500
- Create an annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) for EAEDC program participants