Advocacy

FY 2016

Campaign to Establish a Bill of Rights for People Experiencing Homelessness

Campaign to Establish a Bill of Rights for People Experiencing Homelessness

Please Actively Support An Act Providing a Homeless Bill of Rights, House Bill 1129

Download the current fact sheet here.

Read Sherry's testimony and Charlie's testimony.

Summary

An Act Providing a Homeless Bill of Rights, House Bill 1129, would establish a definition of those experiencing homelessness and protect key rights of all residents, whether or not they are experiencing homelessness. The bill is modeled after landmark legislation passed in 2012 in Rhode Island. Similar legislation was passed in Connecticut and Illinois.  

Bill Status
House Bill 1129 was filed on January 14, 2015 by Representative William Smitty Pignatelli, and was sent to the Joint Committee on Housing on March 10, 2015. House Bill 1129 was filed on January 14, 2015, and was sent to the Joint Committee on Housing on March 10, 2015. The committee heard the bill on July 28, 2015, and reported out the bill favorably on December 17, 2015. House Bill 1129 now is before the House Committee on Ways and Means. 

[The bill also was filed last session (House Bill 3595), and was reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Housing in March 2014, before being sent to study by the Committee on Health Care Financing in July 2014.]


Why is it necessary to create a Homeless Bill of Rights?
The Homeless Bill of Rights would entitle those experiencing homelessness 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.

“No person’s rights, privileges, or access to public services may be denied or abridged solely because he or she is experiencing homelessness.”

The rights included in the Homeless Bill of Rights are the right to move freely in public spaces, the right to equal treatment by municipal agencies, 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 seeks to have the rights outlined to be treated as a statement of legislative intent, as a guide for state and municipal agencies.

Protect the Rights of All Residents of Massachusetts: Support An Act Providing a Homeless Bill of Rights, House Bill 1129!

Click here for the legislative page for the bill.

List of endorsing organizations:

American Friends Service Committee Material Aid & Advocacy Program
Arise for Social Justice
Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee
Boston Public Health Commission
Boston Women's Fund
Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance
City Life Vida Urbana
City Mission Boston
Community Works
Emmanuel Church in the City of Boston
Family Promise MetroWest
First Church Shelter
Massachusetts Alliance of HUD Tenants
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless
My Brother's Table
Poor People's United Fund
Roca
Samaritans Steps Inc.
ServiceNet, Inc.
Somerville Homeless Coalition
South Congregational Church
Spare Change News/Homeless Empowerment Project (HEP)
Women's Lunch Place
Y2Y Harvard Square










Youth Count 2016

Youth Count 2016

Take part in the 2016 Massachusetts Youth Count survey as a participant and/or volunteer!

May 2, 2016 

Today's the day! The 3rd annual Massachusetts Youth Count is now underway to better understand the housing and service needs of unaccompanied youth and young adults under the age of 25. Findings from this survey will continue to inform state policies and funding allocations so that Massachusetts can better meet the needs of young people who are experiencing homelessness and housing instability, outside the care of a parent or guardian.

Youth Count 2016 will run until the end of the day on Sunday, May 15th.

Please share these links with young people you know who are under 25 and who have experienced housing instability.

The online survey in English and Spanish is here.

Downloadable versions are below:

English

Spanish

Haitian Creole

Completed paper versions can be returned to Kelly: kelly@mahomeless.org

Continuums of Care, youth providers, youth ambassadors, and other partners also will be distributing the survey over the next two weeks to youth and young adults throughout the state.


Data from last year's survey is available here and Spare Change News coverage of this year's count is here.

The Coalition is proud to be a lead partner in the Massachusetts Youth Count, a project of the Massachusetts Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth

Learn more on the Youth Count Facebook page or by emailing kelly@mahomeless.org

Thanks! 
2015-2016 Legislative Session Bill Priorities

2015-2016 Legislative Session Bill Priorities

Help Advocate with Your Legislators with and for Bills to Better Serve Families, Youth, and Unaccompanied Adults

Our major legislative priorities for the 2015-2016 legislative session are described in this overview sheet and below.

House Bill 529 MCH EAEDC Campaign front

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
     Legislative page
 



Declare a State of Emergency to Address and End Homelessness in Massachusetts


SEEH banner

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!

-Posted 2/12/16

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
Boston Warm
City Mission Boston
Community Works Inc.
COPE
Emmanuel Church
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
Outdoor Fellowship
Poor People's United Fund
ROCA
Samaritans Steps
Sanctuary United Church of Christ
Somerville Homeless Coalition
South Congregational Church
Spare Change News
The Addict's Mom
The Plymouth Church in Framingham
Victory Programs
Wellesley Friends Meeting
Women's Lunch Place
Worcester Fellowship
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.
image2 blanket dropimage1 blanket dropIMG 2902 blanket dropIMG 2904 blanket drop 1


Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Priorities

Fiscal Year 2016 Budget Priorities

Working to Prevent and End Homelessness by Increasing Funding for Housing and Protecting Safety Net Programs

Major areas of FY'16 budget focus:
  1. Adequately fund and protect emergency service programs for families and individuals experiencing homelessness and support key line item provisions.
  2. Increase funding for housing programs serving extremely low-income households.
  3. Adequately fund and protect key income support programs for low-income families and individuals.
  4. Address the needs of unaccompanied youth and young adults who are experiencing homelessness by funding housing and wraparound support services (EOHHS Line Items 4000-0007 and 4000-0300).
  5. Continue to fund the transportation of children and youth experiencing homelessness to decrease the costs to cities and towns (ESE Line Item 7035-0008).
Download our FY'16 budget priority list here as a Word Doc or PDF.

FY'16 Budget Campaigns

Past Campaigns: Information on the Coalition's FY'16 Budget Campaigns

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)

Conference Committee budget outcomes (7-8-15)

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

HomeBASE re-housing and homelessness diversion resources for families: Senate budget amendment fact sheetHouse budget amendment fact sheet

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.
Improving the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children Program (EAEDC)

Improving the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children Program (EAEDC)

Please Support House Bill 529, An Act Relative to Assisting Elders and People with Disabilities in the Commonwealth

What is EAEDC?
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:

  1. Increase the EAEDC grant
  2. Remove the shelter reduction/penalty for individuals experiencing homelessness
  3. Increase the allowable personal asset limit from $250 to $2,500
  4. Create an annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) for EAEDC program participants
Click here for the current campaign fact sheet and here for the legislative page for the bill.

eaedc 80s barbie infographic
Provide $4 Million in the FY’16 Budget to Implement the Unaccompanied Youth Homelessness Law

Provide $4 Million in the FY’16 Budget to Implement the Unaccompanied Youth Homelessness Law

Youth Without Homes Can’t Wait

Building upon the momentum from the January 2015 signing of the unaccompanied youth homelessness bill into law (Chapter 450 of the Acts of 2014), we have been seeking $4 million to address the housing and support service needs of unaccompanied youth and young adults who are experiencing homelessness.

Requests:
-Housing: $2.5 million for housing for unaccompanied youth under the Department of Housing and Community Development (new line item, 7004-xxxx)
-Supportive Services: $1.5 million for wraparound services for unaccompanied youth under the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (current EOHHS Administrative line item, 4000-0300 or a new line item, 4000-xxxx), with the complete line item numbers to be assigned by the Legislature.
-These investments would provide funding for the unaccompanied youth homelessness law, An Act promoting housing and support services for unaccompanied homeless youths, to ensure that the new law truly is meaningful for youth without homes.
-The new housing and service resources would be targeted to youth and young adults age 24 and younger who are experiencing homelessness out on their own, outside the custody or care of a parent/guardian. 
 
June 2, 2015 Update: As the budget has made its way through the legislative process, the State Senate has recommended $2 million for housing and services for unaccompanied youth, under new line item 4000-0007. The House also recommended continuing the funding for the work of the Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth at $150,000 in the administrative line item for the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (line item 4000-0300). We are asking the FY'16 budget Conference Committee to include both the Senate funding under 4000-0007 and the House funding in line item 4000-0300. See the Coalition's press release here.

** Sign our current online action to your State Representative and State Senator here in support of our Conference Committee requests. **







The Alternative Housing Voucher Program: DHCD Line Item 7004-9030 (AHVP)

The Alternative Housing Voucher Program: DHCD Line Item 7004-9030 (AHVP)

Expand housing opportunities for people with disabilities

What It Is:
The Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP) provides rental vouchers to applicants with disabilities who are not elderly and who have been determined eligible for Chapter 667 (elderly and disabled) housing. DHCD’s Division of Public Housing and Rental Assistance administers this program.

How It Works:
A tenant will pay either 25 or 30% of their net income to the landlord, depending on whether or not all utilities are included in the rent; and the state’s local housing authority will pay the remainder.

Program Status:
Through September 2014, 420 households were under lease; the line item is funded at $3.55 million. The program was originally funded at $4 million in 1995 to support 800 vouchers! Advocates are seeking a $3.55 million increase, for a total of $7.1 million, in order to restore the original number of vouchers. A shortage of affordable housing continues to beset adults with disabilities, especially people who are forced to reside in nursing homes for a lack of housing.