Great news: Two of our homelessness prevention bills, House Bill 84 and House Bill 114, are on the move! H.84 is An Act to further provide a rental arrearage program, filed by Representative Marjorie Decker, and H. 114 is An Act to prevent homelessness among recipients of transitional assistance (a.k.a. the "No Place Like Home" bill), filed by Representative Denise Provost.
Special thanks to the lead sponsors and cosponsors, the Chairs of the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities, Representative Kay Khan and Senator Jennifer Flanagan, and to the full committee. Both bills have been sent to the House Committee on Ways and Means.
For more information, please contact Kelly: kelly @mahomeless.org.
Please Actively Support House Bill 695 and Senate Bill 46!
Great news! The House version of the bill of rights, House Bill 695, was reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Housing on July 10, 2017. Now the bill heads to the House Committee on Ways and Means.
Download the 2017-2018 legislative session bill fact sheet here here (updated 6-19-17).
Read the Coaliton's testimony from the June 20th hearing, as well as testimony for people experiencing homelessness, gathered last session: Sherry's testimony, Charlie's testimony, and shelter residents' testimony.
Add your organization as an official endorser of the campaign here.
An Act providing a homeless bill of rights (House Bill 695) and An Act creating a bill of rights for people experiencing homelessness (Senate Bill 46) would establish a definition of homelessness and protect key rights of all residents, whether or not they are experiencing homelessness. The bills are modeled after landmark legislation passed in 2012 in Rhode Island. Similar legislation has since passed in Connecticut and Illinois.
The bills were filed in January 2017 by lead sponsors Representative William Smitty Pignatelli and Senator Linda Dorcena Forry. House Bill 695 has been sent to the Joint Committee on Housing, and will be heard by the committee on June 20, 2017. Senate Bill 46 has been sent to the Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities, and does not have a hearing date set yet. The bills are nearly identical to House Bill 1129 from the 2015-2016 session. That bill was reported out favorably by the Joint Committee on Housing in December 2015 and sent to the House Committee on Ways and Means. In spite of considerable support, the bill did not pass last session. We are hopeful that the momentum from last session and the pressing need to uphold human rights and dignity will propel the bills forward this session.
People experiencing homelessness often are subjected to discrimination and mistreatment based on their housing status. The bill of rights is a guide for state and local officials emphasizing that people experiencing homelessness are entitled to the same rights as any other resident of Massachusetts. The bill of rights seeks to outline those rights so as to prevent discrimination based on housing status. The legislation recognizes the increased prevalence of homelessness in Massachusetts due to widespread economic hardship, the insufficient availability of safe, affordable housing, and a weakened social safety net.
The rights specifically included in the bill of rights are the right to move freely in public spaces, the right to equal treatment by municipal agencies (such as police departments), freedom from discrimination in employment, the right to emergency medical care, the right to register to vote and to vote, freedom from disclosure of records, and the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy of property.
The bill of rights for people experiencing homelessness seeks to have the rights outlined to be treated as a statement of legislative intent, as a guide for state and municipal agencies.
Click here for the legislative pages for the bill: House Bill 695 and Senate Bill 46.
List of Endorsing Organizations:
Allston Brighton Health Collaborative
American Friends Service Committee Material Aid & Advocacy Program
Arise for Social Justice
Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee
Boston Women's Fund
Bridge Over Troubled Waters
Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance
Children's League of Massachusetts
City Life Vida Urbana
City Mission Boston
Emmanuel Church in the City of Boston
Family Promise MetroWest
First Baptist Church, Everett
First Church Shelter
Horizons for Homeless Children
Massachusetts Alliance of HUD Tenants
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless
Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance
My Brother's Table
New Bedford Homeless Advocates Inc.
Poor People's United Fund
Samaritans Steps, Inc.
Somerville Homeless Coalition
South Congregational Church
Spare Change News/Homeless Empowerment Project (HEP)
Women's Lunch Place
Y2Y Harvard Square
(List as of 6-21-17)
Protect the Rights of All Residents of Massachusetts, Regardless of Housing Status: Actively Support the Bill of Rights for People Experiencing Homelessness, House Bill 695/Senate Bill 46!
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)
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Overview of key amendments
- Unaccompanied youth homelessness housing, services, and commission amendment fact sheet
- Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children amendment to end the homelessness penalty fact sheet
- Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children "Lift the Cap on Kids" amendment fact sheet
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
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
For more details, please email Kelly.
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:
- Overview of Massachusetts Youth Count 2017
- Youth Count 2017 letter from Linn Torto, Executive Director of the Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness
- Youth Count flyer
- English version of Youth Count survey
- Spanish version of Youth Count survey
- Haitian Kreyol version of Youth Count survey
- Cape Verdean Creole version of Youth Count survey
- Khmer/Cambodian version of Youth Count survey
- Brazilian Portuguese version of Youth Count survey
- QR code to link to online survey
- Social media outreach tips for Youth Ambassadors (and other stakeholders), courtesy of Lauren Leonardis, Youth Count Consultant
Join Us to Increase Access to Massachusetts Identification Cards for People Experiencing Homelessness
· Applying for jobs
· Enrolling in education programs
· Getting a library card
· Picking up a package from the post office
· Opening financial accounts
· Entering certain government buildings
· Accessing services
· Interacting with law enforcement
Join our campaign to pass legislation to eliminate fees and reduce barriers to accessing Massachusetts identification cards by people experiencing homelessness: An Act To Provide Identification to Homeless Youth and Families, filed by Senator Harriette Chandler (Senate Bill 1906) and Representative Kay Khan (House Bill 2737).
The fact sheet is linked here as a PDF and posted above. If your organization would like to become an official endorser of this campaign, please complete this form.
See related coverage on this issue from the Washington Post: "The invisibles: The cruel Catch-22 of being poor with no ID" (6-15-17).
For more information, please contact Kelly Turley at kelly @mahomeless.org.
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)
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; S.46 sent to the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities
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
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.84; organizational endorsement form for bill and budget campaigns
Sent to the Joint Committee on Housing
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
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
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)
Both bills sent to the Joint Committee on Transportation
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
Lead Sponsors: Representative Marjorie Decker and Senator Sal DiDomenico
House Bill 85 (formerly House Docket 1262) and Senate Bill 34 (formerly Senate Docket 1762)
Both bills sent to the Joint Committee on Children, Families, and Persons with Disabilities
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
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.
We are grateful to each of the speakers, volunteers, attendees, and supporters!
|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|
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.
Take action to protect children and families experiencing homelessness!
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:
- State House switchboard: 617-722-2000
Working to increase funding for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program and maintain expanded eligibilty
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.
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
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.
No One Should Have to Sleep in a Place Not Meant for Human Habitation
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
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.
Check out the Coalition's YouTube channel, EndHomelessnessMA, for videos from this event:
Supplemental Budget Update: Additional Housing and Services Funds Have Been Passed by the Legislature
Great news! The Massachusetts House of Representatives and Senate passed the FY'16 supplemental budget this afternoon.
As recommended by Governor Baker, it includes $1 million more for housing and services for unaccompanied youth and young adults who are experiencing homelessness (line item 4000-0007).
It also includes $3.6 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, line item 7004-9024).
In addition, the suppplemental budget restores this language to the HomeBASE program (line item 7004-0108):
SECTION 27. Item 7004-0108 of said section 2 of said chapter 133 is hereby amended by adding the following words:- ; provided further, that no family with a head of household who is over 60 years of age or who is disabled, who is in compliance with the requirements of a housing stabilization plan that reasonably accommodates disabilities, and who otherwise meets all program eligibility requirements shall be denied short-term housing assistance; provided further, that any such family with a head of household who is over 60 years of age or who is disabled shall not have engaged in, or be engaged in, any activity that threatens the health, safety or security of the family, other program participants or program staff.
See https://malegislature.gov/Bills/189/House/H4664, and check back on this page for any updates.
Please thank your State Representative and Senator for these deeper investments and budget language, and to Governor Baker for recommending the funding increases: www.wheredoivotema.com.