Please ask Governor Charlie Baker to take action now for children and parents experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Families in the Commonwealth’s Emergency Assistance (EA) shelter system are at risk of a rapid and potentially devastating spread of COVID-19 as they continue to share communal bathrooms, kitchens, and other living spaces in congregate shelters and so-called “co-shelters” (shared apartment-style placements.) Meanwhile, countless other families experiencing homelessness are shut out of the state’s shelter program altogether due to restrictive eligibility guidelines; other families are eligible for EA shelter but have to stay in unsafe situations for days on end due to bureaucratic delays before being placed in shelter by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).
While families in congregate shelters remain at risk from the pandemic, and families that cannot get into shelter are sleeping in their cars, in hospital emergency departments, or in unsafe, overcrowded double-up situations, thousands of hotel and motel rooms sit empty all across the state. We believe the Commonwealth should utilize these hotel and motel rooms throughout the pandemic to provide safe shelter to families experiencing homelessness.
We are calling Governor Baker to utilize hotel and motel rooms, as well as even more stand-alone apartments (“scattered site shelters”), to de-densify congregate shelters, and to provide crucial access to shelter for all families in need during this time. Use the call-in script below to join us in letting Governor Baker know that he needs to act now!
Take Action With Us!
Please call the Governor’s Constituent Services Line at 617-725-4005 or 888-870-7770 (toll-free in Massachusetts).
Here is a sample script for your call:
“I urge the Governor to prioritize the health and safety of children and parents experiencing homelessness during the COVID-19 pandemic. Families experiencing homelessness deserve to be able to practice physical and social distancing safely, and cannot do so in crowded congregate shelters and co-shelters where they have to share communal spaces. Families that are experiencing homelessness but can’t get into the Emergency Assistance system also are in dangerous situations that undermine the public health and the Commonwealth’s efforts to flatten the curve. I’m asking that the Commonwealth work to de-densify shelters by placing families in hotel and motel rooms, and to provide immediate placements to all families in need. Families should be able to easily and readily access shelter, including families that are not eligible for EA shelter, and should not be subject to burdensome verification requirements. I will be following up with a written request and look forward to seeing immediate action on this issue. Families experiencing homelessness urgently need to be given ways to safely distance during the pandemic, and we have the tools to do so. Thank you.”
As a follow-up, please also email the Governor’s Office through the form at https://www.mass.gov/forms/email-the-governors-office, and let us know you took action by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Support the immediate identification, procurement, and funding of additional shelter capacity, both within and outside the Emergency Assistance system, to provide safe placements in which children and parents do not have to share bathrooms or eating facilities with anyone outside their family unit
- Utilize motel and hotel spaces to provide safe shelter for children and parents experiencing homelessness, combined with robust supportive services and the availability of necessities such as food, medicine, diapers, cleaning supplies, and remote case management services
- Ensure that families have uninterrupted access to the EA application process throughout the COVID-19 crisis
- Ensure that the Department of Housing and Community Development honors existing law that allows families to provide self-certifications and use the presumptive placement process as a standard practice, recognizing that many families have limited access to documents, collateral contacts, and the technology needed to submit verifications
- Direct DHCD to continue to suspend EA terminations throughout the entire COVID-19 state of emergency so that families are not kicked out of shelter
- Direct DHCD to waive the existing 12-month bar on re-entering shelter to allow otherwise eligible families to be approved for EA shelter if they face a recurrence of homelessness during this pandemic
- Provide immediate, alternative safe shelter for families experiencing homelessness that are ineligible for Emergency Assistance
- Direct the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to issue an order for the provision of non-congregate shelter and associated supportive services for people at risk of severe COVID-19 infection (not only for people who are already known to have or have been exposed to the virus), so as to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for children and families experiencing homelessness, and to seek reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and other appropriate sources
- Direct DHCD and any other relevant agencies immediately to develop protocols to (i) identify families experiencing homelessness that have underlying health conditions that put them at high risk for severe COVID-19 infection and (ii) allocate non-congregate shelter placements to families in this high-risk category
- Collaborate with the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, stakeholders from the advocacy and provider communities, and families experiencing homelessness in the development and implementation of the above policies