Public Policy Advocacy
The Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless has a rich history dating back to the early 1980s as a leader in the fight to prevent and end homelessness here in the Commonwealth. The agency is steadfast in our belief that homelessness can be resolved by supplying safe, affordable, permanent housing for the lowest income households and providing opportunities for families, individuals, and youth to build economic stability. To achieve these goals, the Coalition and our members undertake campaigns in support of affordable housing, homelessness prevention, income and benefit programs, and access to education.
Are you registered to vote? If you are eligible to vote, registering to vote and showing up on Primary Day and Election Day can be key advocacy tools for addressing homelessness and housing insecurity here in Massachusetts. Register to vote online (or begin the process) through the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth’s website. ** Even if you lack a permanent address, you still can register to vote if you are otherwise eligible. **
Current Policy Campaigns
FY’21 Budget Priority Campaigns:
2019-2020 Bill Priority Campaigns:
– Overview chart andoverview sheet (PDF, updated 2-20-20)
– Re-establish a statewide rental arrearage program to help households avoid homelessness by providing back rent assistance: House Bill 1264, filed by Representative Marjorie Decker; fact sheet (PDF – updated 3-5-19); endorsing organizations (PDF – updated 7-23-19); background information (PDF, updated 3-5-19); Rent Arrearage Assistance Program (RAAP) organizational endorsement form; sample city/town council resolution in support of the bill (PDF, updated 3-5-19)
– Ensure that families experiencing homelessness do not have to stay in a place not meant for human habitation before being eligible for Emergency Assistance (EA) family shelter and services: House Bill 1265, filed by Representative Marjorie Decker; fact sheet (PDF – updated 7-29-19); EA campaign organizational endorsement form
– Ease access to standard Massachusetts ID cards for people experiencing homelessness by eliminating the $25 fee and allowing alternative ways to verify Massachusetts residency without requiring a permanent address: Senate Bill 2043 and House Bill 3066, filed by Senator Harriette Chandler and Representative Kay Khan, respectively; fact sheet (PDF- updated 2-20-20); Everyone Needs ID Mass ID access campaign organizational endorsement form
– Establish a bill of rights for people experiencing homelessness: Senate Bill 816 and House Bill 1314, filed by Senator Becca Rausch and Representative Smitty Pignatelli, respectively; fact sheet (PDF – updated 10-28-19); bill of rights campaign organizational endorsement form
– Promote the safety, dignity, and civil rights of people experiencing homelessness, a.k.a. the Act of Living bill: Senate Bill 76 and House Bill 150, filed by Senator Becca Rausch and Representative Liz Miranda, respectively; fact sheet (PDF); endorsing organizations (PDF, updated 7-15-19); endorse this campaign via the bill of rights organizational endorsement form
– Improve the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children program (EAEDC): Senate Bill 356 and House Bill 621, filed by Senator Pat Jehlen and Representative Jim O’Day, respectively; fact sheet (PDF – updated 3-20-19); EAEDC campaign organizational endorsement form; EAEDC bill advocacy page
– Eliminate the so-called “family cap rule” that currently prohibits 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): Senate Bill 37 and House Bill 104, filed by Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representative Marjorie Decker, respectively; fact sheet (PDF – updated 2-5-19); passed and implemented!
– Increase monthly grant levels in the TAFDC and EAEDC programs to lift households out of deep poverty: Senate Bill 36 and House Bill 102, filed by Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representative Marjorie Decker, respectively; fact sheet (PDF – updated 7-15-19); campaign website
– Improve the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) by making important program changes, including allowing tenants to use their subsidies in units at the current fair market rent instead of 2005 fair market rent level and establishing the program in state statute and not just the annual state budget: Senate Bill 797 and House Bill 1305, filed by Senator Jamie Eldridge and Representative Adrian Madaro, respectively; fact sheet from Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (PDF)
– Protect many children and families who are at imminent risk or experiencing homelessness from having to stay in places not meant for human habitation by delaying a household’s eviction from subsidized housing or termination from a publicly funded shelter until safe, alternative housing or shelter is found: House Bill 160, filed by Representative Denise Provost
– Increase the number of housing units created, reduce barriers to housing production, and set goals for the production of housing affordable to the lowest income households: Senate Bill 775 and House Bill 1288, filed by Senator Joe Boncore and Representative Kevin Honan, respectively
– Establish a right to legal counsel in eviction cases: Senate Bill 913 and House Bill 3456, filed by Senator Sal DiDomenico and Representative Chynah Tyler, respectively; Boston Globe coverage of the right to counsel bill, “As rents soar in Boston, low-income tenants try to stave off eviction“
– Allow cities and towns to increase revenue for affordable housing by choosing to establish real estate transfer fees: Senate Bill 773 and House Bill 1769, filed by Senator Joe Boncore and Representative Mike Connolly, respectively; fact sheet (PDF)
Please take a few minutes to support deeper investments in homelessness prevention, housing, cash assistance, and emergency services, as lawmakers develop the fiscal year 2021 state budget and move other bills forward in the 2019-2020 legislative session. Contact your State Representative and State Senator in support of the budget and bill campaigns listed above.
Recent Legislative Campaigns
FY’20 Budget Priority Campaigns:
Thank you to everyone who joined us at the State House on April 2nd for the Joint Committee on Ways and Means public hearing on the FY’20 budget. This hearing was for members of the public to weigh in with the House and Senate Committees on Ways and Means as they develop the state’s fiscal year 2020 budget. We are grateful to everyone who came to join us and spoke up for deeper investments in housing, homelessness prevention resources, emergency services, and benefits. Read more about the hearing here.
Here is our FY’20 budget priority overview (PDF, updated 3-29-19) and the preliminary FY’20 budget chart comparing current FY’19 appropriations, the Coalition’s requests for FY’20, the proposed funding and language advanced by the Governor in his House 1 budget recommendations (released on January 23, 2019), and the recommendations from the House (finalized in April) and Senate (finalized in May). The chart includes priorities such as campaigns to:
- Increase funding for housing and services for unaccompanied youth and young adults experiencing homelessness (line item 4000-0007): We are working to increase funding for this Executive Office of Health and Human Services program so as to better serve and partner with youth and young adults age 24 and younger who are without homes. We are working to secure $5 million for the line item in FY’20, up from the FY’19 funding level of $3.3 million. A funding level of $5 million would provide increased housing and wraparound services to youth and young adults experiencing homelessness and housing instability. Funds would go through the 10 regional agencies selected in FY’19 to administer the program, in conjunction with numerous partner organizations. See more details on our youth homelessness House budget amendment fact sheet (PDF, 4-10-19), general budget fact sheet (PDF, updated 4-3-19) and unaccompanied youth homelessness page. Sign on your organization as a youth housing and services campaign endorser today. Read about how the FY’19 youth homelessness funds are being used.
- Increase funding for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition homelessness prevention program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316): We are working to increase RAFT funding from $20 million to $27 million to serve more families with children, unaccompanied youth, young adults, elders, people with disabilities, and other households without minor children, and to create the Rent Arrearage Assistance Program upstream homelessness prevention pilot program within RAFT to help households pay off back rent/back mortgage bills before eviction and foreclosure processes are formally underway. See more details on our RAFT/rent arrearage House budget amendment fact sheet (PDF, 4-24-19), talking points for reaching out to your State Representative, and a sample call script. Sign on your organization as a Rent Arrearage Assistance Program (RAAP) campaign endorser today. Read rent arrearage budget campaign coverage from State House News/The Herald News.
- Improve access to the Emergency Assistance family shelter and services (line item 7004-0101): Ensure that families experiencing homelessness are able to access EA if they are otherwise eligible except for not yet having stayed in a place not meant for human habitation, such as an emergency room, car, campground, or laundromat; ensure that the Department of Housing and Community Development maintains in-person application sites where families can apply for EA; and allow families to increase their incomes up to 200% of the federal poverty guidelines before the clock starts to terminate families for being over-income. See more details on our EA House budget amendment fact sheet(PDF, 4-11-19) and general budget fact sheet (PDF). Sign on your organization as an EA campaign endorser today.
- Increase funding for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, line item 7004-9024): We are working to increase MRVP funding from $100 million to $130 million and to ensure a better match between actual rent levels and the subsidy levels. See the Housing Solutions Campaign MRVP fact sheet. Good news: The final FY’20 budget includes language to allow tenants with mobile subsidies to rent units at or below the current fair market rent levels, instead of using outdated fair market rent levels from 2005. See DHCD’s memo on implementing this change (PDF).
- Increase funding for the Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP, line item 7004-9030): We are working to increase AHVP funding from $6.15 million to $8 million so that the program can serve more individuals under the age of 60 who are living with disabilties and have extremely low incomes.
- Preserve improvements to the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children Program (EAEDC, line item 4408-1000): Maintain FY’19 budget language to provide full grants to EAEDC program participants while they are experiencing homelessness, instead of imposing the previous homelessness penalty.
- Ease access to standard Massachusetts ID cards for people experiencing homelessness by eliminating the $25 fee and allowing alternative ways to verify Massachusetts residency without requiring a permanent address (via the Massachusetts Transportation Trust Fund, line item 1595-6368 and a new outside section to the budget): Everyone Needs ID: Mass ID access House budget amendment fact sheet (PDF, 4-11-19)
FY’19 Budget Campaigns:
- FY’19 budget campaign overview
- Coalition’s FY’19 priorities and outcomes
- Overall FY’19 budget fact sheet (PDF)
- The Coalition’s 2017-2018 bill priority webpage
- Bill status updates
- Overview fact sheet on bill priorities (PDF)
- More details on the Coalition’s 2017-2018 bill campaigns are on this page.
Interested in reading about older campaigns? Please see www.mahomeless.org/advocacy/item/past-policy-campaigns.