Due to eligibility restrictions put into place in the fall of 2012, thousands of families with children have been forced to stay in unsafe, untenable situations to prove that they were “homeless enough” to qualify for the Emergency Assistance family shelter and services (EA) program. This puts the children at risk and drives up the cost of health care. Educators across the state are concerned about the fate of their students and the disruption to their education.

Between July 1, 2014 and March 31, 2015 alone, 365 families with children had to sleep in cars, bus stations, emergency rooms and other unsafe places before they were found eligible for emergency shelter. For the entirety of FY’14, there were at least 607 families in such situations before being approved for shelter. By allowing families who otherwise would be forced to stay in a place not meant for human habitation to access shelter before actually having to stay in such conditions, we can protect the safety and dignity of our most vulnerable families before they are put even closer to harm’s way.

There is a simple solution – amend the language in line item 7004-0101 to allow otherwise eligible families who are experiencing homelessness to be placed in shelter when they are “within 24 hours of staying in a place not meant for human habitation”, not just after they have stayed there.

As the Legislature debates and finalizes the fiscal year 2016 state budget, we are grateful for the leadership of Senator Karen Spilka and the Senate Ways and Means Committee for including language in the Senate version of the budget that would directly address this issue: 

” provided further, however, that a family who has no other feasible accommodation on the date of application for assistance and who would otherwise spend the 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, shall be eligible for assistance”

Please continue to advocate with your legislators so that this language will be included in the final version of the FY’16 state budget.

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