DHCD Provider Meeting: Updates and steps towards a solution

We are experiencing family homelessness at a rate greater than ever before in Massachusetts, but that is not to say that nothing is being done.

On Friday October 17, the Department of Housing and Community Development convened staff from shelters across the state for a Provider Meeting. Getting everyone in one room is no small feat, but that is just one of many efforts that DHCD is taking to combat the influx of families entering the shelter system.

Aaron Gornstein, Undersecretary, presented a chart on EA entries and exits that compared the first quarter of this fiscal year to the first quarter of the last fiscal year.  Here is a recreation:

dhcd chart

In addition to an update on entries and exits, they presented on highlights of FY13 and FY14- important considerations in determining the progress of eliminating homelessness.

Since FY13, the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program has assisted 2,000 families in attaining permanent housing. 4,000 families left shelter with HomeBASE house hold assistance, and 6,000 families were prevented from entering the system through RAFT. The shelter system has been expanded with over 725 beds and the FY14 goal of 1,000 supportive housing units has been reached.

These programs are recognized by our membership as FY15 priorities, and we plan to continue to advocate for them with the help of families and shelter providers throughout the state.  Here is what is planned for them so far:

MRVP

  • 1,058 new mobile vouchers
  • 350 new project based vouchers
  • Rent level increases for existing project-based vouchers

In September, Local Housing Authorities will begin issuing 892 vouchers and Regional Administering Agencies will begin issuing 166 vouchers in December. The application period for the RAA’s is open NOW through November 3, so make sure to fill one out and share with anyone who needs to get on the waiting list ASAP.

HomeBASE

  • Increased to $8000 for shelter exits and $6000 through diversions
  • Co-location of shelter provider staff in local offices to increase diversions
  • 32% of exits are through HomeBASE

RAFT

  • $1.5M increase in budget
  • Increase in households served: 557 in July-Sept of FY14 to 972 in July-Sept of FY15

YES, the shelter system is at capacity.  YES, we are in need of information to determine the effectiveness of short term subsidy programs like HomeBASE and RAFT. YES, there are rules in place that do not benefit the families, providers…or really anyone? And YES, there is more that we as a society, the legislature and the Administration can be doing to curb the number of families living in shelters and motels.

But that does not mean our work is in vain. The high number of families does not reflect a lack of effort, it reflects the growing gap between wages, rent and supportive services.  No matter how many families exit the system, if we are to decrease family homelessness then we need to prevent families from having to enter through addressing the root causes of poverty. We must commit to continuing to advocate for more funding, resources and supports to ensure that families have shelter,  that providers have the tools they need, and that DHCD has the resources necessary to support both.  We need to maximize on our passion, experience and the community.

And that need is recognized. DHCD called upon the providers to work in groups to brainstorm new initiatives that will help to support families in attaining permanent housing and preventing households from having to enter the system altogether. I heard a call for assessment at the front door, programs to educate landlords, intervention in the beginning of the evictions process, and an expanded supportive housing model. We also heard ideas like time limits on shelter stays, teaching providers to negotiate with landlords in housing search, and bringing back flex funds.

So we pose the same questions to you in hopes of learning new answers to bring to the table. Please read the questions below and share your ideas with us in the comment box below or on our Facebook page. Extra points if you can solve homelessness in 140 characters via our Twitter page.

1. What new initiatives are needed to make the shelter system work more effectively?

and

2. What steps can we take, and what programs will help, to prevent families from needing to enter the shelter system?

Turn Out For… What?

TURN OUT FOR A STRONGER Massachusetts…that’s what.

Confused on any or all things election?

Read on to find out what people across the state are voting on in the General Election on November 4:

Turn Out for….What?: 

Last month we wrote two blog posts. They explain the primary election as it relates to the new Administration and the incoming legislature. Although the primaries are over, they include information on what each position does. Click here to see a list of the people on the General Election ballot.

Next- make sure you can turn out:

turnoutforwhat

How to turn out for a stronger massachusetts:

  • A comprehensive and easy to navigate website on all things elections- as it relates to Massachusetts.
  • Click here and enter your address to find out what your ballot will look like
  • In addition to people, we will also be voting on different issues called ballot questions. This year we are seeing some game changing issues- eliminating gas tax indexes, expanding the beverage container law (better known as the bottle bill), expanding prohibitions on gaming, and Earned Sick Time for Employees. The votes require a YES or NO answer, and can sometimes be confusing- clicking on the link will tell you what a YES or NO means.***

Yes…there are LOTS of links, but each of them are important! If you know of any other helpful resources, please share them on our facebook page.

***(We do not necessarily agree or disagree with their recommendations, we just find that the explanation is the most clear)

Call to Action: Call on Congress to Fully Fund Housing Programs Now

Call on Congress to Fully Fund
Housing Programs Now

Tell Congress Housing Programs Need Adequate Full-Year Funding

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is hosting a National Call In Week to encourage Congress to fund McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants in Fiscal Year 2015 (FY15) at $2.406 billion, which is the funding level requested by the Obama Administration. This $301 million increase would help us to meet the Administration’s goal of ending chronic homelessness by the end of 2016 and make significant reductions among other populations.

Please join us in calling your Members of Congress to ask them to contact the Chair or Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee and tell them that providing adequate funding for the McKinney-Vento homeless assistance programs, the housing choice voucher program, the public housing operating and capital programs, the HOME program, and HUD programs are top priorities.

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT

The House and Senate are back from their August recess for just a couple of weeks.  During this time, Congress must pass some mechanism to fund programs after the start of the next fiscal year, which begins on October 1. Housing programs will be better off if Congress adequately funds them in FY15 rather than continuing FY14 funding levels.

HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION

  • Pick up the phone! Call your Senators and Representative this week and ask to speak to the staff person who works on housing issues. To find your US Sentators and Reps, click here. 
  • Make the ask! Urge them to support sufficient funding for McKinney-Vento homeless assistance grants, tenant-based rental assistance, public housing, HOME, and other important programs.
  • Report back. It’s important to share the response you got with the community so we can keep up the momentum.  Reach out to NLIHC at outreach@nlihc.org or share your response with us on Facebook or Twitter.
  • Spread the word. Forward this action alert to your networks with the phone numbers of your Senate and House offices.

TELL YOUR STORY

Everyone has facts, but people with first hand experience have the stories to back it up and bring those facts to life. We get phone calls everyday and hear the trials of families who cannot afford to live.  These stories motivate and inspire us to keep fighting to increase funding for programs that work. These stories also help to guide and influence our priorities, and they can do the same for legislators. We encourage you to share your experiences when you call; your Representatives and Senators are best able to represent you when they know what they need to represent!

Thanks for all you do to keep the community, state and nation safe, stable and housed! 

The Primary Election: Legislative Edition

knowledgeispower

Earlier this week, we shared information on what a Primary Election is, the candidates, and where to vote.  It was a long blog post, but a crucial blog post.  The Primary Election is confusing and easily overlooked, but Homes for Families aims to rectify this by speaking of its importance, sharing when it is and clarifying who the candidates are. In the previous blog post, it was all about the new administration- Governor, LG, Attorney General, Secretary, Treasurer and Auditor.

Today, it is all about the legislative side of things: Who is running in your district and why that matters.

Because the ballots are different for every district, we point you to the website: http://www.wheredoivotema.com so you can preview them.

Adding in your address will bring you to a page that shows you your voting location and who your current elected officials are. This page also brings you to a choice: a Democratic Ballot or a Republican Ballot. Even if you are registered as Independent, you have to choose one of these party designations for the purpose of the Primary Election.

This ballot shows you the people running for the following legislative seats in your district:

Senator in Congress: Represents Massachusetts on a national level (6 year term) at the Capital in Washington, DC. Our two Senators in Congress are Ed Markey (D) and Elizabeth Warren (D).  Senator Markey is up for re-election.  He is not facing a democratic challenger.  There is one Republican running against him.  Each ballot, therefore, has one candidate listed.

Representative in Congress: Represents a smaller Massachusetts district at the Federal Government level (2 year term).  MA has 9 Representatives in Congress, all of them are Democrats, and all are up for re-election. Five are running unopposed.  Representative Clark and Representative Tierney are facing challengers within the Democratic Party so will have opponents listed on the primary ballots.

Councilor: Authorizes public improvements and expenditures, adopts regulations and ordinances, levies taxes, controls the finances and property taxes of the City, and performs many related legislative tasks.

State Senator:  The Senate is comprised of 40 members, with each Senator elected to represent a district consisting of approximately 159,000 people. As required by the Massachusetts Constitution, the Senate meets every 72 hours, year-round in either formal or informal session to consider legislation. Senators serve two-year terms which are not limited. The State Senators are your voice on Beacon Hill and are a part of determining funding levels and program rules for the state programs that we all depend on.  Click here for more information on the State Senate.

State Representative:  The Massachusetts House of Representatives is comprised of 160 members, each representing a district of approximately 40,000 people. As required by the Massachusetts Constitution, the House meets every 72 hours, year-round in either formal or informal session to consider legislation. Representatives serve two-year terms which are not limited. State Representatives also are a part of determining funding levels and policies for state programs. Click here for more information on the State House of Representatives.

District Attorney: District attorneys serve as the prosecutors representing the government in criminal trials. Depending on the jurisdiction and level of government, district attorneys are also known as county attorneys, county prosecutors, state attorneys, crown prosecutors, crown counsel or procurator fiscal.

Register of Probate registers of probate are administrative officials managing cases involving divorce, child custody, and other family issues.

Sherriff: Their role in county government is typically defined in legal statutes, but they will usually have the power to arrest and detain suspects, investigate crimes, and patrol the county. The legal system within a county may also rely greatly on their management and leadership.

Before going to vote, it is crucial that you know who you are voting for, and why. Although this election doesn’t bring a new U.S. President, it brings us the policy makers who are closest to your community, and the policy makers representing the problems that are closest to you.  It is SO important that the person elected reflects the community’s priorities, or else the point of having this representation is lost.

This country was founded on the principle of representation and it is our civic right and responsibility to take advantage of that and control who is representing our communities and state.

For more information, use these helpful links:

Where Do I Vote MA- to find out where your voting poll is and who your elected officials are

Ballotopedia – for a comprehensive list of the election season happenings

Rock The Vote – a list of all things MA election

 

The Primary Election: Administration Edition

It’s an election year- and there are many important seats at the State House that need to be filled with people that are working hard to meet our collective interests. It is OUR right and responsibility to elect strong, effective and fair people into the State Government if we want the programs they oversee to be strong, effective and fair as well.

 

Massachusetts is one of the only states with a statewide shelter system and state funded housing and prevention programs.  The funding and rules to operate these programs are determined by our State Government.  And it is OUR job, to elect people the State Government to fund the programs we want and ensure that rules are fair.

 

The Primary Elections, held on September 9, are often overlooked, but they are just as important as the General Elections as the new Administration will oversee all things that are state run and funded- like the Shelter System.  The Primaries are held to narrow down candidates so that each party has only one person running when it comes to November 4. Voting in the primary is by party- so there is one ballot for the Republicans and one for Democrats- those who are registered as Independent are asked to pick one or the other for this day only.

 

Although it might seem burdensome to have to vote twice (I mean…each time DOES mean that you have to come locked and loaded with information on each candidate) it is truly the best way to handle the matter. If WE don’t narrow down our choices for the General Election, someone else WILL! Primary Elections were intentionally designed to keep politicians out of this decision, and to keep it in the hands of the people… so take advantage of the power, people!  

 

So, what are these seats? Who is running to fill them?

 

Check out our master list below:

Governor: the chief executive of his or her state, and is responsible for how the state is run. Currently held by Deval Patrick, who is not seeking re-election.

 

Charlie Baker (Republican)

Mark Fisher (Republican)

Donald Berwick (Democrat)

Martha Coakley (Democrat)

Steve Grossman (Democrat)

Independent Candidates- these candidates will be on the ballot for the General Election on November 4th, but not on the Primary ballot 

Evan Falchuck (United Independent)

Scott Lively (Independent)

Jeff McCormick (Independent)

 

Lieutenant Governor: Serves as the second in command to a governor and takes the governor’s place if he is unable to serve. In MA, the Lieutenant Governor is usually charged with overseeing efforts to end homelessness.

Leland Cheung (D) * 
Steve Kerrigan (D) 
Mike Lake (D) 
Karyn Polito (R)

Independent Candidates- these candidates will be on the ballot for the General Election on November 4th, but not on the Primary ballot

Angus Jennings (UI) 
Tracy Post (Independent) 

Shelly Saunders (Independent) 

 

Attorney General: Chief legal officer who serves as counselor to their legislatures and state agencies, and also as the “People’s Lawyer” for all citizens.

 

Maura Healey (D) 
Warren Tolman (D) 
John Miller (R)

 

Secretary of State: Oversees the Corporations Division, the Elections Division, the Massachusetts Archives, the Massachusetts Historical Commission, the Public Records Division, the Securities Division, and the State Records Center.

 

William Galvin (D)*

Dave D’Arcangelo (R)*

 

Danny Factor (Green-Rainbow) (not on primary ballot)

 

Treasurer: Oversees offices related to financial and unclaimed matters. Also performs the role of Chairman over the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

 

Tom Conroy (D)* 
Barry Finegold (D)
Deb Goldberg (D)

Mike Heffernan (R)* 

Ian Jackson (Green-Rainbow) (not on primary ballot)

Auditor: Conducts financial, performance, and technical assessments of programs, departments, agencies, authorities, contracts, and vendors to ensure that every dollar given to state government is a dollar well spent and that state agencies and contractors follow the rules when spending public funds.

Suzanne Bump (D)* 

Patricia Saint Aubin (R)

 

M.K. Merelice (Green-Rainbow) (not on primary ballot)

 

*****

Across the state, organizations have been working to develop ways to share information on the candidates: who they are, and what they believe in. Please look at the primary guides below to learn more about the candidates who you will see on the Primary Election ballot on September 9, 2014.

ALL candidates running in the primaries- League of Women Voters MA

 

Governor candidates on incarceration, housing, immigration and transportation - MassVote

 

Governor candidates on the non-profit sector- MA Nonprofit Network

 

Lieutenant Governor Candidates- Homes for Families (this does not include all LG’s, just the ones who came to the forum at Visioning Day)

 

If you have any more resources to share—please share them! We will gladly post them on our facebook and twitter, and add it to our ongoing list of election info to share with Massachusetts!

 

Now that you have some resources to get your learn on, click here to find out where to get your vote on. Just fill in your address and it will tell you where your voting location is, and also show sample ballots. There is a 6 month grace period in Massachusetts to change an address.  That means you can go back to your polling place of origin to vote as long as it has been 6 months or less since you moved.

 

It can be so easy to skip this day- so easy to say “my vote doesn’t count”, or “I only vote for the president”, but I’m here to repeat the tried and true statement- “I’m not telling you it is going to be easy, I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it”.  You have both the right and the responsibility to play a role in deciding who will be making the decisions that impact you, your family and your community. Without voting, a very important decision is going to made for you, and without you. 

 

Your. Vote. Matters.

 

fdr vote

Vote The Vision: Creating a Shared Vision to End Family Homelessness

On August 14, 2014, families, providers, advocates and employees from various state agencies convened for the 18th annual Visioning Day. This day covered a range of topics – from child well being, to shelter, to maximizing resources, to housing, to advocacy- attendees were able to dig in to the heart of the matter, identifying real problems, and recommending real solutions. 

On top of these discussions, we held a Lieutenant Governor Candidate Forum.  In attendance was Leland Cheung, Angus Jennings, Steve Kerrigan, Michael Lake, and Tracy Post. Because this day is all about sharing info, and not just giving it, members of our Consumer Advocacy Team shared a little bit about themselves, a little bit about each break out group, and asked a question relative to housing, shelter, children and engaging consumers in the policy process.  Each candidate had two minutes to answer (thank you!) and one minute for a closing statement to ensure that all participants could leave with information that will help to inform their votes this election year. We asked attendees if they were registered to vote- and out of 80 respondents, 69 were in fact registered voters. 

But between these two portions- the morning discussions and the afternoon LG panel- is where our visions began to take root.  We asked attendees to work in small groups to create a collective vision for our collective mission to end family homelessness in Massachusetts, and the results were empowering, witty, hopeful and downright awesome.

To build on this awesome, we are asking YOU to help develop this vision.  On our Facebook page, we have shared the top 20 visions that were created at Visioning Day.  PLEASE visit our page and cast your vote for the VISION that supports and amplifies our mission to end family homelessness. Like each vision that speaks to you, and don’t forget to share it with your people when you are done! 

Again, thank you to those who attended Visioning Day.  Your words, your experiences and your solutions are truly what makes HFF so effective (and possible)- because of you, we have a vision, and are on a mission to see it through! 

 

 

[Said in a Paul Revere Voice] The elections are coming, the elections are coming! [Said in a stern teacher voice] Have you registered?

The Deadline to Register for the
Primary Election: August 20, 2014

Primary Election: Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

 

In the Primary election, voters elect candidates from each party for the state’s General Election which will be held on November 4, 2014.  Voters who are registered Republican are given a Republican Ballot, with the Republican candidates for Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Treasurer, and State and Federal Legislators and other local offices. Likewise, voters who are registered Democrat will be given a ballot with the Democratic candidates.  Voters who are “un-enrolled” declare their party at the check in table at their polling location. They will be given the ballot of the recognized party (Republican, Democrat, Libertarian,*) they request and their voting status will go back to un-enrolled for future elections.

Click here for information on how to register, including a link to download a registration form.  There is a 6 month grace period in Massachusetts to change an address.  That means you can go back to your polling place of origin to vote as long as it has been 6 months or less since you moved.  To register to vote, you must be 18 years of age or older, a citizen of the United States, and a resident of Massachusetts.  Those are the only requirements and restrictions.

If you have moved since you registered and are unable to return to your polling place, you may also request an absentee ballot.  You can vote no matter where you are! Click here for more information and to request a ballot.

To find your election information- including candidates and polling place- click here 

We will post more information on the candidates in the upcoming days and as the election dates approach, but you cannot vote if you are not registered.  These elections are important- especially to those of us who care about family homelessness.  Shelter rules, eligibility, housing investments, and priorities across the State Budget are made by our state’s elected officials.  There are choices within each party. Your vote counts.

 If you are not registered, register now.

If you are registered, help a friend or neighbor register.

There are requirements to make sure voting is accessible.

For more information, check out MassVote

Please and thank you!

Vote

*Please note, there is also a movement to start a new party here in MA, the United Independent Party.  For information, click here.