You Don’t Have to be Fearless to be Brave

As Visioning Day neared, we recognized that we had a huge responsibility  to recognize and name the harsh realities, fears and concerns in this tumultuous climate faced by our families and providers as they work to build from the ground up.  We named these fears concerns and realities:

We are going to name some things here and now. The purpose is not to bring your spirits down but to Acknowledge & recognize the fears & concerns being carried by the all of us, by our friends and families, by the people and communities most vulnerable with the new heightened sense of pro rich /anti poor sentiment and political climate. History has taught us that simply looking away, will not make anything especially anything oppressive simply go away and so we have decided to try to be brave like you and name some of these fears and concerns .

To be quite honest, HFF does not have the answers for some of these serious fears, necessary questions that have surfaced this year, but we hear you and that matters because we carry with us…. your voice , your views, your lens….. at every table we join as we ask questions , provide answers and seek solutions

Here are some of the concerns we heard over the past year:

  • Displacement, rent hikes, gentrification seem to be happening at a faster pace than ever and communities that used to be affordable are changing quickly and becoming unrecognizable. For those who may be familiar with the effects but not the term, gentrification is when your neighborhood changes before your eyes, you can no longer afford to live there and you suddenly become the stranger in a strange place that you used to call home.
  • There are lots of concerns about what Federal cuts to housing coupled with gentrification and the privatization of public housing will mean for those who are already experiencing homelessness or housing instability
  • There are lots of notable concerns around the conservative direction in which Congress seems to leaning. Are the people in Congress, that understand the threats to housing, able to fight hard enough to prevent housing from slipping through the cracks?
  • Families recently describe the current climate under this administration as unmistakably pro-rich
  • We have heard that existing tenants in housing programs and subsidized units, are already seeing changes to the way housing authorities and property management companies , recertify, screen for income and carryout policies describing this new process as even more microscopic and screen out than prior years.
  • There are questions about implementation and honoring of tenants rights.
  • At a time when hate & discrimination are extremely visible and in some cases seemingly permissible, will tenants soon be faced with federal and local laws that seek to protect or fail to address landlords who discriminate against low income families, large families, undocumented families, people of color, LGBTQ communities.
  • How will fed cuts eventually trickle down to impact local and state responses to homelessness?
  • Will the length of stay in shelter shoot up (further) with the cuts to housing that already is too little to meet the demands of the population?
  • The opioid crisis is a threat to housing and family stability – how are these 2 things being addressed as such.
  • Providers and families expressed concerns and anxiety tied to the reliance on short term subsidies (Home base) being the primary tool that we have to respond to such a massive housing stability crisis that requires longer term solutions.
  • Providers have not been shy in expressing their shared concern with families faced with issues tied directly to immigration status.
  • There have been concerns about what families and providers describe as in increase to the number of families being separated by DCF.

Providers are working alongside families in this same uncertain climate, with many of the very same concerns and feelings of being overwhelmed while trying to do what’s best.

None of you are alone; none of you are wrong for feeling this way and all of you are strong for pushing forward anyway.

You don’t have to be fearless to be brave especially in times like these.  In fact our concerns and conversations about our fears will keep us on target, united and relentless as we fight with a sense of urgency for what is right.

As I mentioned this is heavy stuff, not neatly packaged or processed but know this

We hear you and we carry with us your voice, your views, your lens.

We also knew that despite the challenges and barriers, our spirits are resilient and we are pushed forward by the beliefs that we hold onto, hope and possibilities offered to us by tomorrow. We named that as well:

Your good intentions brought you here today; look to someone else and repeat after me, “Thank you for being a part of this special day”

No one here today is alone, look to each other and repeat after me, “I am with you”

If you have ever been shut down, turned away, or silenced – we see you and we hear you, repeat after me, “My voice is valuable and my opinion matters”

Some may want to see us divided, blaming each other and fighting for crumbs, but we choose to see this differently, repeat after me, “I radiate love, peace, and happiness.”

Again, some may want to see us divided, blaming each other and fighting for crumbs, but we choose to see this differently, repeat after me, “I know that we will make a difference together”

Again, some may want to see us divided, blaming each other and fighting for crumbs, but we choose to see this differently, repeat after me, “I have your back, let’s do this”

– Nilaya Montalvo, Director of Leadership & Community Building

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#WayBackWednesday, when we honored leadership at #VisioningDay 2016

On the eve of #VisioningDay 2017, we are looking back to last year’s event where we honored long time Policy Director, Diane Sullivan, with an Inspiring Leadership Award.  As Diane transitioned to new endeavors, she joined us to raise her voice at the Homes for Families podium and accept the award.  Her remarks, as always were passionate and inspirational, and also capture what is HFF , Visioning Day, and the movement to end homelessness.

To get everyone in #VisioningDay spirit, we are sharing her remarks today:

Thank you the Homes for Families Board, the Consumer Advocate Team and of course the incredible HFF staff . I am truly humbled. So, I’ll accept this on your behalf, Homes for Families, because you inspire leadership in so many ways. From the battles to the scars, the sweat and the tears, the jokes and the cheers. Homes for Families, you’ve inspired it all.

More than a decade ago, a sudden job loss, along with the rising costs of housing, utilities, child care, food…I became homeless with my family. Of course that’s the 2 second summary of a much broader and painful story, but after 2.5 months living in a hotel, we were transferred to a local shelter where I was first introduced to HFF.

I sat among other parents experiencing homelessness, shelter providers, community members and elected officials. Parents shared their stories of how they became homeless – and their hopes and dreams for a better tomorrow for themselves and their children. And the work they were putting in to get there. And there, something started to make sense to me – that absolutely none of this makes sense to me. And I was inspired – inspired to pose a question to the elected officials who sat before us.

How do you justify spending so much money warehousing children in hotels and motels rather than investing in homelessness prevention and affordable housing options for them? I wasn’t expecting a response. Because there simply is no answer.There is no justification – because homelessness is not just.

Later that year, I began working as an eviction prevention specialist in Boston. I guess I figured that if I couldn’t save my own children from the hardships of homelessness, perhaps I could help others avoid the trauma. I began attending various HFF events – legislative breakfasts, community meetings, and of course, Visioning Days of years past. I quickly learned that Homes for Families provided a safe space for me, and parents like me, to share our stories, air our grievances while encouraging us to engage in open dialogue, focused on solutions. And I was inspired.

I later joined the Board and eventually the staff of Homes for Families, all of this about 10 years ago. That’s a long time. That’s a long battle. And I’m still inspired. I know we’re not there yet. I know many of you here today woke up in a state regulated shelter bed because despite the hundreds of millions the state spends on housing and homelessness programs every year, we didn’t reach you in time.

I also happen to know that the hundreds of millions dollars being spent each year on housing and homelessness programs represents a mere 1% of our state’s 39 billion dollar operating budget. A budget that is a statement of our very own priorities. One percent. We elect our state representatives and senators and our Governor into office. So, guess what? Ultimately, our state budget is a statement of our priorities.

Here’s my theory folks – want to cut down on healthcare spending? Invest in affordable housing so that we can rid ourselves of the physical and mental trauma caused by homelessness and the avoidable costs associated with their treatment. Or the further cost to humanity when they are not? Want to cut down on education costs for children who lack the housing stability that supports their success in school? Invest in affordable housing. Want to cut down on hunger so that families are not being forced every month to choose between paying their rent and feeding their children? Invest in housing.

Want to invest in jobs and economic development? Invest in housing. Want to invest in communities? Invest in housing. Want to invest in people? Invest in housing. Invest in affordable housing, so that we all, regardless our income brackets, have access to the very foundation that supports healthy families and thriving communities across this Commonwealth. And I know that you have the power to make your elected officials hear you too. You have the power to inspire them beyond that 1%.

Despite how uninspiring this world can seem at times, I hope that your involvement here today inspires you to turn your visions into action. And along your journey, I encourage you – to the best of your ability, to please look to yourself and each other for inspiration. It may be tough to see sometimes, but trust me, your strength and perseverance is inspiring to many into action here today and for days to come.

You do have the power to change this. You are the coalition. You are the movement! You ARE the inspiration. Thank you Homes for Families!

And thank you to Diane! We look forward to honoring our 2017 Inspiring Leaders and remain grateful for all Diane brought and continues to bring to the movement to end homelessness.

LH

Visioning Day This Thursday!

We are busy gearing up for Visioning Day 2017 this Thursday August 10th! We are excited for this yearly event when we, in collaboration with key partners, bring together families experiencing homelessness, family shelter service providers, and policymakers to share resources, reflect, and articulate our collective vision for the coming year. In anticipation of the big day, here are descriptions of each breakout group. We ask attendees to select one break out group that they will participate in.

Visioning Day 2017 Breakout Group Descriptions

# 1 Self Care through Poetry and Storytelling

Presenter: Alex Charalambides-Founder, Managing Director, Mass LEAP

Summary:  This workshop will allow participants to explore the idea of sharing in a way that heals as they speak their truth. Storytelling is an effective way to share and work through experiences and trauma. While written testimony and unified messaging are powerful tools we can use to raise awareness and change policies and practices, this approach doesn’t emphasize the self care component. Homes for Families recognizes that raising awareness can mean reliving the triggers and challenges of surviving homelessness and displacement, and we wanted to offer a space for healing in your own words.

#2 Child Wellness

Presenters:  Dr. Megan Sandel, Boston Medical Center; Sarah Slautterback, MA Department of Education; Ileen Henderson, Bright Spaces/Bright Horizons

Translation will be provided in this breakout.

Summary:  The primary concern of any parent is the well being of their children.  Housing instability and homelessness can have impact on a child’s health, as well as their educational performance and behavioral and emotional well being.  We also know that with the right supports, access to services, and strong relationships, children who have experienced homelessness and instability are able to thrive and succeed on par or beyond that of their peers. This group will discuss systems and initiatives that already exist to support and respond to the needs of children facing homelessness and work together to identify how the various systems and community can do more to support parents and children to minimize the impacts of homelessness.

#3: Immigration

Presenters:  Jessica Chicco, DOVE Inc.; Ellen VanScoyoc, Central West Justice Center; and Collin Mickle, Community Action Committee of Cape Cod & Islands, Inc.

Translation will be provided in this breakout.

Summary: The group will include attorneys who each offer a different lens on addressing immigration challenges as they relate to homelessness and intersection issues. On the panel are presenters from a range of agencies including legal aid, community action, and domestic violence. We recognize the unique challenges that families with undocumented immigrants or members of different immigration statuses face. Through this breakout we aim to increase our collective knowledge of resources and supports for families and providers to address these challenges. The break out will include brief presentations by our panel, followed by discussion. We will share best practices and practical tools and tips around accessing housing and important related supports for families with members of varied immigration statuses, especially those who are undocumented.

#4: Landlords

Presenters: Danielle Lariviere, Central MA Housing Alliance; Tom Plihcik, New Lease for Homeless Families; Luis Arzola and Jose Cruz, Center for Human Development

Summary:  Landlords are a key stakeholder in our collective ability to manage and end homelessness.  We need good landlords for scattered site shelter units; for HomeBASE tenancies, for subsidies and for market rent, and to work with tenants and programs instead of evicting. As rents increase and the rental stock declines, landlord relationships are that much more critical. Short term subsidies, like HomeBASE, and state rental assistance policies can be hard for both tenants and landlords to manage. This group will talk about tenants’ rights, increasing access and partnerships with big property management companies, engaging community based landlords, and ways to support families and landlords to build positive trusting relationships.

#4: Workforce Development and Cliff Effect

Facilitators: Molly Richard and Julia Tripp, Center for Social Innovation; Marija Bingulac, Center for Social Policy & the On Solid Ground Coalition; Anne Bureau, Community Connections in Worcester; and Meagan Pedemonti , Way Finders

Summary:  Each year at Visioning Day, participants raise their voices for education, employment and training, and better jobs.  Homes for Families’ recent survey showed that 65% of families in shelter have work experience but primarily in jobs with lower wages and no benefits.  As parents increase incomes, there are policies that cut or lessen benefits, so that even though incomes increase, families end up further behind – we call this the cliff effect.  This group will talk about advocacy efforts and practices to lessen the cliff effect and support families to become economically stable as well as about trends in workforce development and training programs.

Liz and Team HFF

New Leadership at the Department of Housing and Community Development

Homes for Families is pleased to share the news that Jane Banks has been appointed as the new Assistant Undersecretary for the Division of Stabilization at the Department of Housing and Community Development. The announcement below was sent to family shelter providers on 7/7/17:

Dear Providers:

I am excited to formally announce that Jane Banks will be joining the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) as the new Assistant Undersecretary for the Division of Housing Stabilization.  Jane is coming to us from the Center for Human Development in Springfield where she worked for nearly twenty years.  While there she held leadership roles with oversight of an array of multi-services programs serving families, children and individuals. She has managed a number of programs including: one of the Commonwealths largest EA shelter programs with shelter capacity of 297 families within their portfolio, HUD funded Supportive Housing Programs, Community Housing Supportive Program for families and individuals in Northampton, a Single Room Occupancy Program, and an very successful EA diversion program.

We are excited to be able to draw on Jane’s extensive experience in management and supervision, program development as well as her deep understanding of housing and homelessness, ranging from emergency shelters to permanent supportive housing

I know you will be as thrilled as I am that Jane has accepted the Assistant Undersecretary position.  She will be transitioning into her new role on July 31st.

Please anticipate that Jane will be reaching out to you all, once she arrives at DHCD.

Ita Mullarkey

Associate Director

Division of Housing Stabilization

Jane has been an active member of Homes for Families while in her roles at the Center for Human Development. We have long noted her commitment to the inclusion of the family voice, unifying providers, collaboration, and innovation. Her energy, commitment to the work, and positive attitude are inspiring and contagious.  These qualities will make her an exceptional leader at DHCD and guide the system through further progress and advancement in addressing homelessness in the Commonwealth.  We thank Jane for her outstanding work at CHD; we thank her for her role in strengthening the work of Homes for Families, including the growth of our Annual Visioning Day event; and we thank her for stepping up and taking on this new role; her perspective as a shelter and service provider will be an asset to the Department.  We urge the family homelessness community to welcome Jane and commit to partnering with her so that together we can continue to build on the strengths of families, shelter providers, and the community to end homelessness once and for all.

 

 

LH

The Future of Affordable Housing

On May 22ndCHAPA held a Breakfast Forum: Doing Business in Times of Uncertainty at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston where presenters shined a light on what is to come for affordable housing in Massachusetts. Speakers included Chrystal Kornegay, Undersecretary of the Department of Housing and Community Development and Tim Sullivan, Executive Director of MassHousing. Panelists representing WinnDevelopment, Preservation of Affordable Housing, MA Housing Investment Corp., Citizens Bank, Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, and DHCD emphasized that the nature of the affordable housing business is always uncertain and that there have been many times of uncertainty over the past several decades. The panel acknowledged the high degree of political uncertainty of these times and the challenging road ahead. They also offered many examples of how partners in the industry can be creative in order to continue to develop affordable housing that is accessible to families of low and middle incomes. Proposed and actualized federal policy changes are threatening families of very low income and those in the business of affordable housing, one panelist remarked, must be thoughtful in how they respond to the increased challenges for families.

David Gasson, Vice President and Director of Communications at Boston Capital gave a really intriguing presentation on policy changes to expect from DC in the coming months. David spoke to the concerns the President has raised by threatening to reduce the low income housing tax credit to 15%. (The low income housing tax credit promotes the preservation and development of affordable housing.) David reported that this tax credit has very good standing on Capitol Hill, and strong bi-partisan support. He said that affordable housing programs, generally speaking, enjoy bi-partisan support and that congress would not get behind this kind of cut. If there is broad tax reform, which the President’s administration has been talking about doing, it will likely take 5 years to transition to any new laws that are passed.

Still, proposals coming from the President and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, raise significant concerns about the future of affordable housing policy and the well-being of all families living in poverty. So we need you to take action!

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Ways to Take Action at the Federal Level on CHAPA’s and Homes for Families’ priority areas:

  1. Call/Email your members of congress to tell them you would like them to prioritize affordable housing, programs that support families experiencing homelessness, and critical support programs like SNAP and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Include something about your personal experience or story to illustrate why these issues matter to you. You can look up your members of congress here.
  2. Sign up for CHAPA’s email list and join a CHAPA committee.
  3. Join CHAPA’s young professional’s network.

Homes for Families supports CHAPA’s agenda and will continue to keep the fight for the housing, shelter and critical support service needs of families in Massachusetts a priority!

Liz Peck

Director of Operations and Member Engagement

The People United Event

On Tuesday May 9th 2017, Homes for Families and Project Hope hosted their first annual, People United event. We shared space, diverse perspectives, and common ground.

The Dudley – Project Hope community came together to share some of the advocacy and organizing, as well as some of  the possibilities for new action to address social justice issues being faced by local residents.

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The event was designed with the focus on action and with acknowledgement of how important it would be to tap into the community’s wealth of experience, given their long history of successfully organizing and mobilizing.

Some of the hot topics were gentrification/displacement, hunger and food justice, immigration, homelessness prevention, the cliff effect, and fair housing/discrimination.

Participants and partners included members of the Project Hope community, Representative Capuano’s office, Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz’s office, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, Irish International Immigration Center , The Food Project, The Consumer Advocacy Team (Homes for Families) and Boston Tenant Coalition.

As an immediate action residents filled out the Fair Housing Assessment Survey in order to inform the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing process.

Looking to the group’s abundant and diverse skills and abilities as a major resource was a key theme. Other themes included:

  • Asking local spaces (e.g. Salvation Army, Schools, Churches) to invite community members in to organize
  • Turning to bilingual members of the community to translate (informally), and
  • Reviewing and expanding how the community is made aware of the existing community resources as well as opportunities to join in local advocacy and organizing efforts.

We thank Project Hope for their work on the event! We are grateful to have been a part of a meeting focused on drawing upon the strengths of the community to generate collective change.

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(Picture above from left to right: Christine Dixon, Project Hope; Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George; Sister Margaret A. Leonard, Project Hope; and Linda Wood-Boyle, Project Hope)

Team HFF

5/15-5/19 What is happening Under the Golden Dome…

….relative to housing and homelessness?

 

The Senate Committee on Ways and Means will release their budget proposal on Tuesday, May 16th. The deadline to file any amendments to the SWM proposal is Thursday and debates will begin the following Tuesday, May 23rd.  Debates will wrap up in time for Memorial Day Weekend.

The budget proposal release is not the only action and activity taking place at the State House next week, click here for the full schedule of hearings and events for the month of May. 

There are three committee hearings on Monday – the House Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets; the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, and the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change. Both the House and Senate will be in “informal session”.

Monday will be a good day to call your Senator’s office and let them know what you hope they will prioritize in the Senate Budget Debates.  Click here look up your State Senator and below is a sample script:

“Hi, my name is ______ and I live in the Senator’s district in _(your town)__. I am calling because I am concerned about (housing, homelessness, transportation, jobs, education…be specific) and I am asking that the Senator prioritizes these issues during the upcoming budget debates.

And it will also be a good day to write testimony in support of or against any of the bills that are being considered in the week ahead. Verbal testimony should be 3 minutes or less. Written testimony can be submitted to the committee.

Tuesday is the big day! Not only will the budget be released, but there are 12 hearings scheduled!! The Joint Committee on Housing is hosting an Oversight Hearing  (oversight hearings generally include invited panelists from State or Quasi agencies or other experts in the field and the public is open to listen). Other hearings focus on bills, many of which touch on the issue of family homelessness, and are open to the public to listen and/or give testimony:

Wednesday there is one hearing hosted by the Joint Committee on Transportation. Wednesday will be a key day for confirming sponsors for Amendments to the Senate Ways and Means Proposal and Thursday will be the deadline. Now is the time to sign up for our action alerts if you have not already.

Did you know that Massachusetts often near the top of the list for the number of bills filed; but is close to the bottom of the list of the number of bills passed. This slightly outdated article lists us as passing only 5% of all bills. However, hearings give us all a chance to be heard; to make our case, to elevate an issue, to interact with those that make decisions impacting our lives, to support legislators fighting the good fight, and to call out injustices of bad bills.

For more on Legislative and Budget advocacy, click here for a recent webinar (slides or full presentation with audio) we did with our colleagues on the On Solid Ground Coalition.

LH