Press Release! #OnSolidGround

Homes for Families has been working with a cross-sector of advocacy organizations to develop a white paper aimed at building opportunities and preventing homelessness for families in the Commonwealth.  The report has been released and we are excited to expand the conversation, grow the coalition, and work together for positive systems change.

Here is the press release about the report.  There are links to additional information at the end.  We also invite you to comment on this post or join the twitter conversation.  We want to hear from those of you facing housing instability and homelessness – what do you need to be #OnSolidGround? And to those of you that are stable – what helps you to stay #OnSolidGround?

On Solid Ground Coalition Report Outlines Critical Components to Preventing Family Homelessness in Massachusetts

 Boston, MA – The On Solid Ground coalition today released its first report on family homelessness. The report, On Solid Ground: Building Opportunity, Preventing Homelessness, documents the impact of the Commonwealth’s housing shortage on families with extremely low incomes, and outlines the critical components of a preventative approach to family homelessness.

The report makes the following recommendations to increase stability and reduce family homelessness:

  •  Systems Change: Appoint a Special Secretary to build a coordinated service delivery system across governmental departments. The coordinated system will support homelessness prevention, minimize cliff effects, and provide integrated case management services.
  • Housing: Expand the affordable housing stock and rental assistance vouchers for extremely low-income households; preserve existing privately and publicly subsidized homes; and improve public housing.
  • Supportive Services: Invest in services that provide a path to increased incomes and economic mobility for extremely low-income families.
  • Tracking Progress: Collect and analyze data, and track progress – at state agencies and their nonprofit partners – toward an agreed upon set of goals related to housing stability and economic mobility.

On Solid Ground is a cross-sector group of more than 30 partners committed to a research-based approach to increasing housing stability and economic mobility. In preparing this report, On Solid Ground partners looked at factors that contribute to family instability, the gaps in programs meant to serve families with low incomes, the role of federal and state rental subsidy programs, and the interconnectedness of rental assistance, childcare, and employment assistance in increasing family incomes. The paper also looks at how stagnant wages, rising numbers of low wage jobs, and declining supports leave more than 60,000 families living in unstable housing situations and at risk of homelessness. The report demonstrates ways in which the Commonwealth’s service delivery system unintentionally limits the ability of families to increase their incomes and economic mobility, keeping people in poverty.

“If we continue to focus only on reducing shelter numbers, family homelessness will continue to rise,” said Rachel Heller, director of public policy at Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association. “Shifting our focus to housing stability and economic mobility will result in better outcomes for children, families, and communities,”

“All I needed to save my family from the trauma of homelessness was enough financial help for a deposit on an apartment and to retain my CNA license,” said Christina [last name withheld], a homeless mother and survivor of domestic violence.  “With a housing subsidy to offset some of the high cost of rent I could have transitioned into an apartment. What I needed was nowhere near as costly as the alternative; just a little bit to keep me from falling off the cliff. Instead we lost it all.”

“Housing insecurity has a detrimental impact on the health and educational prospects for young children,” said Marie St. Fleur, president and CEO, Bessie Tartt Wilson Initiative for Children. “Low wages are one indicator of the structural trends that perpetuate these inequities. We need greater systemically aligned solutions to tackle the root of the problem and On Solid Ground begins to do just that.”

“Together, we can do more to reduce and prevent homelessness than any one person or organization can do alone,” said Michael K. Durkin, president and chief executive officer at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.  “Too many families are one financial disaster away from homelessness. Ensuring they have access to services that can help them increase their savings, build net worth and get better jobs will not only increase their household’s financial stability, but will strengthen the economic stability of communities across our Commonwealth.”

 Visit www.chapa.org/OnSolidGround for the full report.

To view research that informed the paper, visit: http://www.umb.edu/csp/publications/reports.

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MRVP Cookie Day 2015: We have to GO BIG if we want to GO HOME

Save the Date Twitter

Join Homes for Families at our annual MRVP Cookie Day- a day for families, providers and nonprofits to come together and advocate for increased funding to the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program.

Cookie Day serves as an opportunity for those overcoming homelessness and hardship to share their support of the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program as an effective tool in ending homelessness. Cookie Day is an avenue to advocate for increased funding to MRVP, and it is also a day to recognize the strength, resiliency and dedication of those overcoming poverty in the mission to end it.  After hearing from a family in shelter and a family who received a voucer through the program, HFF will lead attendees in delivering house shaped cookies to state representatives and senators that are decorated in the amount of funding being advocated for.  The cookies are baked by Haley House Bakery and Cafe of Roxbury, an organization whose mission supports our shared values of providing opportunities for people facing significant barriers. 

Homes for Families will also be awarding Speaker Robert DeLeo with the Inspirational Leadership Award because of his dedication to the inclusion of families and survivors in growing the momentum to end family homelessness and the issues that surround it. Under his leadership, MRVP funding has been increasingly restored, and as a result, thousands of households across the Commonwealth have been stably housed. And for that, he gets the “Big Cookie Award”

We encourage you to make an appointment with your representatives and senators, you can find out who they are by clicking here. We will have information and cookies for you to share, just be sure to check in at the event to get them!

Please join us as we recognize and celebrate the people, programs and policies that work to keep families safe and housed! 

 

Agenda:

9:30: Resource Fair
10:00: Speaking Program Begins
10:30: Inspiring Leadership Award
10:45: Speaking Continues
11:30: Legislator Meetings

Organizations participating in the resource fair:
Boston Housing Authority
Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD)
MA Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition (MIRA)
Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership (MBHP)
Children’s Health Watch
Horizons for Homeless Children
Forsythe Dental
…and more!

RSVP HERE, and please share any and all things MRVP (especially that you are attending!) on twitter using hashtag #MRVP100m

But that’s not all!

We rely on our partners and supporters to be engaged in our advocacy efforts, and if there is any week to do it, it is the week of February 9!

We will be providing ways to ensure efforts are unified, strong and clear! Be on the look out for things like events, social media calls to action, a coordinated data sharing day, and more!
For now, please check out the event link above and join the On Solid Ground Coalition for a Press Conference on the release of the On Solid Ground Report on February 9!

As always, thanks for all you do. We couldn’t do this without you.

This is a Birthday Blog Post!

libbys bday

It’s our Executive Director’s birthday! 

So often we celebrate the milestones and achievements of our collective efforts, but it is also important that we recognize our own accomplishments, even if (or especially if) that accomplishment is turning another year older!

We are asking you to help us recognize Libby’s birthday. She has worked so hard this year (and every year before) to do what it takes to empower families- and those who work closest to support them- so that we can effectively influence the policy process and advocate for more housing, supports and safety for families across MA. If you know Libby, and have a special idea to celebrate her birthday, the HFF staff whole-heartedly supports it (see picture above).

But because it is so important to us, we wanted to provide you with other ideas:

  • Wish her happy birthday on Facebook! …and if you have pictures of her in action, even better!
  • Tweet to @HFFma using the hashtag #BirthdayBoss
  • Share a memory of when Libby was especially awesome (or in our case, #bossome) in the comment section below
  • Consider making a donation to Homes for Families so that we can continue to carry our efforts until Libby’s next birthday, and beyond.

We are so grateful for everything you are doing to support families, and to support HFF, but it would really mean a lot to us if you could take a few minutes to show Libby how appreciated, and how necessary, she is in our efforts to end homelessness by using the suggestions above.

We couldn’t do this, or anything, without you!

Sincerely,

HFF Staff

Weigh in on the draft regulation changes to welfare

Recently, former DTA Commissioner Stacey Monahan (EOHHS Secretary Sudder has yet to name a replacement commissioner) issued draft regulation changes to implement the welfare reform laws passed by the MA Legislature last year. Public comment on the proposed changes is due by January 26m 2015.

While the proposed changed do contain some positive proponents for some families, there are also some provisions that will ultimately harm many families. To read a full analysis provided by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute’s Deborah Harris, please click here. Of particular concern are the two highlighted changes below.

  • The state disability standard for the work requirement and time limit exemptions will be eliminated. Rather, an applicant would have to meet the more stringent federal Social Security disability standards. This change was allowable but not required under the law and could potentially result in up to 3,000 disabled households from losing benefits.
  • In order to be determined eligible for TAFDC, an applicant would have to demonstrate their job search efforts within 60 days. This would eliminate an applicant’s assurance of receiving assistance within 30 days of the application submission and would extend it to 60 days.

Homes for Families will be submitting comments on the proposed regulation changes to the Baker Administration – and their potential to further our family homelessness crisis. We will also be signing onto comments being submitted by Greater Boston Legal Services on behalf of a broad range of organizations.

Please be on the lookout for a follow up blog containing these submissions, information on how your organization can sign onto GBLS’ comments, and for more information about submitting your own comments to EOHHS Secretary Sudders.

-Diane

Help us pick up the PACE!

In 2015, we want to pick up the PACE, and we need your help!

For the past twenty years, we have worked tirelessly to influence and promote Policy Advocacy and Consumer Engagement (PACE) to educate and empower families living in shelter, and those working closest with them.

We hold events like Visioning Day, Legislative Breakfasts and MRVP Cookie Day every year, where families have a chance to exhibit their expertise through leading conversations, making recommendations to policy makers, and following up with the media.

We travel to shelters across the state to train families and staff about the benefits and necessity of working together to accomplish systems change through drawing on the strength and resiliency that can only come from the lived experience of navigating systems.

We collaborate with organizations, policy makers, and the Administration to meet the immediate needs of families overcoming homelessness while creating a foundation for permanent solutions to family homelessness in Massachusetts.

But if we are to truly end family homelessness through holistic and permanent solutions, we need to pick up the PACE.

Please consider making your year end donation to Homes for Families so that families overcoming homelessness have an opportunity to play a role in the policies and programs that impact them.

It is through your generosity that we will be able to provide more trainings, increase the capacity and content at our events, and to further amplify our voice.

With your help, we can pick up the PACE so that every child can have a place to call home.

To make a tax-deductible donation online, please click here.

Or mail a check please send it to:

Homes for Families

14 Beacon St, Suite 615

Boston, MA 02108

Happy New Year from HFF, we look forward to picking up the PACE!

An HFF Rendition of: The Night Before Christmas

Every holiday season, we send out our rendition of “The Night Before Christmas”.

This message is not your traditional holiday email; it is reflective of the fear, frustration and uncertainty that come from experiencing homelessness.

However, is also reflective of the power and possibilities that come from joining HFF in the mission to end family homelessness.

So in between meals, laughs and conversations with your loved ones this holiday season, please take a moment to remember the strength, resiliency and wisdom of the families who are fighting everyday so that every child has a place to call home- even if they don’t have one for themselves.

While every family may not have a home for the holidays, HFF works to make it so that there is hope for the holidays- and every day.

Twas a Night During the Homelessness Crisis

By Homes for Families

‘Twas a night during the crisis, when all across the state,
Homeless children and their parents pondered of their fate.
Their belongings tossed into trash bags with haste,
Hoping their application for shelter would not be a waste.

Families panicked and packed in a DHCD waiting room,
Wishing they’d be approved for shelter, and soon.
Denied again with no place to go, the entire family in fright,
wondering how they could survive through the night.

Tucked in for sleep in their car’s backseat, there arose a clatter,
A mother sprang up in her seat to see what was the matter.
Her face pressed up against the window in a flash,
Squinting her eyes to look past the trash.

The parking lot lights shined down on the new-fallen snow
If they can’t stay here, where else could they go?
When, what to her wondering eyes should appear,
But semi-trucks, police cars, strangers’ faces striking fear.

She tucked her children back in, ever so quick,
Not wanting them to awake and be scared sick.
Tossing and turning, the family tried to sleep,
Dreaming of a home they could one day keep.

“Now, Housing Application! Now, Job Search! Now, Paperwork!
Proof of homelessness for the front desk clerk
A child on the street!  Another away from her best friend!
Now dash away, Nightmare! When will this all end??”

Homes for Families is here to help families to advocate,
giving them an opportunity to control their fate.
So, up to the State House, homeless families will go.
Is it acceptable for children to be homeless? We say, “NO!”

When policy makers hear from the family voice,
the reasoning and experience leaves no choice.
It is housing that will turn the crisis around;
with stable homes, better futures for these children will be found

Christmas, 2014. Over 4,500 families in Massachusetts, without a home.
On the streets, motels and in shelters, homeless families will roam.
Carrying only the clothes that they wear on their back,
and only the items that they can fit in their pack.

So, while for most of us, the holidays are merry,
for others, it can be very scary!
While one mother puts a gift under the tree,
another fears for her safety and will flee.

Without holiday gifts the children will pout,
and without a stove, the family eats take out.
The child needs food for his little belly.
Christmas dinner should be more than bread and jelly!

With your help, we will continue to organize,
and the movement to end homelessness will energize!

Working with shelters from all across the state,
knowing how important it is to educate

So, as you sip your eggnog,
check out our blog.
Visit our website; like us on Facebook.
The leadership of families and providers cannot be shook!
Consider making a donation,
and your gift will be received with much appreciation.

Against Homelessness, we will continue to fight

“Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good night!”

Please consider contributing to our efforts by making a monetary donation.

Donations can be made by on line by clicking here

Or

checks can be mailed to:

Homes for Families

14 Beacon Street, Suite 615

Boston, MA 02108

Thanks for all YOU are doing to make sure there is hope for the holidays. 

The Department of Housing and Community Development is seeking input on upcoming changes regarding the number of rule violations that lead to a termination of benefits.

As you know, DHCD has had to rely on motels to meet their moral and legal obligation to place all families who are eligible for Emergency Assistance (EA).

DHCD has had different rules, rule enforcement and levels of services for families in motels compared to families in shelters. Families may be terminated from the EA benefit, or shelter system, for a variety of reasons, including: criminal activity; refusing an opportunity for safe permanent housing, or feasible alternative housing, without good cause; refusing or abandoning their shelter/motel placement; no longer meeting the eligibility requirements; or if a family is found “noncompliant” with the with the rules of the Emergency Assistance program- which is the focus of the proposed change.

Historically, a family would be terminated from the program if they were found to be “noncompliant” 2 times. Families in shelter were granted 3 rule violations before being issued a noncompliance notice, compared to families in motels who were determined noncompliant after 1 rule violation.

In other words, a family could be terminated from shelter after breaking 6 rules, while a family in a motel could lose their benefit after being cited for 2 rule violations.

In January of 2013, DHCD was sued by the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI), on the base that treating families differently in shelter and hotels was not “fair, just and equitable.”  After a court ruling, DHCD applied a 3 rule violation per noncompliance for families both in shelters and motels, but after feeling that this could lead to safety issues, DHCD has proposed regulation changes about the enforcement of rules.

The proposed regulations state that families in shelters and motels can be determined noncompliant if they are cited for 1 violation of “reasonable rules”, and that a family can be terminated from the EA benefit if they are determined “noncompliant” 3 times. In other words, if the changes are adopted, a family could be terminated from the Emergency Assistance program (shelter or motel) if they are cited for breaking 3 rules. Families have a right to appeal the issuance of each noncompliance with DHCD.

The comment period on this updated regulation ends December 12, 2014, and the revised rules, or a modified version thereof, will be implemented on January 5, 2015.

For more details through the official fact sheet sent by DHCD, please click here. 

As a network of families and providers, it is important that we weigh in on this issue. Families terminated from the EA program are not eligible to re-enter shelter for 1 year; and families and providers share a responsibility to ensure safety within programs for all people and children. We ask that you share your comments and ideas by December 10, so that we can analyze the answers as we finalize our input to DHCD.

(Note: comments can be made anonymously or with a selected name; and all comments require administrative approval from HFF before the appear in the comment section)