Happy New (Fiscal) Year!

We usually ask you to look at the numbers- the number of families in the system, the number that marks MRVP funding…the numbers that make up the Massachusetts family shelter system.

But today- we are going to ask you to look at the pattern of these numbers. And then we are going to ask for your help.

EA Shelter Entries Recent
Data from DHCD

Non-profit organizations like Homes for Families see an increase in donations at the end of the year. Logically, people donate because the weather reminds us how tragic it is for families to sleep in places other than a home, it is the season for giving, and for other reasons that make sense to those donating. And that support is always appreciated. 

However, while organizations see a spike in donations- and even a spike in concern for the issue- during these winter months, the family shelter system sees a spike in families utilizing the EA system during the summer months. We have theories about why this is, of course: Landlords are more flexible during those unbearably cold winter months, relatives or friends that let families sleep in their house don’t want to interrupt the child’s school year, and funding for prevention programs is often depleted by the end of the fiscal year.

So instead of looking at the numbers, this time we ask you to look at the patterns. The graph above highlights families accepted in to EA during Fiscal Year 2014 and the majority of Fiscal Year 2015. The graph below shows that this spike is consistent over time.

EA Shelter Entries
Data from DTA

So as school ends and summer begins, we ask you to consider supporting Homes for Families at this critical time.

But this donation is not just a regular donation; all proceeds will go directly towards our biggest event of the year- Visioning Day.

Visioning Day is a one of a kind event that convenes families overcoming homelessness, shelter providers, and community members to reflect on the previous fiscal year and strategize for the new fiscal year.  And with more families utilizing the system when Visioning Day is held, it is incredibly important that we provide the opportunity to raise their voice to end family homelessness.

Visioning Day is a free event, it has to be. In fact, we give transportation stipends and free childcare to families and others in need of financial assistance to make sure there are no barriers to keep anyone from coming.

This year, we are providing the community with the opportunity to support this event. As you know, HFF relies on the voices of families to guide our advocacy agenda- and Visioning Day is where it all begins. Without that voice, we cannot stay true to our mission to ensure that families have a seat at the policy making table.

You have the chance to catalyze a unique event that ensures that HFF hears from our community- an event that ensures that all families have a say in ending homelessness. With your help, we can make that true. We ask that you make a donation to HFF, with 100% of the money raised going to Visioning Day costs.

Click here to make a donation through our Go Fund Me account.

Checks can be mailed to:

Homes for Families

14 Beacon St, Suite 615

Boston, MA 02130

Thank you in advance for supporting HFF and the mission to end family homelessness.

Visioning Day: Raising the Stakes

Homes for Families is excited to announce Visioning Day 2015!

SavetheDateFINAL


We will be sharing more information as it comes, and encourage you to share this save the date.

But wait- there’s more!

 In efforts to ensure that all families have the opportunity to raise their voice to end family homelessness, Jane Banks, of the Center for Human Development, has put forth a challenge to all shelter providers in Massachusetts! Read her email below for details:

Hi everyone!

Visioning Day is just around the corner!

As some of you already know, I have a healthy competitive spirit and love a good challenge.

Last year the western region rented two buses to ensure we had as many families that wanted to attend Visioning Day be able to attend. Three of the four providers had families and staff ride together on the buses.

IT WAS FANTASTIC!

This year I would like to set the bar much higher and challenge all regions to rent 1 bus or 10 buses (or a small van) and BRING THE FAMILIES to the table!

It really isn’t that expensive and I’m pretty sure with all the talented leadership out there, you can figure out how to plan, pay, and motivate the families to participate and, of course get your staff on the buses as well!

We would hate to out perform you all again this year so… Pony up folks… Game on. Let’s see if we can pack the room with families on Visioning Day!!

It would be fabulous for providers from across the entire state to come together with the families we serve as a united force…motel families too!

No pressure! No excuses!!! We can do this!!!! We are of course, the EA Providers! 

:)

As always, Jane makes a great point (with a smile!). EA providers prove every day that they can overcome incredible feats and odds to support support families overcoming homelessness–and this is one more way to support them. We encourage you to coordinate transportation for staff and families. Homes for Families relies on the voices at Visioning Day to guide our efforts, so it is critical that those voices are represented and heard.

To encourage this friendly competition, we created a map with the (5) distinct regions you will be competing with and against.

Map FINAL

Feel free to:

  • Contact us with any questions or confusion regarding the contest regions and rules
  • Take a refresher course on Visioning Day by reading this blog post and last year’s report
  • Work together to make a plan on how to show regional solidarity at the event
  • Go back up to Jane’s email and click the Pony Up link. If you have ever clicked on one of our links, you’ll know it is worth it!
  • Consider partnering with us in sponsoring the day. We will be reaching out to individual organizations with opportunities for sponsorship, but feel free to check out and share our Go Fund Me page!

Be on the lookout for more information, we will share the details of the day and the registration page soon!

Thanks for all you do to support families across MA, and for all you do to support HFF!

Ending Homelessness One Intern At A Time

My name is Arielys, I am 24 years old and I am living in a shelter with my child. I am beginning my journey as a new Homes For Families Intern. I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce myself  and tell you why I am so passionate about spending my summer working to end family homelessness.

I remember going to a training for my job at LIFT Boston and feeling so connected to the guest speaker as she spoke of becoming homeless and going through the toughest time of her life. I felt connected to her because she not only overcame homelessness but she was fighting to help others do the same. I remember “couchsurfing” for three years straight with my mom and sister as a young teen. I would always say to myself “I never want to go through this again”. I wanted so badly to just have a place to call home and not have to live out of trash bags. Growing up chronically homeless, I wanted so desperately to put an end to homelessness. I never let my living situation stop me from pursuing my dreams though. I never knew how to get involved till that special day when I met Diane Sullivan, the guest speaker at my training. She spoke words of hope. That was my first experience with Homes for Families.

Two years later, I was invited by a case manager to attend the Cookie Day event at the state house. I was all for it having heard about it years prior from Diane. Having never followed up with her I decided this was the perfect opportunity to get involved. After all I was homeless. Who better to advocate for affordable housing than me?

Attending the event, I felt that sense of hope in the air again! I felt like I had power that I never felt; I had to make a difference and really make change happen. After the speakers, we had the opportunity to meet our representatives but I went straight to Diane to reintroduce myself. She greeted me warmly and kindly directed me to Nilaya who would then open many doors of opportunities for me to get involved.

It took me two years, one child, and another episode of homelessness to follow through with getting connected. I was eager to get involved. This time, I was ready to fight back! Nilaya was so helpful in getting me started, and I couldn’t thank her enough for seeing the potential in me to support the movement. She mentioned trainings that would take place once a week for a five week period. What she didn’t know was that I would skip class to attend these meetings because that’s how passionate I was about being a part of such an important and groundbreaking initiative. Luckily, it was the end of my semester :)

Attending these meetings made me feel like a key component in the movement- and that feeling was so euphoric for me. Coming from literally nothing; a life of chaos, confusion, and uncertainty, I felt so empowered!

Nilaya made it very clear how important we were in the process of connecting, partnering and leading. After a successful five weeks with an incredible group of leaders, Nilaya mentioned an opportunity to intern for Homes For Families. I knew this was exactly where I needed to be

Homes For Families mission is to “educate organize and advocate for improved public policies to address the root causes of family homelessness with holistic and community based solutions”. Everything in this mission represents what I always wanted to be apart of.

After completing the 5 week training and joining the Consumer Advocacy Team, I was offered the position as summer intern as Homes for Families, I jumped at the opportunity. Two weeks in, I am loving it! I get to be apart of such a powerful team of women who stop at nothing to get things done. We are all passionate about our work; having worked with the homeless population or even experiencing homelessness for ourselves. I get to see what goes on behind the scenes and it makes me appreciate the work that my shelter does. Just in my second week I was able to attend a community meeting with partnering non-profits and families. It was tremendously invigorating to see all the different partners that are apart of the movement. It reminded me that teamwork really does make the dream work.

I am so excited to learn more about the politics around housing and homelessness prevention. Its important for myself as a homeless single parent, who has experienced a cycle of homelessness one too many times, to be able to take my experience and use it to create change in my community. I am ready to learn, educate, and advocate!

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Community Meeting Recap: June 10, 2015

At last week’s community meeting, we did a review of the current status of the state’s FY2016 budget. If you have not already done so, please take a moment to contact both your state representative and senator to ask that they encourage the conference committee to support the Homes for Families recommendations. Please click here for additional information and for a phone script to guide you.

We were also fortunate to be joined by Allison Bovell of Children’s Health Watch and Juell Frazier, representing Witnesses to Hunger to discuss their ongoing work in partnership with the Witnesses to Hunger project of Drexel University’s Center for Hunger-Free Communities.

Headquartered in Boston with 5 additional sites, Children’s Health Watch (CHW) is a group of pediatricians, researchers and policy experts committed to improving the health and development of young children by informing policies that seek to address and alleviate economic hardships. Their research helps both the public and elected officials to better understand the negative impacts that housing instability can have on a child’s development.

Witnesses to Hunger is a research and advocacy project partnering with mothers and caregivers of young children who have experienced hunger and poverty. The group provided cameras to women to document their experiences and turned the work into a photo exhibit to raise awareness on the issue of hunger. The gallery has been displayed in various cities and venues (check out Boston!), allowing for families to tell their own stories, in their own ways, ultimately influencing the policies that impact them.

Juell shared her experience with Witnesses to Hunger and her fellow participants she affectionately refers to as her ‘sister witnesses.’ She recently travelled to Washington, DC to share her experience with officials and their staff and reflected on the empowering impact it has had on her. Juell also shared a book that Witnesses to Hunger put together, combining both pictures and quotes from families with direct recommendations for the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act.

Every five years Congress reviews the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act which regulates, among other important nutritional programs, the Women & Infants (WIC) program. Currently, income eligible children are able to access these critical nutritional resources until the age of 5. CHW and Witnesses to Hunger are advocating to increase the age threshold to 6 years of age. This would ensure children between the ages of 5 and 6 but who are not yet enrolled in school retain access to healthy foods needed for them to develop and thrive.

Recently, a steering committee was formed in Boston to continue to look at the issues impacting families living in poverty. Juell, along with her fellow ‘witness sisters’ will be working in the coming months to work to identify the issues that the group will be focused on and how they can lead efforts to impact policy. Homes for Families is honored to be part of this steering committee. Naturally, affordable housing development and access is of major concern to this group.

Thank you to both Allison and Juell for presenting at our meeting. As we continue our partnership with these amazing organizations, we will be sure to keep you posted.

We also encourage you to join us for our next community meeting on July 8 from 11 – 1 at 14 Beacon St. Stipends provided to families overcoming homelessness. 

Earned Income Tax Credit: Take Action TODAY!

The Earned Income Tax Credit has been a primary discussion between the Administration, the legislature, and the community. The state Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable tax break provided by Massachusetts to low-income workers in the commonwealth that provides extra money during tax season that rewards work.

To see how the EITC impacts YOUR town, check out this interactive map by Mass Budget. 

Children’s Health Watch has been leading the charge in advocating for an increase to the state match of the Federal Program. Please see, and share, their fact sheet below. PDF copies are available, just let us know you need one in the comment box: EITC

Senator Jamie Eldridge and Representative Marjorie Decker have been championing this issue (along with other bills that support low-income families). Right now, Representative Decker is circulating a letter in the state house, asking her colleagues to sign on to provide support for this anti-poverty tool.

The deadline for this support is at 5:00 pm TODAY. Please call your Representative and ask that they sign on to Rep Decker’s letter. You can also contact House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey and House Speaker Robert DeLeo to include the proposal in the budget Conference Committee Report.

While there is support for the EITC, your representatives need to hear from you and how the EITC impacts you. Feel free to let us know the outcome of your conversation in the comment bow below. Thanks for all you do!

FY2016 State Budget: The Final Stretch

Your advocacy work to date has us well positioned to see some significant funding increases and positive changes to programs that have a direct impact on families overcoming homelessness in the upcoming fiscal year.

But our work is not done yet.

We are submitting our recommendations to the legislature, and we need you to call your own Senator and Representative and ask that they support those recommendations.

Below are two charts- our primary priorities and our secondary priorities.

Please review and share with your legislators, your friends, your neighbors, and anyone else who has an interest and/or stake in ending family homelessness in Massachusetts:

Primary Recommendations:

Conference Committee Priority Chart

Secondary Recommendations:

Conference Committee Secondary ChartWe ask that you contact your Representative and Senator to thank them for prioritizing issues of family homelessness, and share with them our primary priorities, and any others that you may have.

Below is a sample script:

“Hi, my name is ____________________, and I live/work at ________________________. First, I would like to thank the Representative/Senator for his/her work to prioritize the issue of family homelessness in the FY2016 budget. To ensure best outcomes for children and families facing housing instability, I ask that he/she make certain recommendations to the members of the assigned conference committee:

  • Fund MRVP (line item 7004-9024) at the House recommendation of $90.1 million,

  • Fund EA (line item 7004-0101) at the House recommendation of $155.1 million while adopting the Senate version of language recommendations that allows access to shelter to otherwise eligible families prior to their having to stay in a place unfit for human habitation,

  • Fund HomeBASE (line item 7004-0108) at the House recommendation of $31.3 million while adopting the Senate version of the language that would reduce the bar from 24 to 18 months on access to the program for families who have been previously terminated and,

  • Fund the Homelessness Prevention and Stabilization Trust Fund at the House recommended $11.5 million

We ask that you share this information, and that you provide the supports needed to make our collective efforts to influence the final budget a success. As always, we will keep you posted on how much impact you have. Once again, thank you for your advocacy and support.

Bills with Public Hearings: Make Your Voice Heard

As the FY2016 Budget Conference Committee meets in an effort to compromise both the House and Senate budget proposals for the upcoming fiscal year, there is a flurry of activity under the golden dome at the State House with a host of public hearings going before various standing committees. Below is a list of some of the bills we have been following and information on past and upcoming hearings.

This legislative cycle is working a bit differently than in years past. Historically, bills are generally assigned to one and the same committee through both the House and Senate. However, this year bills filed are being assigned to one committee in the House and another in the Senate. This is an opportunity to be heard by the Legislature on important matters twice.

As always, we encourage you and the families that you work with to attend and present testimony on issues that matter to you and your community. Written testimony is also accepted. If you are interested, HFF staff is willing and able to help you prepare testimony for these hearings. Just give us a call or shoot us an email. We will continue to keep you posted as more hearing dates are assigned.

Bill No. Lead Sponsor(s) Bill Title and Brief Description Hearing Date
S901H1656 Sen. SpilkaRep. Walsh An Act Relative to the Geographical Jurisdiction of the Housing Court – this bill would allow the Housing Court that currently serves 80% of communities across the state to the 20% who do not have access to the benefits and services of this successful model. May 27th (past). Read an article about the hearing here.
S29H429 Sen. MontignyRep. Livingstone An Act Relative to Ensuring the Wellbeing of all Children in MA – this comprehensive bill would do much to improve the lives of children, but our particular interest in the bill as it is heard before the Education Committee is to extend access to childcare to families for up to six months after exiting shelter. June 3rd (past). Click here to view a summary of the entire bill.
H1698 Rep. Decker An Act to Promote Employment – this bill would help unemployed parents on TAFDC receive the education and training needed to obtain and maintain employment by requiring DTA to provide timely information and referrals, appropriate assessment and allow parents 24 months to complete basic education or vocational services. June 9th at 11:00MA State House, Rm. A1

Click here to read a copy of the bill

S676H1066 Sen. MooreRep. Sannicandro An Act to Break Generational Cycles of Poverty – this bill would coordinate work, school and wrap-around services for low income parents who are full-time students enrolled in community college, helping students with career planning, financial aid, work study and other supports such as childcare and transportation coordination. June 17th at 11:00MA State House, Rm. A2

Click here to read a copy of the bill