Department of Housing &
|100 Cambridge Street, Suite 300 http://www.mass.gov/dhcd
Boston,Massachusetts 02114 617.573.1100 xxx
At the EA Contractors statewide meeting held on June 26, 2012, DHS presented important information regarding plans and goals for moving ahead into FY13, specifically in placing families out of shelter. As you may know, the Governor signed the FY13 budget on Sunday, July 8, so we wanted to provide additional information to assist you in the timely implementation of the new resources and programs in the FY13 budget. I want to thank each of you that participated in the FY13 budget process. This is a year in which seven housing accounts received additional funding including RAFT, MRVP, Public Housing Operations, Tenancy Preservation Programs, Home and Healthy for Good, Individual Shelter Assistance, and HomeBASE. The Governor’s budget also proposed an additional $15m for the Emergency Assistance account to meet projected expenses.
With the beginning of the new fiscal year, the FY13 budget allows use of HomeBASE Household Assistance (HA) of up to $4,000 to help move clients into a safe and healthy environment or to assist with relocation costs. As you know, the HA benefit is very broad in the type of services that can enable families to move out of shelters and hotels/motels. Under current regulations, families in the EA program cannot access HomeBASE funding as a means to exit shelter if they have received a noncompliance warning notice. Please note, however, that this requirement can be waived upon a showing of need and ability to use the resource wisely and in furtherance of a likely successful stabilization effort, particularly if the noncompliance is more than three months old.
Household Assistance can be viewed as a rapid rehousing benefit and used for first’s month rent, last month’s rent, security deposit, utilities, arrearages, short-term rental support, car repair, childcare, and other appropriate uses so long as the expense is necessary to maintain or secure housing. Shelter providers should review their FY13 Scope of Services to understand how to access the benefit for families. DHS also urges all providers to meet with and communicate regularly with their regional HomeBASE agency to discuss the specific implementation steps and operations going forward.
The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is requesting that all families be notified of the availability of HomeBASE HA during case management meetings, housing search meetings, house meetings, or any other face to face contact made with families. It is also important that the client understands that the benefit is only available to them up to 32 weeks while in shelter. Note that families in shelter as of July 1 will have 32 weeks from that date. DHCD is preparing support materials to assist you in this work.
In addition, as we discussed on June 26th, the Department is requesting that providers prioritize families that express an immediate interest in utilizing HA. Shelters should also begin to approach families that have earned or unearned income (SSI, unemployment compensation, work income, etc.). Finally, shelters should begin to meet with each family currently in shelter to develop their plan for using HA as a rehousing resource. As you know families have up to 32 weeks to utilize this benefit.
We encourage families to consider the full range of options that the Household Assistance offers including co-housing or home sharing opportunities. As you know, HomeBASE HA offers the opportunity to help one EA family but potentially stabilize two families in the same unit.
Since you have already been working closely with your Regional HomeBASE Administering Agencies, I trust that you are aware of the HB policies and procedures so you can inform families of the rehousing options presented with HomeBASE. However, we also wanted to make you aware that it may be up to two weeks before HB agencies will have funds available. Lastly, please make sure that you continue to enter all placement information into the DHS Housing and Stabilization data base.
For your information, I am also enclosing a message from Undersecretary Gornstein related to implementation to the EA and housing system reforms in FY13.
In conclusion I want to acknowledge all your hard work through June to utilize HomeBASE to assist families. Our initial data shows that over 2,500 families utilized HomeBASE to exit out of the EA system, including both shelter and motels.
As always, we want to thank you for all your dedication and perseverance in helping us to assist the families and prevent and end homelessness.
A Message from Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein on FY13 Program Implementation
On Sunday, July 8, Governor Deval Patrick signed the Fiscal Year 2013 budget. The budget includes several key reforms and investments in the Commonwealth’s effort to end homelessness.
Thank you all for your valuable guidance and input as we drafted these changes and worked with the legislature to develop a comprehensive plan to combat homelessness over the next year and beyond.
Emergency shelter will be available to families who meet the Emergency Assistance income limits, areMassachusettsresidents and who meet one of the following eligibility criteria:
- Victims of fire, flood, or natural disaster;
- Fleeing domestic violence;
- Facing eviction through no fault of their own; or
- Currently in a housing situation that exposes children to substantial health and safety risks (determined by the Department of Children and Families).
As of Monday, July 9, DHCD will implement the residency requirement by requiring documentation that proves the applicant is a resident of Massachusetts at the time they are applying for emergency assistance.
The partnership with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) will begin after the required 15-day legislative review period and publication of the emergency regulation with the Secretary of State’s Office. DCF will then begin conducting assessments of the applicant’s current housing situation to determine if there is a substantial health and safety risk to children.
The remainder of the eligibility changes will be implemented following a 60-day review period by the legislature and publication of the emergency regulations with the Secretary of State’s Office.
In addition, DHCD will implement an expanded RAFT program in conjunction with the launch of the DCF assessment in relation to the new criteria. RAFT is a targeted financial assistance benefit to help families prevent homelessness.
HomeBASE will continue to provide up to $4,000 in household assistance to families as an alternative to shelter and will now also provide up to $4,000 for families to exit shelter.
The Administration also secured $6 million in additional funds for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program that will provide rental assistance to over 500 families in FY13.
Finally, DHCD will implement a new supportive housing program using MRVP project-based vouchers to assist approximately 100 families with significant barriers to stable housing.
We appreciate your continued support and shared commitment to helping the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable families get back on their feet and on the road to self-sufficiency.