“MRVP vouchers are fundamental to ensuring that the people of the Commonwealth have access to safe and affordable housing, especially in this difficult economic climate,”… “Housing stability is critical to the welfare of our individuals and families and I am thankful to Homes for Families for organizing this event every year.” – Chairman Honan on Cookie Day
On February 13, 2013, Homes for Families brought cookies to the state house- lots, and lots of cookies. Why? Because it was HFF’s annual Cookie Day- a day for legislators, families, and other agencies interested in ending family homelessness to come together in support of the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP).
HFF brought more than just cookies; they brought fact, they brought passion and they brought the intersection of reality and policy to the center of focus. And by bringing this, they took the conversation back.
Cookie Day is HFF’s annual event, sponsored by Representative Honan, where the ask for MRVP is released. They put the number, this year $60 million, on house shaped cookies and deliver them to each Representative and Senator with the help of families and other organizations.
Libby Hayes opened up the day by welcoming and thanking legislators, families and everyone in attendance, because without the unwavering support of each, #ourvoice would not be heard. #ourvoice is Homes for Families’ 2013 campaign to battle unaffordable housing, unproductive conversations and the year of the snake. She explained why the ask for MRVP is “high” and did so by using fact:
FACT: In no state in the country is a full time minimum wage job sufficient to afford the high cost of rent
FACT: In order to afford the cost of rent in MA, a family must earn AT LEAST $48,000 per year.
FACT: The average income of families in shelter is about $8,000 per year
FACT: There are currently over 3,500 families in shelter, including 1,500 in motels
FACT: There are over 6,000 families in HomeBASE rental subsidies that are scheduled to expire in FY14 and 15- a year before the original commitment of 3 years
And here is another fact: At one time, our state’s housing voucher program was funded at $120 million-double our ask…and this was at a time when spending on homelessness was a fraction of what it is today…and at a time when the gap between wages and rent was not so extreme….
Solutions become a lot more apparent and realistic when you speak in fact instead of rhetoric, something we will not waiver on as FY14 approaches.
Representative Honan addressed the crowd and spoke on the importance of MRVP and encouraged families to speak with their Reps and Senators after the event. Another chance to use #ourvoice? We’ll take it!
We heard from Gabrielle Vacheresse who spoke of her experience in shelter, a woman who knows the true impact of programs like MRVP. We heard from Matilde Liz Gonzales who is a mother working a full-time job, a mother who is currently in a motel because her fulltime job does not provide her with the wages necessary to afford an apartment without assistance.
Each year, HFF awards a giant cookie to a champion of social justice, who has a history of fighting for vulnerable families and their state-realized right to housing, or at least not living on the streets. This year, the cookie/award was presented to Senator Jamie Eldridge for his advocacy of low-income and homeless families
Diane Sullivan, HFF’s Policy Director, ended the event by putting on lip gloss and lotion, two of the things that were the topic of conversation at the end of the last fiscal year, and two of the things that held us back from having productive conversations about how to truly support the Commonwealth’s parents and children in achieving, or continuing, self-sufficiency.
Homes for Families would like to thank those who came out to Cookie Day and those who make #ourvoice loud, clear, and possible.