The Family Shelter System in Massachusetts: A snapshot of program models, service needs, promising practices, and challenges

Homes for Families is pleased to release our latest report:  The Family Shelter System in Massachusetts: A snapshot of program models, service needs, promising practices, and challenges authored by Giselle Routhier, PhD candidate at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management. 

As part of our ongoing efforts to analyze the shelter system through the support of the OAK Foundation, this report provides a general overview of the Massachusetts Emergency Assistance (EA) shelter program based on interviews and surveys from shelters across the state.

It highlights who is in it:

The characteristics of homeless families in Massachusetts follow larger trends of families living in poverty

It addresses the various types of shelter:

The state provides emergency shelter using four different models: congregate, scattered-site, co-sheltering, and motels.

It brings to light new data:

Through these data collection methods, information was gathered about the number of social service staff, staff training, and the types of services provided to homeless families.

And goes into detail regarding family needs and barriers:

Family shelter providers were also asked about their perceptions of the needs of homeless families. When asked to identify the top three needs in order, providers reported these as: (no spoilers, sorry!) 

This report illuminates the strengths and challenges of different programs:

Through site visits and open-ended survey responses, providers were asked about the specific strengths of their programs. These strengths can be categorized into those relating to services for families, relationships with families, and staffing structure.

And provides analysis on housing and exit data:

Collecting accurate exit data has been an ongoing challenge…but data quality improvement has been a priority over the past year.

Finally, the report concludes with promising practices and policy recommendations:

Moving forward with the goal of ending family homelessness, some recommendations for promising shelter-based practices can be made in addition to larger programmatic and systemic changes.

Because the report provides a snap shot, this blog post serves to share what is in it to encourage you to read it in its entirety, and share it with others who are interested in new data and analysis on the EA program.

Please click here for access to the report. We are happy to further discuss the report with you, and if you would like a PDF copy sent to you, please email Jamie at

Thank you, Giselle, for your unwavering dedication in this project, and for you clear commitment to finding and producing this important data. We are lucky to have worked alongside you and appreciate your balancing school/work/researching to make sure our field has the information they need to better serve families to ultimately end family homelessness!



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