A Member Update

HFF is a membership organization of family shelter providers; as such we send regular updates out to our membership list.  I tried to send the following update out last night, but our email system is not letting it send, so I am putting it here.  If your program is not a member, please consider joining.  Contact our Director of Operations and Member Engagement, Liz Peck (epeck@homesforfamilies.org) for more information.

Membership Update


242 families in motels


On Beacon Hill

According to the Secretary of Administration and Finance, Massachusetts is facing a $294M deficit.  Per Chapter 9C of Chapter29 of Massachusetts General Law, the Governor is required to make a cuts when there is a gap between revenue and spending.   Agencies are now determining what and where they make cuts.  My best guess is that EA will be held harmless.  I also worry that some of the MRVP funding that was just restored may be at risk.  There simply is not a lot for DHCD to cut – the entire secretariat (EOHED) accounts for 0.73% of the state budget.  Another round of early retirement packages may be offered which could impact the local offices.  I assume the cuts will be announced before the end of the month.

Meanwhile, planning for the FY18 Budget is underway.  From conversations with DHCD, they are most likely not hosting budget hearings, but we will put together and submit recommendations informally.

Homes for Families has often included a statement supporting revenue increases as a means to justify our budget asks.  In a time of economic growth, our spending should not be outpacing our revenues.  As always, we want to make sure that this is something that our membership supports.  Discussions on revenue are heating up – expect debate on taxing AirBNB and related short term rentals; the Millionaire’s Tax is creeping through the political process; Mass Budget and Policy Center is highlighting business loopholes, and many communities have a question on the Community Preservation Act on ballots this November.  The AirBNB/Short Term Rentals something that I personally feel could generate revenues directly for housing programs, but it has also been linked already to justify the increase to EITC – here is more on that from Mass Budget.  More convo’s to follow.  But please let me know if you object to us supporting revenue increases (i.e. tax increases, closing loopholes and/or fees) so we can avoid further cuts and invest in solutions!

The Inter-agency Council on Housing and Homelessness: Family Subcommittee:

The family subcommittee of the ICHH is chaired by Rose and Linn.  The group met for a second time last week.  The meeting primarily included updates on FY16 initiatives – ongoing motel reduction; expansion of HomeBASE to domestic violence and substance abuse programs; RAFT expansion to individuals; and prevention and consortium updates.  Tim Yaecker (formerly of DHCD) presented on the findings and recommendations presented in their report, which EOHHS funded, to analyze the shelter system.

Other important things:

  • Shelter Eligibility Organizing: Mass Coalition for the Homeless, along with other groups, is organizing an advocacy event and efforts regarding shelter eligibility policies requiring certain families to stay in places not meant for human habitation
  • McKinney Vento Updates: On October 17, 2016, the new regulations of the reauthorized McKinney Vento Law went into effect.  Here is a brief explanation from the MA Dept of Education and more information from the National Association of the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.  A blog post on the topic is on my to do list, but in the meantime, here is their FAQ document.
  • Housing Report: The National Low Income Housing Coalition has put together a report on the closed lists, the long lists, and wait times for public and subsidized housing. The Long Wait for a Home.
  • Names and Faces – Speaking of the NLIHC, their director is the keynote speaker at the upcoming CHAPA dinner. Diane Yentel worked at Mass Coalition for the Homeless back in the day. And also speaking of CHAPA – did you all see the memo that Rachel Heller – formerly of Homes for Families – is their new Executive Director.
  • Books: Just released is a new book on family homelessness in the US.  Included is a chapter on Boston and Massachusetts.  Not sure all that it says, but HFF is mentioned, so that is cool (well I hope it is cool, I have not read it yet). It is called Invisible Nation: Homeless Families in America.
  • Congratulations and Thank You to EmPath for a great Conference and for sharing all the slides and info on disrupting poverty.

Your Question of the Month:

Last Question Report Back: First, thank you to those of you who provided thoughtful feedback on the income cap of 115% for families in shelter.  We met with DHCD, with the On Solid Ground Coalition, to discuss this issue. The problems the cap creates for families in shelter are threefold – 1) families find temporary work or are unable to maintain employment but face the 6 month clock despite no longer having the income 2) families exceed the 115% but their jobs are in high rental markets and they are still unable to find an apartment they can afford and 3) It discourages families from seeking employment.  We are in ongoing discussions about implementing a 90 day period of sustained income before the clock is triggered to address and/or waivers.  We also proposed increasing supports to families on the 6 month clock regarding housing search, escrowing, waiving child care co-pays, and other incentives.  DHCD is doing some data analysis of how many families may be impacted.

October’s Question (sorry for the delay in getting this out, as I know you have been waiting at the edges of your seat for a new question!)

We are switching the topic to Stabilization/HomeBASE.  Many of you saw a lot of data today at the DHCD meeting, but we are always looking for more data and more stories.  Thank you to the Policy Action Team members for your help in designing this question:

How are you successful and what are the challenges you face in engaging families in HomeBASE?

  • Do you have data you can share on outcomes at the end of the stabilization period (how many families secured other housing, remained housed, re-applied for shelter, needed RAFT, lost contact, etc)
  • Any data on the numbers of families in your program that returned to shelter after taking HomeBASE?
  • Ways you have kept families engaged
  • Data, anecdotes, cries for help and/or rejoicing in success are all welcome and encouraged!

 Thanks for staying engaged.  We cannot make progress without you!

Until the next one,

Libby and Team HFF


4 thoughts on “A Member Update

  1. In Boston about 4 families a day arive at Boston Medical Center reporting that theyhave nowhere to go and have been told to come to the hospital..Families generally come back to the hospital for 2 -3 additional nights. The pediatric social worker is helping families get ID’s and assemble paperwork related to eligibility requirements. If a family is not eligible for EA in MA, the social worker is helping them to get back to their previous “homes”, usually in other states and Puerto Rico. Families are staying in a tiny hospital room overnight after waiting hours in a busy/chaotic waiting aream or lobby until the rooms are not being used by sick patients. Many of the familiies get placed by DHCD after several days of camping out in the hospital. BMC is not the only hospital trying to figure out how to best respond to this crisis. This was the first year that there was no decrease in homeless families when the weather got warm. It is hard to celebrate the reduction of families in hotels when you see what they are having to survive in order to get shelter.
    Brenda English
    Social Work Manager
    Boston Medical Center


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