The People United Event

On Tuesday May 9th 2017, Homes for Families and Project Hope hosted their first annual, People United event. We shared space, diverse perspectives, and common ground.

The Dudley – Project Hope community came together to share some of the advocacy and organizing, as well as some of  the possibilities for new action to address social justice issues being faced by local residents.

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The event was designed with the focus on action and with acknowledgement of how important it would be to tap into the community’s wealth of experience, given their long history of successfully organizing and mobilizing.

Some of the hot topics were gentrification/displacement, hunger and food justice, immigration, homelessness prevention, the cliff effect, and fair housing/discrimination.

Participants and partners included members of the Project Hope community, Representative Capuano’s office, Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz’s office, Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative, Irish International Immigration Center , The Food Project, The Consumer Advocacy Team (Homes for Families) and Boston Tenant Coalition.

As an immediate action residents filled out the Fair Housing Assessment Survey in order to inform the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing process.

Looking to the group’s abundant and diverse skills and abilities as a major resource was a key theme. Other themes included:

  • Asking local spaces (e.g. Salvation Army, Schools, Churches) to invite community members in to organize
  • Turning to bilingual members of the community to translate (informally), and
  • Reviewing and expanding how the community is made aware of the existing community resources as well as opportunities to join in local advocacy and organizing efforts.

We thank Project Hope for their work on the event! We are grateful to have been a part of a meeting focused on drawing upon the strengths of the community to generate collective change.

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(Picture above from left to right: Christine Dixon, Project Hope; Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George; Sister Margaret A. Leonard, Project Hope; and Linda Wood-Boyle, Project Hope)

Team HFF

5/15-5/19 What is happening Under the Golden Dome…

….relative to housing and homelessness?

 

The Senate Committee on Ways and Means will release their budget proposal on Tuesday, May 16th. The deadline to file any amendments to the SWM proposal is Thursday and debates will begin the following Tuesday, May 23rd.  Debates will wrap up in time for Memorial Day Weekend.

The budget proposal release is not the only action and activity taking place at the State House next week, click here for the full schedule of hearings and events for the month of May. 

There are three committee hearings on Monday – the House Committee on Bonding, Capital Expenditures and State Assets; the Joint Committee on the Judiciary, and the Senate Committee on Global Warming and Climate Change. Both the House and Senate will be in “informal session”.

Monday will be a good day to call your Senator’s office and let them know what you hope they will prioritize in the Senate Budget Debates.  Click here look up your State Senator and below is a sample script:

“Hi, my name is ______ and I live in the Senator’s district in _(your town)__. I am calling because I am concerned about (housing, homelessness, transportation, jobs, education…be specific) and I am asking that the Senator prioritizes these issues during the upcoming budget debates.

And it will also be a good day to write testimony in support of or against any of the bills that are being considered in the week ahead. Verbal testimony should be 3 minutes or less. Written testimony can be submitted to the committee.

Tuesday is the big day! Not only will the budget be released, but there are 12 hearings scheduled!! The Joint Committee on Housing is hosting an Oversight Hearing  (oversight hearings generally include invited panelists from State or Quasi agencies or other experts in the field and the public is open to listen). Other hearings focus on bills, many of which touch on the issue of family homelessness, and are open to the public to listen and/or give testimony:

Wednesday there is one hearing hosted by the Joint Committee on Transportation. Wednesday will be a key day for confirming sponsors for Amendments to the Senate Ways and Means Proposal and Thursday will be the deadline. Now is the time to sign up for our action alerts if you have not already.

Did you know that Massachusetts often near the top of the list for the number of bills filed; but is close to the bottom of the list of the number of bills passed. This slightly outdated article lists us as passing only 5% of all bills. However, hearings give us all a chance to be heard; to make our case, to elevate an issue, to interact with those that make decisions impacting our lives, to support legislators fighting the good fight, and to call out injustices of bad bills.

For more on Legislative and Budget advocacy, click here for a recent webinar (slides or full presentation with audio) we did with our colleagues on the On Solid Ground Coalition.

LH

Join the Effort to Lift the Cap on Kids

If you heard that there is a policy in Massachusetts that bars certain children in families with very low income from receiving cash assistance, would you be surprised? We are one of only 17 states that have the “Family Cap” policy which denies Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (cash benefits) to children conceived while or soon after a family received benefits. Families lose about $100 per month because of this policy. This lost income makes it even more likely for families to have to choose between basic necessities like feeding their families, buying diapers and other baby supplies, or making the rent.

The reality is, this policy was established during 1995 welfare reform with the intention of reducing births among very low income families who are disproportionately black and brown. How does that sit? For us, the intent to control the reproductive lives of very low income people of color is an affront to reproductive and racial justice. No policy should treat any child as though they are invisible. There is also no research to show that the family cap decreased births among TAFDC recipients.

We are a part of a campaign to lift this family cap and acknowledge the worth of every child in our Commonwealth. The Campaign is: Lift the Cap on Kids Massachusetts. The campaign has tremendous momentum with 85 sponsoring agencies. Learn more about the campaign here.

We just held an event at the State House called Diaper Day to recognize the basic necessities that an extra $100 per month buys for a child. Below is a picture from Diaper Day with our Senate sponsor of the event, Senator Sal DiDomenico of Everett. Representative Marjorie Decker of Cambridge is the House sponsor. All of the diapers you see were donated and went to Horizons for Homeless Children!

Please join our efforts. You can like the Lift the Cap on Kids Massachusetts Facebook Page and ask your friends to like it too. If you are part of an agency, ask if your agency can sign onto the campaign. If you sign on you can attend our monthly meeting and find many other ways to get involved in this exciting effort to value all children equally. To join the campaign, please contact Naomi Meyer, Greater Boston Legal Services (nmeyer@gbls.org) or Deborah Harris, the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (dharris@mlri.org).

Liz Peck

Director of Operations and Member Engagement 
Homes for Families

The State Budget Advocacy Season is Upon Us: Take action today!

We are in the full swing of state budget season and advocacy from Massachusetts constituents is needed now.

First, a few things we’d like to remind you of:

  1. You are without a doubt an expert of your lived life experience, or the work you engage in every day, so your opinion and voice matter!
  2. Even a couple calls on the same issue absolutely make a difference. Emails are good too, but calls are the best, and swinging by a legislator’s office in person is even better (if you happen to be able to do that next week).
  3. It really only takes 2 minutes to make a call.
  4. We will give you a script and tell you where to look up your legislator’s information if you are not sure.
  5. It is your Representative’s job to represent you, but they don’t know what you, as a constituent, want unless you tell them!

Ready to pick up the phone or send an email or show up at their office? Great, because advocacy is needed now and next week (the week of April 24th) to support key housing and related amendments that will advance our collective priorities to address family homelessness in the Commonwealth.

Click here for an advocacy alert with how to raise your voice. You have the prerogative to pick and choose what off our list of amendments matters to you most, but you’ll see the first 4 amendments listed are top priority.

Feel free to contact us with questions and to let us know how it goes.

Liz Peck

Director of Operations and Member Engagement, Homes for Families, epeck@homesforfamilies.org

Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing… not just fair housing, in theory

On Wed April 12th 2017 Homes for Families in partnership with Boston Tenant Coalition, hosted a meeting between The City of Boston and the Homes for Families’ Consumer Advocacy Team (CAT).

The purpose of the meeting was to provide space for honest dialogue related to the barriers, challenges and issues around fair affordable housing and discrimination being faced by Boston residents, especially those with extremely low, low and moderate incomes. The goal was to inform and guide the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing (AFFH) process for the best possible outcome for all Boston residents.

The Fair Housing Act was signed into law in April of 1968. Read more here.

The HUD rule to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing was published in July of 2015. Click here for more information.

From the City we were joined by Janine Anzalota, Executive Director Office of Fair Housing and Equity, Boston Fair Housing Commission and Robert C. Gehret, Jr., Deputy Director, Policy Development & Research Division, City of Boston Department of Neighborhood Development.

Representing the family voice and many of the Boston communities, we were joined by the Consumer Advocacy Team. CAT is a group of families who have experienced, housing instability, homelessness and displacement. Members of the CAT group dedicate their time to systems change and improvement. They bring a unique lens of lived experience and continuous training on policy and organizing which allows for effective multifaceted family driven advocacy.

The conversation was both rich and engaging and the first of many upcoming opportunities for residents to share challenges, ideas and solutions to some of the complex issues that families and individuals in the Boston housing market are being faced with. Some of the key themes or hot topics of discussion at the meeting:

  • Investments in Boston communities often go hand in hand with gentrification and displacement
  • Landlords who have the option to rent to millennials (without children) don’t want to rent to families
  • Landlords unwillingness to accept vouchers, some are finding creative ways to discriminate against sec 8 voucher holders in order to free up property for “professional 20-30 year olds”
  • The trade off of renting an apartment in a high cost area (at an affordable rate) is usually accepting substandard living conditions
  • Racial segregation having to do with who can afford to live where & landlords ability to affect the culture of neighborhoods (knowingly or unknowingly)

In the coming weeks there will be a survey coming out aimed at Boston residents with the purpose of understanding their experience, needs and challenges as a resident of the City. There will also be an Open meeting with the City on April 25th with the same purpose of collecting valuable input from community members in order to inform the Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing process.

Both Janine and Bob displayed a passion to understand and improve the experience of each and every Boston resident and asked some extremely thoughtful questions. We want to thank them for making the time to come out and join us in our efforts to work toward better more accessible fair affordable housing for ALL.

A big thanks to our CAT group for their dedication to advocacy and systems change and improvement.

A big thanks to Kathy Brown from BTC who works endlessly- selflessly to ensure safe affordable housing for Boston resident’s day in and day out!!!

This is just the beginning so please keep an eye out and participate if/when you can in any open meetings/hearing/ surveying having to do with Boston’s AFFH initiative . To learn more about AFFH, check out the following:

HUD’s AFFH Page https://www.huduser.gov/portal/affht_pt.html

A 2015 article announcing the ruling from the Obama administration from the Washington Post

A 2017 article discussing Fair Housing under the Trump Administration from the Atlantic

Learn more and be heard!

-Nilaya, Director of Leadership and Community Building

Promoting Stability Over the Summer

The summer months bring welcomed weather, time outside, and a break from school in Massachusetts. However, for families on the edge economically, summer can be a challenging time. The cost of food and a safe place to send youth during the day without the support of school meals and other school year programming, can lead to a “cliff effect” or loss of several supports at once.

At our April Community Meeting we brought together presenters from the Boys and Girls Club, Camp Harbor View, The Massachusetts Alliance of YMCAs and Project Bread to share information about how to access free/subsidized camps and food over the summer.

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Boston

  • The Boys and Girls Club has 12 programs throughout the city, 8 of which run summer camps for 6-12 year olds. Each session is one week, generally operating from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm with pre and after care available each day. They provide breakfast and lunch. The camps have typical activities like arts and crafts, swimming, sports, and team games. Condon camp, however, is a 6 week commitment. It is a summer learning program with English and Math in the morning and recreation in the afternoon (for 4th, 5th and 6th graders).
  • How to apply for camp? This flyer has numbers for each of the programs that you can contact to ask for application materials.
    • All programs have scholarships available. The full price is $100/week and the amount of the scholarship varies by program. All families experiencing homelessness or even if recently housed would qualify for a scholarship.
    • There are translators to help with applications.
    • Apply now! Camps fill up quickly, so apply now, but also know that even when they are full, the camps have flexibility to accept youth with high need.
    • Youth from anywhere can attend a camp (regardless of geographic location), but they do need to be able to get to the camp on their own. Most camps are accessible via public transportation. The Boys and Girls Clubs do not have public transportation stipends available.
  • They accept vouchers: The Department of Children and Families provides a limited number of camp vouchers or “slots” to family shelter programs. Camps often work out extensions with these vouchers (for example, if the voucher is for 1 week, camps will often allow youth to attend for 3 weeks).
  • Drop-In teen centers: The first 5 programs listed on the flyer include teen centers that run as drop in programs Tuesday through Saturday, separate from summer camps. Teens 13-18 can sign up for a $5 membership fee that can be waived if a family cannot afford it.
  • There are social workers on staff at the first 5 camps listed on the flyer. They are a great resource when trying to place a family.
  • While not technically summer camps, so not included on the flyer, three Boys and Girls Clubs do run summer programming. The Mattapan Teen Center has drop in hours for teens (617-533-9050). The Sumner Boys & Girls Club in Roslindale runs a Summer Learning Project for students of the Sumner School (617-363-9938) and the Hennigan Boys & Girls Club in J.P. runs a Summer Learning Project for students of the Hennigan School (617-427-0144).
  • For questions or if you need help in supporting a family please contact Cara Gould: Senior Executive Director of Operations, Boys & Girls Clubs of Boston, 617-994-4722, cgould@BGCB.org.

Camp Harbor View

  • Camp Harbor View recently split from the Boys and Girls Club. It is a low cost camp that is in very high demand, but holds some spots open for families like those experiencing homelessness.
    • Camp Harbor View is a summer camp on Boston Harbor Island for Boston youth between ages 11 and 14.
    • Youth are picked up at community center locations across the city and brought to the world trade center where they take a ferry out to the island every day. They take the ferry and a bus back to the community center locations at the end of the day.
    • Breakfast, lunch and dinner are provided.
    • Program areas include sports/fitness; leadership with high ropes course and challenge type games; arts including theater, dance, music and fine arts; aquatics; and “knowledge is power” STEM based activities. There is a Leaders in Training program that is essentially a summer job that youth can apply for as well once they get into the camp.
    • There are two sessions, each 4 weeks: from July 3 – July 27 and Aug. 1 –  Aug 25. A youth can only participate in one of the two sessions.
  • Applications are done online. They start accepting applications in January. The only cost is a $5 fee to apply online, and that can be waived. This camp fills up very quickly and it’s a first come first serve basis (though returning campers get some priority). They do open up a wait list, which they have already started for this year. However, they hold spots open for families with special circumstances like families experiencing homelessness! Contact Scott Thomson at 1-857-273-0725 (include the 1 when you dial).
  • They recently opened Camp Harbor View in the City: a teen center in the South Boston/Roxbury area where they provide recreational and therapeutic programming, but this is only open to teens who have been to the camp. There is programming for parents and as well once you have your foot in the door as a camper.

Project Bread

  • Project Bread runs a Food Summer Service program through which they have 126 meal sites in Boston, and other sites across the state. Any kid from anywhere can go in and get a meal if they are 18 or younger. Some sites offer meals for adults at a nominal fee. This year they are expanding to WIC offices, farmers markets and other places like parks.
  • If you have a suggestion for where they should have a summer meal site, please contact Project Bread (see Rachel’s contact information below). They will also run “closed sites”, where if at least 5 children are eligible for free or reduced price lunch or some other similar program, then all kids can have a closed meal site (for example a karate or dance class). Please help promote the program at schools- you can order as much free promotional materials as you like to put up at your agency or to give to schools to display via Project Bread’s website meals4kids.org. Another idea offered was to print the local meal site list and post that up.
  • You can look up a site near you online at meals4kids.org.
  • There is also a new app called SummerEats that allows you to find sites near you on your smart phone!
  • For more on the Summer Food Program, please contact Rachel Garside, Child Nutrition Outreach Coordinator, rachel_garside@projectbread.org, (617) 239-2575.
  • Project Bread also has a FoodSource hot line with language assistance to apply for SNAP (food stamps): 800-645-8333; 800-377-1292 (TTY).

The Massachusetts Alliance of YMCAs

  • The YMCA is the largest after school youth serving and early education provider in the state. Their focus in on families and children. On this flyer the location of each YMCA is listed.
  • Summer jobs: The Ys are always looking to higher youth, so this is a good agency to connect with for summer jobs for youth ages 14 and over.
  • Membership: Standard memberships vary by location. A Y should never turn anyone away for the club membership, child care or after school programming as long as it is not a legal licensing issue. If a youth cannot afford it, there should be a discount. You may need to write a letter and if needed contact Kate-Marie for help. They will not ask about immigrant status when applying for a club membership. In Boston all 7 graders get a free summer membership.
  • Kate-Marie, Director of Public Policy, Alliance of Massachusetts YMCAs can be contact at: Kate-Marie.Roycroft@maymca.com or 978-237-2021.

Get Active in Support of Improving Access to Summer Camp and After School! There is a bill sponsored by Senator Lovely that the MA Alliance of YMCAs is working (SB192) An Act Creating the Home Works Program. This legislation would enable children in Emergency Shelter Assistance to go to after school programs or summer camps. The bill would establish a voucher system to fund transportation to and from after school or camps. After school and camp providers could also go into hotels/motels to run after school programs there if setting up transportation is not possible. Sign up for Kate Marie’s action alerts here.

It is budget season so there is a lot of opportunity to take action in support of the kinds of programs and services that families at risk of or experiencing homelessness rely on all year round. Sign up for Homes for Families action alerts here.

Liz Peck
Director of Operations and Member Engagement
Homes for Families

Following the Amendments on malegislature.gov

The House Committee on Ways and Means released their budget proposal on Monday, April 10th, a change from the typical Wednesday release to accommodate for Good Friday. Representatives had until 5pm on Thursday to add amendments to the $40.3Billion spending proposal.  Amendments can add additional funding and change line item language. Amendments must be filed by at least one representative, and others can add their name as co-sponsors after the amendment has been filed.  Historically, representatives co-sponsored an amendment by signing their names next to the corresponding number in a book in the clerk’s office with a quill pen.

Advocates and others would have to go to the clerk’s office at the State House and ask to see “the book” to see who had signed on. Now, legislators can use the “quill” feature on an online system that we can all track. Technology makes the process much more transparent.

The Massachusetts Legislature’s website had a bit of a face lift since last budget season. This blog post gives an overview of how to navigate the website so that you can read the various amendments, see what amendments your representative filed, and check to see if your State Representative is supporting the Budget Amendments that are important to you.

Step 1. Go to https://malegislature.gov/

Step 2. Go to the House Debate Page

Step 3. Use the Filter

When you enter your search terms, don’t forget to click the “filter” icon; use the “clear filter” feature to start a new search.  

Search Tips

  • If you don’t know who your State Representative is, click here
  • Housing programs all are listed with line item number 7004-
  • Line items we follow are: MRVP (7004-9024); Emergency Shelter (7004-0101); and HomeBASE (7004-0108)
  • Key words include: homeless, housing, voucher…

Step 4: Find your Amendment(s)

Step 5: Review the Amendment

Amendment #780 is an example of a funding amendment; striking the budget amount of $100M for MRVP and inserting $120M.

Click here to read the “technical amendment” #382 that was filed on MRVP 

Step 6: Take Action

If your Representative is signed on: say thank you!

If your Representative is not signed on: ask him/her to consider co-sponsoring.

You can call, email, use social media, visit the State House, attend an event.

Feel free to contact us with any questions or for more information.  For a sample script and a list of the amendments we are watching, click here

Stay tuned for more information; we will do our best to keep the blog updated as the budget process continues.  Representatives have up until the debates begin to co-sponsor and get educated about the amendments.

The debates begin on Monday, April 24th!