Visioning Day This Thursday!

We are busy gearing up for Visioning Day 2017 this Thursday August 10th! We are excited for this yearly event when we, in collaboration with key partners, bring together families experiencing homelessness, family shelter service providers, and policymakers to share resources, reflect, and articulate our collective vision for the coming year. In anticipation of the big day, here are descriptions of each breakout group. We ask attendees to select one break out group that they will participate in.

Visioning Day 2017 Breakout Group Descriptions

# 1 Self Care through Poetry and Storytelling

Presenter: Alex Charalambides-Founder, Managing Director, Mass LEAP

Summary:  This workshop will allow participants to explore the idea of sharing in a way that heals as they speak their truth. Storytelling is an effective way to share and work through experiences and trauma. While written testimony and unified messaging are powerful tools we can use to raise awareness and change policies and practices, this approach doesn’t emphasize the self care component. Homes for Families recognizes that raising awareness can mean reliving the triggers and challenges of surviving homelessness and displacement, and we wanted to offer a space for healing in your own words.

#2 Child Wellness

Presenters:  Dr. Megan Sandel, Boston Medical Center; Sarah Slautterback, MA Department of Education; Ileen Henderson, Bright Spaces/Bright Horizons

Translation will be provided in this breakout.

Summary:  The primary concern of any parent is the well being of their children.  Housing instability and homelessness can have impact on a child’s health, as well as their educational performance and behavioral and emotional well being.  We also know that with the right supports, access to services, and strong relationships, children who have experienced homelessness and instability are able to thrive and succeed on par or beyond that of their peers. This group will discuss systems and initiatives that already exist to support and respond to the needs of children facing homelessness and work together to identify how the various systems and community can do more to support parents and children to minimize the impacts of homelessness.

#3: Immigration

Presenters:  Jessica Chicco, DOVE Inc.; Ellen VanScoyoc, Central West Justice Center; and Collin Mickle, Community Action Committee of Cape Cod & Islands, Inc.

Translation will be provided in this breakout.

Summary: The group will include attorneys who each offer a different lens on addressing immigration challenges as they relate to homelessness and intersection issues. On the panel are presenters from a range of agencies including legal aid, community action, and domestic violence. We recognize the unique challenges that families with undocumented immigrants or members of different immigration statuses face. Through this breakout we aim to increase our collective knowledge of resources and supports for families and providers to address these challenges. The break out will include brief presentations by our panel, followed by discussion. We will share best practices and practical tools and tips around accessing housing and important related supports for families with members of varied immigration statuses, especially those who are undocumented.

#4: Landlords

Presenters: Danielle Lariviere, Central MA Housing Alliance; Tom Plihcik, New Lease for Homeless Families; Luis Arzola and Jose Cruz, Center for Human Development

Summary:  Landlords are a key stakeholder in our collective ability to manage and end homelessness.  We need good landlords for scattered site shelter units; for HomeBASE tenancies, for subsidies and for market rent, and to work with tenants and programs instead of evicting. As rents increase and the rental stock declines, landlord relationships are that much more critical. Short term subsidies, like HomeBASE, and state rental assistance policies can be hard for both tenants and landlords to manage. This group will talk about tenants’ rights, increasing access and partnerships with big property management companies, engaging community based landlords, and ways to support families and landlords to build positive trusting relationships.

#4: Workforce Development and Cliff Effect

Facilitators: Molly Richard and Julia Tripp, Center for Social Innovation; Marija Bingulac, Center for Social Policy & the On Solid Ground Coalition; Anne Bureau, Community Connections in Worcester; and Meagan Pedemonti , Way Finders

Summary:  Each year at Visioning Day, participants raise their voices for education, employment and training, and better jobs.  Homes for Families’ recent survey showed that 65% of families in shelter have work experience but primarily in jobs with lower wages and no benefits.  As parents increase incomes, there are policies that cut or lessen benefits, so that even though incomes increase, families end up further behind – we call this the cliff effect.  This group will talk about advocacy efforts and practices to lessen the cliff effect and support families to become economically stable as well as about trends in workforce development and training programs.

Liz and Team HFF

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New Leadership at the Department of Housing and Community Development

Homes for Families is pleased to share the news that Jane Banks has been appointed as the new Assistant Undersecretary for the Division of Stabilization at the Department of Housing and Community Development. The announcement below was sent to family shelter providers on 7/7/17:

Dear Providers:

I am excited to formally announce that Jane Banks will be joining the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) as the new Assistant Undersecretary for the Division of Housing Stabilization.  Jane is coming to us from the Center for Human Development in Springfield where she worked for nearly twenty years.  While there she held leadership roles with oversight of an array of multi-services programs serving families, children and individuals. She has managed a number of programs including: one of the Commonwealths largest EA shelter programs with shelter capacity of 297 families within their portfolio, HUD funded Supportive Housing Programs, Community Housing Supportive Program for families and individuals in Northampton, a Single Room Occupancy Program, and an very successful EA diversion program.

We are excited to be able to draw on Jane’s extensive experience in management and supervision, program development as well as her deep understanding of housing and homelessness, ranging from emergency shelters to permanent supportive housing

I know you will be as thrilled as I am that Jane has accepted the Assistant Undersecretary position.  She will be transitioning into her new role on July 31st.

Please anticipate that Jane will be reaching out to you all, once she arrives at DHCD.

Ita Mullarkey

Associate Director

Division of Housing Stabilization

Jane has been an active member of Homes for Families while in her roles at the Center for Human Development. We have long noted her commitment to the inclusion of the family voice, unifying providers, collaboration, and innovation. Her energy, commitment to the work, and positive attitude are inspiring and contagious.  These qualities will make her an exceptional leader at DHCD and guide the system through further progress and advancement in addressing homelessness in the Commonwealth.  We thank Jane for her outstanding work at CHD; we thank her for her role in strengthening the work of Homes for Families, including the growth of our Annual Visioning Day event; and we thank her for stepping up and taking on this new role; her perspective as a shelter and service provider will be an asset to the Department.  We urge the family homelessness community to welcome Jane and commit to partnering with her so that together we can continue to build on the strengths of families, shelter providers, and the community to end homelessness once and for all.

 

 

LH

The Future of Affordable Housing

On May 22ndCHAPA held a Breakfast Forum: Doing Business in Times of Uncertainty at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston where presenters shined a light on what is to come for affordable housing in Massachusetts. Speakers included Chrystal Kornegay, Undersecretary of the Department of Housing and Community Development and Tim Sullivan, Executive Director of MassHousing. Panelists representing WinnDevelopment, Preservation of Affordable Housing, MA Housing Investment Corp., Citizens Bank, Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, and DHCD emphasized that the nature of the affordable housing business is always uncertain and that there have been many times of uncertainty over the past several decades. The panel acknowledged the high degree of political uncertainty of these times and the challenging road ahead. They also offered many examples of how partners in the industry can be creative in order to continue to develop affordable housing that is accessible to families of low and middle incomes. Proposed and actualized federal policy changes are threatening families of very low income and those in the business of affordable housing, one panelist remarked, must be thoughtful in how they respond to the increased challenges for families.

David Gasson, Vice President and Director of Communications at Boston Capital gave a really intriguing presentation on policy changes to expect from DC in the coming months. David spoke to the concerns the President has raised by threatening to reduce the low income housing tax credit to 15%. (The low income housing tax credit promotes the preservation and development of affordable housing.) David reported that this tax credit has very good standing on Capitol Hill, and strong bi-partisan support. He said that affordable housing programs, generally speaking, enjoy bi-partisan support and that congress would not get behind this kind of cut. If there is broad tax reform, which the President’s administration has been talking about doing, it will likely take 5 years to transition to any new laws that are passed.

Still, proposals coming from the President and the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson, raise significant concerns about the future of affordable housing policy and the well-being of all families living in poverty. So we need you to take action!

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Ways to Take Action at the Federal Level on CHAPA’s and Homes for Families’ priority areas:

  1. Call/Email your members of congress to tell them you would like them to prioritize affordable housing, programs that support families experiencing homelessness, and critical support programs like SNAP and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Include something about your personal experience or story to illustrate why these issues matter to you. You can look up your members of congress here.
  2. Sign up for CHAPA’s email list and join a CHAPA committee.
  3. Join CHAPA’s young professional’s network.

Homes for Families supports CHAPA’s agenda and will continue to keep the fight for the housing, shelter and critical support service needs of families in Massachusetts a priority!

Liz Peck

Director of Operations and Member Engagement

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