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!

Immigration and Families: Key Resources from Community Meeting Presenters

At our January Community Meeting we focused on the issue of immigration. Our guest speakers Cristina Dacchille Freeman, Immigration Attorney with the Irish International Immigrant Center, Luz Arevalo, Senior Attorney at the Employment Law Unit at Greater Boston Legal Services, and Liza Ryan, Director of Organizing with the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition provided valuable information on pathways to citizenship, access to services, and where to find trustworthy legal help.

Here are some key take-aways from the presentations:

  1. Connect to An Attorney for a Consultation. A LOT goes into immigration analysis and every particular situation can depend, so it’s always important to connect with an attorney. Here is a list of agencies from across the state that provide free consultation.
  2. Start the Process Now: If a family member is interested in becoming a citizen, because of the limited nature of the immigration system, how long the process can take, and given laws could become more restrictive, start the process of citizenship right away.
  3. Avoid Immigration Scams: Speakers warned of immigration scams and the importance of finding a lawyer practicing immigration law and fluent in all current immigration laws and regulations. The list of agencies above that provide free consultations are among those you can trust.
  4. File Your Taxes With Trustworthy Agencies: Just because someone does not have status doesn’t mean they are not subject to tax laws. However, there are people out there that prey on the immigrant community, over charging for simple tax returns. Luz is in charge of a tax clinic where volunteers prepare taxes for free if a parent’s income is under $54,000/year. Click here for a flyer with more on how to file taxes and for trustworthy, free tax preparation locations.
  5. Connect with MIRA: The Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition is the largest advocacy organization in New England representing immigrants and refugees. MIRA is working hard to protect immigrant and refugee rights, and to foster safe communities through MA legislation. To learn more about how to support the Safe Communities Act, immigrant rights, and how to get involved in this important advocacy, please visit their website.

We know that families experiencing homelessness are comprised of individuals with a range of immigrant statuses. Protecting immigrant rights is an important part of promoting human rights and stability among families. Luckily in Massachusetts we have some incredible organizations leading the charge on immigration. We hope you will share this information, connect with these experts, and take action!

Best,

Liz Peck
Director of Operations and Member Engagement

Before 2017, Take Action on Illegal Foreclosures!

This post is to alert any families or providers working with families that any Massachusetts resident who thinks their home may have been illegally foreclosed needs to act before the end of 2016 to protect their rights. The MAAPL Coalition (Massachusetts Alliance Against Predatory Lending) can help! MAAPL has shown that 95% of the state’s foreclosures contain illegalities and illegally foreclosed residents are starting to win cases in court. Victims may be able to reverse the foreclosure or get full damages if they take action in 2016 to preserve their rights.

See below and go to http://maapl.info/ to learn more!

maapl-fact-sheet

Take action to connect with families and MAAPL to learn more!

Liz

DTA Benefits and Employment Services: small and big picture update

Every month Homes for Families hosts a Community Meeting where we create space for all of our partners: families experiencing homelessness, front line shelter staff, policymakers and advocates to come together to discuss and learn about issues our network has identified as important.

At our last Community Meeting we had a presentation from the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) with some valuable updates on changes in service delivery, new supports and ongoing programs for recipients of Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC: cash benefits). We also had an eye-opening presentation by Deborah Harris from Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) that illustrated some stark statistics showing that many more families in MA are living in deep poverty than are receiving cash benefits. This post will offer some of the highlights from our meeting with links to materials and next steps.

DTA Highlights:

  • Enhanced Assessment: once a client is approved for a cash benefits (TAFDC) grant, they will be invited to participate in an assessment intended to be strengths based and support the client in engaging in employment services activities that will support their economic mobility.
  • Transitional Support Stipends: when a client stops receiving TAFDC because they become over income, each employed adult household member may receive a stipend for up to 4 months. This money is not counted against subsidized or affordable housing. It does not count against the 24 month clock. For more information see this DTA fact sheet.
  • Weekly Orientations to Learn about Employment Services Programs: every Tuesday at 10 am and Thursday at 1:00 every DTA office has an orientation where recipients of cash benefits can go to learn about the employment services programs in their area and actually connect with some of the providers running programs.
  • Full Engagement Workers: these FEWS provide more comprehensive support for clients in identifying and connecting to employment services programs and work opportunities. For a list of FEWS click here.
  • The DTA Works Internship to Work Program: this program generated some good conversation. It has a good track record of creating a pathway to work for clients who participate. Check out this flyer for more information. To apply, submit resume to the full engagement worker in your area.
  • The DTA Connect phone app is now available and allows clients to track aspects of their benefits. If a client requests heightened security on their case, they will not be able to use this app.

While DTA works to improve their services, families and service providers face challenges with accessing them. Community members present at our meeting expressed concerns about being able to get in touch with case workers, not having specific assigned case workers for cash benefits, and the challenges of waiting in crowded DTA offices to access services.

If you have questions, concerns or feedback for DTA on any of this information that you would like to be able to provide directly, please contact: John Stella, Director of Cash Policy: john.stella@state.ma.us and/or Mayra Torres, Assistant Director of Employment Services Programs: mayra.torres@state.ma.us.

The Bigger Picture:

Deborah shed light on why so many families find themselves struggling to escape poverty and homelessness to begin with: while there are more families in poverty now as compared to the early 90s the number of families on cash assistance has dropped. Whats more, the value of the cash grant has declined. In fact grants are worth half of what they were worth in 1988: on average, for a family of three, the value of a cash grant has declined by $535/month!

tafdc-grants-worth-half-1988-value-chart

One effort you can join to get more money into the pockets of families that are very low income is the campaign to lift the family cap (which limits access to cash benefits for some children). You can learn more about this campaign by contacting us or Deborah Harris: 617-357-0700 x 313, dharris@mlri.org.

Where We Go From Here:

We are committed to continuing to find policy solutions that create tools for families to increase their income, access affordable housing, and move out of poverty and into stable long term housing. While our state policymakers are working to make improvements within the system we currently have, we will continue to work with policymakers, advocates, our members, and other stakeholders to support the kinds of significant shifts in our system of cash benefits and beyond that our needed to create meaningful change.

Join us at our next community meeting on Dec. 14th!

community-mtg-flyer-dec-2016

Liz Peck
Director of Operations and Member Engagement

Election 2016: We Need Your Vote!

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Early voting in Massachusetts is officially open! At our Community Meeting last week, we learned that thanks to new legislation passed last year, registered voters have 11 days to vote in our state. Some polling locations are even open evening and weekend hours. This policy change will foster more equitable access to the right to vote especially for people who cannot get to a poll on Election Day due to limited work flexibility, child care, or other challenging life circumstances exacerbated by homelessness.

Voting this fall is not just about voting for our next President, though this is a major responsibility not to be understated. There are also 4 or more (depending on where you live) ballot questions addressing issues ranging from raising the cap on charter schools to legalizing marijuana.

There’s still time to learn more about the ballot questions and share critical information with families you may be working with! 

We urge you to learn more about the issues and get this information into the hands of families. If you can, organize child care and/or transportation to get families to the polls between now and Nov. 4th (when early voting ends) and/or on Nov. 8th (Election day)!

Get out the vote events and even parties are being planned by community organizations. At our last Community Meeting we learned about those being planned in Boston, but please share any efforts you know of in other areas (#VoteHousingSolutions). In Boston there is now a “universal ballot” and registered voters can vote in ANY PRECINCT they like. See MassVOTE’s fact sheet on early voting in Boston, their call to action in support of the city-wide event planned for this Saturday October 29th, and their registration page for those interested in volunteering to get out the vote.

At our last Community Meeting MassVOTE and Boston Tenant’s Coalition shared important information and materials on the get out the vote effort and ballot questions. Here are some basic information and resources about voting and ballot questions to share with families and staff:

A Shout Out for the Community Preservation Act (Question 5): The Community Preservation Act (CPA)(Question 5 in Boston, Chelsea, Holyoke and Springfield ONLY), squarely falls within the realm of housing. A yes vote would create thousands of affordable housing units through a small real estate tax (that does not affect renters) matched by a statewide trust fund. While the CPA would primarily fund low-income affordable housing, it would also go towards parks, playgrounds and historic preservation. You can volunteer for the “Yes for a Better Boston Campaign” in support of Question 5 by going to YESBetterBoston.org or contacting 617.423.8609.

Especially for families that are underrepresented by elected officials and misrepresented in the public eye, voting is an opportunity to step into the power and value that you hold. We need your votes and voices to improve our policies and create a state, and a nation, that is designed to benefit us all. Please, get out and vote, support families you are working with to get out and vote, and promote the get out the vote effort on social media! #VoteHousingSolutions

-Liz Peck, Director of Operations and Member Engagement

voter-bill-of-rights

DHCD’s Boston office is moving (and will be closed on Friday)

We received the important message below from DHCD – copied and pasted. The red font, bold, and picture are our added touches. Let us know if you have any questions and we can pass them along.   Click here for more information on the Emergency Assistance program.

IMPORTANT MESSAGE FOR PROVIDERS WORKING WITH BOSTON FAMILIES IN NEED OF EMERGENCY SHELTER OR IN EA FUNDED SHELTER

On Friday, October 28th, 2016, the Dudley Square Office DHCD Homeless Unit will be closed in order to prepare for the move to its new location at New Market Square, 1010 Mass Ave., Boston.

Families needing to apply for emergency shelter on Friday, October 28th, can call (866)-584-0653 and a DHCD homeless coordinator will assist the household in completing an application telephonically.  Families can also apply in person at the Chelsea DTA office located at 80 Everett Avenue, Chelsea, MA.

On Monday, October 31st, 2016, families needing to meet with a DHCD homeless coordinator and/or apply for emergency shelter must go to the new DHCD Homeless Unit at the DTA Office at New Market Square located at 1010 Mass Ave. in Boston.

DHCD looks forward to assisting families in our new location.

massave1010

LH