On Solid Ground: Building Opportunity, Preventing Homelessness

Source: Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA), February 2015

From the summary:
Massachusetts has demonstrated a long-held commitment to helping families afford homes. However, due to a culmination of low wages, high housing costs, and cuts to services, supports, and opportunities, there are currently 4,800 Massachusetts families living in shelters and motels each night. An estimated 4,200 more families that live in unstable, doubled up situations, move multiple times per year, or are behind on rent may experience the same harms as homeless families, even though they avoid shelter entry. These 9,000+ families represent just a fraction of the 79,000 extremely low-income renter families at risk of homelessness.  

It is time for a new approach to addressing family homelessness. By focusing on housing and economic stability, instead of the short-term goal of reducing shelter numbers, thousands of families will avoid the need for shelter, and families in shelter will be less likely to re-enter in the future. Progress is possible.  

To tackle this crisis, we must foster partnerships between low-income families, service providers, employers, property owners, federal and state government, and philanthropic communities. Such a collaborative approach requires both additional resources and changes to how services are offered. The Commonwealth is well-positioned to lead the effort for a four-year systems change strategy that will increase the number of families who are on solid ground.

Increasing stability and reducing family homelessness requires a four-pronged approach:
– Systems Change: Appoint a Special Secretary to build a coordinated service delivery system across government departments. The coordinated system will support homelessness prevention, minimize cliff effects, and provide integrated case management services.
– Housing: Expand the affordable housing stock and rental assistance vouchers for extremely low-income households; preserve existing privately and publicly subsidized homes; and improve public housing.
– Supportive Services: Invest in services that provide a path to increased incomes and economic mobility for extremely low-income families.
– Tracking Progress: Collect and analyze data, and track progress – at state agencies and their nonprofit partners – toward an agreed upon set of goals related to housing stability and economic mobility.

If adopted and funded, these measures give us our best chance at reducing the number of families who become homeless, shortening the time families live in shelter, strengthening housing and economic stability, and giving at-risk children a better chance at a healthy, secure and successful adulthood.
Press release
Responses to Rising Family Homelessness in Massachusetts
Marija Bingulac – Center for Social Policy – University of Massachusetts Boston, Scholars Strategy Network, Key Findings, July 2015