Author Archives: Pamela Schwartz

Veto Override Advocacy Alerts for Today!

The Legislature’s overrides of the Governor’s vetoes must originate in the House of Representatives with two-thirds of the body voting in support.  Then the Senate must follow with a two-thirds vote as well.  Now is the time to contact your Representative to urge him/her to support overrides of our Network priorities impacting homelessness (go here to find your legislator).

Please urge your representative to override the Governor’s vetoes to:

  • The Network ($125,000 veto)
  • Berkshire Regional Housing Authority ($150,000 veto)
  • Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Housing and Services ($675,000 veto, thereby eliminating the program)
  • RAFT ($2 million veto, eliminating expanded eligibility to the elderly, persons with disabilities and unaccompanied homeless youth)
  • Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs) ($180,000 veto from the line-item eliminating earmarks and more from Foreclosure Prevention Counseling line-item veto of $800,000)
  • Tenancy Preservation Project ($125,000 veto)
  • Home and Healthy for Good: $40,000 veto

Also, please click here to participate in the MA Coalition for the Homeless’ one minute action.

Thank you for your advocacy!

 

 

The Governor’s Vetoes: Network funding vetoed as well as other Network priorities

Please see this post below from CHAPA regarding the Governor’s vetoes.  In addition to what is summarized below, the Governor vetoed the Network’s earmark for $125,000 as well as the Berkshire Regional Housing Authority earmark for $150,000.

I am in conversation with our legislators now and will update you about veto override advocacy very shortly.

Thanks to CHAPA for this update:

Yesterday, Governor Baker signed a $39.4 billion FY2018 budget. The Governor made $320 million worth of vetoes, including $222 million from MassHealth and $42 million in line-item reductions. For an overview on the funding vetoes for CHAPA’s affordable housing, homelessness prevention, and community development priorities, please click here.

The final FY2018 budget includes a $6.2 million increase for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) and $150,000 more to implement public housing reforms. Also, the Governor signed the budget authorizing the statewide expansion of Housing Court. This means that 2 million people in 84 cities and towns in Barnstable, Middlesex, Norfolk, Suffolk, Dukes, and Nantucket counties will now have access to a Housing Court.

Unfortunately, many of our other priorities faced budget and language vetoes, including:

  • Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP): $400,000 veto;
  • Public Housing Operating Subsidy: $1.5 million veto;
  • Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT)$2 million veto and elimination of expanded eligibility to allow the elderly, persons with disabilities, or unaccompanied homeless youths to access the program;
  • HomeBASEveto of language that prevents families from being ineligible for the program because of a violation of a self-sufficiency plan;
  • Foreclosure Prevention Counseling: $800,000 veto, eliminating support for HCECs from the line-item;
  • Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs): $180,000 veto from the line-item eliminating earmarks;
  • Tenancy Preservation Program: $125,000 veto;
  • Home & Healthy for Good$40,000 veto;
  • Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Housing & Services: $675,000 veto, which eliminates the program from the budget; and
  • New Lease: $125,000 veto, which eliminates the program from the budget.

For a full analysis of all our budget priorities in the FY2018 budget signed by the Governor, click here.

As you know, these vetoes can be overridden by a 2/3rds vote by the House and Senate. We will be working with the Legislature to restore funding and language to the programs. I will keep you updated as the override process moves forward, including sharing any letters and materials that we send to the Legislature.

Also, in case you weren’t aware, Rep. Brian Dempsey, Chair of the House Ways & Means Committee, is resigning to join ML Strategies. Speaker DeLeo has appointed Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez, who represents Jamaica Plain and Brookline, as the new Ways & Means Chair.

Thank you and I look forward to being in touch soon to work together to override these vetoes.

Sincerely,

Eric Shupin
Director of Public Policy

FY18 Budget Advocacy Update

FYI: Below is CHAPA’s letter by Public Policy Director Eric Shupin that was sent to  Governor Baker on FY2018 Building Blocks budget priorities which largely overlap with the Network’s priorities. To review the blog post on Network’s priorities, please click here.

The Governor has until Monday, July 17, to sign the budget or send it back to the Legislature with his vetoes. If you have not already reached out to the Governor or those within the Administration, please feel free to use the letter as a resource.  You can find his contact information here.

Thanks for your advocacy!


We ask that you approve the FY2018 Conference Committee budget investments in the following programs that will help address the housing challenges facing working families, seniors, persons with disabilities, and other vulnerable households. These resources will also help achieve your Administration’s priority of preventing and reducing homelessness.

  • Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) (7004-9024):  $92,734,677
  • Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP) (7004-9030):  $5,000,000
  • Public Housing Operating Subsidy (7004-9005):  $64,500,000
  • Public Housing Reform (7004-9007): $950,000
  • Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (7004-9316):  $15,000,000
  • HomeBASE (7004-0108):  $30,147,305
  • Foreclosure Prevention & Housing Counseling (7006-0011): $2,350,000
  • Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs) (7004-3036): $2,221,992
  • Housing Court Expansion (0336-0003):   $1,000 000
  • Tenancy Preservation Program (TPP) (7004-3045):  $625,000
  • Home and Healthy for Good (7004-0104):  $2,040,000
  • Mass. Accessible Housing Registry (4120-4001):  $80,000
  • Unaccompanied Homeless Youth (4000-0007):  $675,000
  • New Lease for Homeless Families (7004-0106):  $125,000
  • Community Preservation Trust Fund Surplus Transfer: $10,000,000

Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) (7004-9024)
Although MRVP was originally funded at $100 million in the House and Senate budgets, $92.7 million provided in the conference budget will maintain the current number of existing vouchers. Although no new vouchers will be created in FY2018 at this funding level, no household being served by MRVP will lose their voucher. While we will work to continue to grow MRVP in the future, we respectfully request that you preserve and approve the $92.7 million funding level so that the program remains a reliable resource for immediately helping the homeless or those at risk of homelessness.

Also, thank you for your leadership on making important program improvements for MRVP. We are pleased that the Conference Budget includes your proposals allowing households who earn up to 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI) to access the resource while enabling DHCD to target 75% of new vouchers to extremely low income households. These improvements will help ensure that MRVP will serve households with the greatest need and also allow families to work towards increasing their incomes without risk of losing their rental voucher before they are economically self-sufficient.

Finally, the Legislature included language from your budget proposal authorizing DHCD to create a voucher management system for MRVP. This will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the program. This system will help increase access to MRVP and make it easier for agencies to administer the program. We hope that these language changes are included in the approved and final FY2018 budget.

Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP) (7004-9030)
We are grateful that the conference budget includes an increase for AHVP, which will help more persons with disabilities find affordable and accessible homes. Thanks to your Administration’s leadership, the Conference included a key language change removing the word “transitional,” which will better align AHVP with its actual use to better serve program participants.

Public Housing Operating Subsidy (7004-9005)
Although the conference budget did not include an increase for public housing operating subsidies, we are glad this critical affordable housing resource remained level-funded. This will help support housing authorities and the nearly 46,000 affordable homes that they provide for our residents.

Public Housing Reform (7004-9007)
CHAPA is grateful for the increased support that you and the Legislature have shown for this line-item that will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of public housing. Specifically, the increased funding provided for this program will help create and implement an online portal for housing authorities and applicants to use, which will improve the administration of public housing. Authorization for creating this system is also included in the conference budget.

Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) (7004-9316)
The conference budget provides additional support to RAFT in order to allow households of all types to access this homelessness prevention resource. The conference budget continues the expanded eligibility for RAFT that includes the elderly, persons with disabilities, and unaccompanied homeless youth, as well as families with children. Last year, 124 households were able to access RAFT under the expanded definition of family, over half of which were households with disabilities. This investment in RAFT is also a cost-effective program for helping families. For example, in FY2016, $12.5 million in RAFT funding saved the state an estimated $137 million by avoiding higher emergency shelter costs. By increasing our investment in the program, we help families in a cost-effective way while reducing reliance on the emergency shelter system. We ask that the additional support for RAFT be approved in the final budget.

HomeBASE (7004-0108)
Thank you for your leadership in strengthening and improving HomeBASE. Last year, you created a program to allow families in domestic violence shelters or substance abuse and sober living programs to access HomeBASE if they would otherwise be eligible. This has helped ensure that all families facing or experiencing homelessness can use HomeBASE to find a safe and affordable home. The conference budget continues and improves this program, similar to suggestions made in your House 1 budget proposal, including allowing families in sober living programs to access HomeBASE, as well as increasing coordination among DHCD, DCF, and DPH to improve the administration of the program.

We also support language in the conference budget that reduces the excessive 24-month bar on families who have been terminated from the program to 12-months.

Although we are disappointed that the conference budget provides HomeBASE with less funding in FY2018 compared to 2017, we will continue our work to support this critical resource that has been effective in helping families avoid or exit the emergency shelter system as well as hotels and motels.

Foreclosure Prevention & Housing Counseling (7006-0011)
The conference budget includes level funding for foreclosure prevention and housing counseling grants administered by the Division of Banks (DOB) and funded by mortgage loan originator fees. This line-item provides important counseling services for new homebuyers as well as those facing foreclosure. Unfortunately, the number of completed foreclosures increased by nearly 9% over the previous year, making this program an important tool for helping create and maintain stable neighborhoods. Also, because it is funded through loan originator fees, it is a revenue-neutral program.

The conference budget also directs DOB to commit $800,000 from the line-item to Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs) (7004-3036). Although we would prefer to see funding for HCECs included in its own dedicated line-item, this commitment to HCECs will allow these organizations to continue their important work of providing a wide range of housing resources to everyone in Massachusetts.

Even with these funds directed towards HCECs, we hope that at least $1.3 million in retained revenue from the DOB program is made available for foreclosure prevention and housing counseling services. This represents the amount of funding made available for these counseling grants in previous years and will allow housing agencies to continue their work in preventing foreclosures in communities across the Commonwealth.

Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs) (7004-3036)
While we are disappointed that HCECs face reduced funding in the conference budget within its own line-item, we appreciate that these regional housing agencies will receive funding from the foreclosure prevention and housing counseling program administered by the DOB (7006-0011) to offset the impact of these cuts. With these supports, HCECs will be able to continue offering a wide range of housing services to everyone in Massachusetts, including administering other homelessness prevention resources like RAFT and HomeBASE. We hope you will support this funding for HCECs in the final budget. However, we will continue to work to provide adequate funding for the program within its own line-item so that the DOB’s foreclosure prevention and housing counseling program can better be used for its intended purpose.

Housing Court Expansion (0336-0003)
Thank you for your leadership in helping expand Housing Court statewide by including authorization and funding to achieve this your budget proposal. We are grateful that the conference budget also includes this authorization in outside sections 78–82 and $1 million for its implementation. This expansion will help serve the nearly 1/3rd of Massachusetts residents who do not currently have access to Housing Court, which efficiently and effectively handles eviction, code enforcement, and housing discrimination claims. It will also allow all residents in the Commonwealth access to important resources like the Tenancy Preservation Program, which is only available in Housing Court.

Tenancy Preservation Program (TPP) (7004-3045)
The conference budget includes increased support for TPP, an effective homelessness prevention resource. TPP works with households with disabilities facing eviction to determine whether a disability can be reasonably accommodated in order to preserve the tenancy. In FY2016, TPP stabilized 92% of households served. The additional funds for TPP would allow the program to help more persons with disabilities avoid homelessness.

Home and Healthy for Good (7004-0104)
CHAPA appreciates the increased support that the conference budget includes for Home and Healthy for Good, which will provide additional housing and support services to chronically homeless individuals through a low-threshold, Housing First model that is less costly and more effective than managing homelessness and health problems on the street or in shelter.

Massachusetts Accessible Housing Registry (MassAccess) (4120-4001)
Thank you for including funding in your budget that will maintain the MassAccess website, www.massaccesshousingregistry.org, which is a searchable database of available affordable and accessible housing opportunities in Massachusetts. This year the website received an average of 80,000 hits a month. MassAccess currently has over 9,900 registered consumers, 1,600 property managers and lists over 9,000 affordable apartments and homes. We are grateful that this funding was also included in the conference budget and hope that it will remain in the final budget.

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth (4000-0007)
Unfortunately, the conference budget includes a compromise appropriation of only $675,000 for the unaccompanied youth homelessness line-item. This decrease in funding from the $2 million FY2017 level will mean that many programs across the state will lose funding that provide wraparound support services for unaccompanied youth and young adults who are experiencing homelessness. We hope to work together with the Administration and the Legislature in FY2018 to restore funding for this vital program.

New Lease for Homeless Families (7004-0106)
The conference budget included a new line-item for New Lease for Homeless Families. New Lease houses homeless families residing in state-funded shelters and hotels by implementing a preference for these families in properties across the Commonwealth. Through New Lease, homeless families have the opportunity to live in desirable and affordable communities with the supports they need to achieve successful tenancies. We hope that you include it in the final budget.

Community Preservation Trust Fund
CHAPA supports the authorization for a $10 million transfer from the end-of-year budget surplus into the Community Preservation Trust Fund. This transfer will help support a robust state match for communities that have enacted the Community Preservation Act (CPA). This is critical has the number of CPA communities has grown to 172, which has resulted in a decline of the state match to historically low levels. Allowing this transfer will ensure that the state and local partnership created by the CPA remains strong.

Thank you for your consideration of these budget recommendations and your leadership in making sure everyone in the Commonwealth has a safe, healthy, and affordable place to call home.

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Meeting Minutes – 7/12/17

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Meeting
July 12, 2017
 
In attendance: Yoshi Bird, YWCA, Pamela Cook, Gandara SHINE, Emily English, Gandara Center, Rosemary Fiedler, HCC Thrive Center, Courtnee Godbolt, Friends of the Homeless, Lisa Goldsmith, DIAL/SELF, Sharon Hall-Smith, Gandara Center, Natalia Hill, Gandara, Sarah Hills, Eliot CHS, Charles Knight, Rainville, Jacqueline Lozada, River Valley Counseling Center, Kim Majewski, Gandara, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Justin Mehl, BHN, Rebecca Muller, GrantsWork/Gandara, Jenniefer Murphy, YWCA, Emily Nolan (by phone), HUD TA, LaRue Pierce, STCC, W. Keith Rhone, FOH/CSO, Katherine Robles, River Valley, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Mark Watkins, Gandara, Rhonda Young, CHD
FY18 Budget Update:
Pamela reported the unfortunate news that the Conference Committee cut the youth services funding from $2 million to $675,000 for FY18.  The Governor is now within the 10 day period to sign or veto budget items. The group discussed the remaining possibility of the Governor proposing a supplemental budget in FY18 to close this funding gap (which is what occurred for part of the funding in FY17).   Pamela will keep the group posted on funding developments as they arise.
Also, please  click here for the complete list of Network priorities and how they fared in the FY18 Conference Committee budget.
HUD Technical Assistance Session on Youth Services Funding:
We were joined by phone Emily Nolan, a HUD TA provider based in Seattle, who is providing 32 hours of HUD funded TA services to the Hampden County CoC in support of its efforts to apply for the next round of HUD youth funding.  The CoC applied in last year’s round and scored high enough to qualify for this TA.  The goal according to Emily is to help the CoC think through its application for this coming round, first confirming it wants to apply and then using this time to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of its last application and what it can learn from both that and other communities’ efforts.
The logistics: HUD will be funding 11 CoC’s for approximately $43 million in total funding; 5 funded communities must be rural.  The application will be released in Sept/October and due in December.
Emily noted the strategic aspect of applying as a rural vs. urban community (urban more competitive; may be worth considering if expanding scope of region strengthens application). However, it was also noted that in view of HUD funding only 11 programs nationwide, 2 separate applications from this region would not be a successful strategy.
HUD’s primary criteria for this initiative:
  • Youth engagement: how is the CoC empowering youth to be involved in the decision making; how are their voices being heard in what they think will help them be most successful
  • Innovative ideas: what does that mean for our community; what will make a meaningful difference
  • Coordinated approach: how is the effort tied to the over-arching goal of building a coordinated entry system; who are we engaging and bringing to the table in this effort, e.g., child welfare, juvenile justice, schools, new community members, low-barrier transitional housing resources
  • Data development: how well do we know our data, understand the gap within our system; what are the true numbers and how are they informing a right-fit intervention
  • Learning from other communities: how are we gaining from best practices across the country, e.g., Austin, LA, Cleveland and their significant progress on youth engagement
Emily is available to help connect us to peer learning and other best practice resources.
Data Discussion:
Emily reported that the CoC’s application received lower scores on data and evaluation.  She suggested reviewing:
  • how are we acquiring and analyzing data across systems, e.g., child welfare and juvenile justice systems – who is aging out, at risk of coming into the system; how are we creating capacity for a predictive analysis in order to create front-end interventions
  • how are we closing data collection gaps for non-HMIS providers, ensuring all relevant data gets into HMIS regardless of program’s funding source
  • how are we connecting with the school population above and beyond McKinney-Vento liaisons
  • how is our data stored and maintained and how is it being utilized on an ongoing basis
  • how are our by-name lists – youth, veterans, chronically homeless – being integrated and managed so that the information is streamlined and available across populations
In summary, the CoC must demonstrate: the breadth of its information, how it is shared, and how it is used to make its funding and programmatic decisions.
The group brainstormed various action steps:
  • Further outreach with DCF and DYS, Safe and Successful Youth Initiatives (SSYI) in Holyoke and Springfield
  • Further outreach with DEES (Sarah Slautterback) re: training school staff on data input
  • Further outreach to mental health and substance use providers (e.g., Gandara’s new Cornerstone program)
  • Outreach to Westfield State College staff person Jennifer Propp who is working on homeless youth data collection
  • Further outreach to LGBTQ programs
  • Further review of the non-homeless providers – who is missing
Youth Engagement Discussion
Youth engagement was another area on the CoC’s previous application that requires attention. Emily noted the criteria for meaningful youth engagement include:
  • Engaging with youth at the very start of the process
  • Keeping youth at the table all the time (experience with separate “youth advisory councils” have proven less effective at full engagement)
  • Ensuring youth are an active and critical part of the decision making process
Strategies for achieving these goals include:
  • Scheduling meetings at a time and place that are conducive to youth involvement
  • Treating youth participation as a paying job
  • Training both youth and adults in what it means to do business differently so that youth engagement is a top priority
Lisa Goldsmith noted that DMH has an excellent youth committee model (based in Boston) that could be helpful for us to explore as an example.
The group committed to pursuing these strategies.  Towards that end, the next meeting of this committee will be:
Tuesday, August 8
4 pm – 5 pm
River Valley Counseling Center (Holyoke SSYI program)
67 Jackson Street, Suite 201
Holyoke
Thanks to Jacqueline Lozada of the Holyoke SSYI program for offering her space.
Gerry will be following-up with others regarding action steps as listed above prior to the next meeting.
The group agreed that these Committee meetings will be utilized in the coming months (until application submission) to develop the strongest possible application which in effect is to develop the strongest possible response to youth at risk of or experiencing homelessness, a response that can benefit the entire Western region.