Category Archives: Advocacy

Human Services Forum Legislative Breakfast

Register for the 2014 Legislative Reception  

Location: Castle of Knights, 1599 Memorial Dr., Chicopee

Category/Organization: Special Event-FOR MEMBERS ONLY

 

This event is for staff, board, constituents/clients, family members, and volunteers of member agencies of the
Human Service Forum (HSF),
Hampshire Council of Social Agencies (COSA), and the Franklin County Resource Network (FCRN).

Time: 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.

Fee: $12.00/person ($17 after Jan. 16th).
Pre-registration is required.  Registrations will not be accepted at the door.

Unsure of who your Legislator is? Find out here before you register.

Register Here

Quick sign-on advocacy for unaccompanied homeless youth

Please check out this online advocacy by the Mass. Coalition for the Homeless and sign on if you can!

Please take a minute to sign the Coalition’s online action to legislators in support of House Bill 135, An Act providing housing and support services to unaccompanied homeless youth: Sign Now!

Also, fyi, please mark your calendars for the Coalition’s Legislative Action Day on Feb. 27, 2014, and please register here.

 

Our Network’s Legislative Priorities for FY 2014

Following our Leadership Council meeting of 1/24/13 and subsequent Network committee and work group meetings, the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness arrived at its legislative priorities for Fiscal Year 2014.  Please read below or click here for the PDF document.

Network partners are meeting with its legislative delegation over the coming weeks:  In the Berkshires,  a meeting was held with  Senator Ben Downing and Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier and the office of Representative Pignatelli  on February 21; on March 1, in Franklin/Hampshire Counties, Senate Majority Leader Stan Rosenberg, Representative Peter Kocot and the office of Representative John Scibak; on March 8, in Hampden County, Senator Michael Knapik and other legislators (thanks to CareerPoint for inviting us to their legislative breakfast table) and on a date to be determined in Boston,  a meeting with Senate Ways and Means Chairman Stephen Brewer’s Ways and Means staff.

Thanks to all of our Network partners for making our voices and our mission heard.

The Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness
Legislative Priorities for Fiscal Year 2014

 

Investment and Tax Reform

The Leadership of the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness (see attachment for membership list) voted to support Governor Patrick’s investment and tax proposal for Fiscal Year 2014. The investments outlined in Governor Patrick’s plan align with the Network’s priorities to increase access to quality early education and public transportation, two of the most frequently identified barriers to ending homelessness and sustaining permanent housing. We urge the legislature to either adopt the Governor’s progressive tax proposal or to enact an alternative proposal that will generate sufficient revenue to support these critical investments.

Family Homelessness

The Network’s Family Homelessness Committee urges the Legislature to:

  •  Protect families from sleeping in places “not meant for human habitation.”  DHCD recently amended regulations have made many families ineligible for shelter unless and until their children have first slept in places “not meant for human habitation.”  Western Massachusetts Network partners can attest to how this regulation, as currently applied, is placing some families in unsafe situations.  We urge our legislators to either amend this regulation or enact an alternative solution to protect families from this unintended consequence.
  • Provide assistance to 6,057 families statewide and 1,009 families in Western Massachusetts who will face a substantial risk of homelessness when their HomeBASE short-term subsidies expire, beginning in August, 2013.  Right now, these families stand to lose a substantial rent subsidy without having alternative sources of income available.  This crisis can be averted with legislative intervention, providing some degree of transitional support when the subsidy terminates.
  • Extend the 32 week limit for utilizing HomeBASE household assistance ($4,000).  This limit was intended to provide incentive for families to move out of shelter; instead, it has created an unintended barrier to exiting shelter since with the loss of this resource, many families have no possibility of entering permanent housing.

Individual Homelessness

The Network’s Individual Services Committee urges the Legislature to:

Amend Individual Services line item 7004-0102 so that “no shelter shall receive less than a $30 per night minimum unit rate.”   It is well known that the shelters serving individuals across the Commonwealth are funded at very different rates and are not based necessarily on services provided. While DHCD continues to sort through that issue, we think it is vital that the line item be adjusted to the $30 per night minimum rate  to help keep the programs safe, at a minimum, as well as to work towards reducing the numbers of individuals who are homeless overall.

Family and Individual Homelessness

The Network urges the Legislature to adopt budget line-item 7004-3045 to allocate $750,000 to the Tenancy Preservation Project.  This effective program works with individuals and families who are facing eviction as a result of behavior related to a disability, as well as rental property owners, and the Massachusetts Housing Court Department to prevent homelessness and ensure ongoing housing stability.

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth

The Network’s Work Group for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth urges the legislature to:

  • Allocate $500,000 for the work of the Massachusetts Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Commission to determine the scope of need among unaccompanied youth and young adults ages 24 and younger who are experiencing homelessness, and to identify and implement potential models for appropriate service delivery to unaccompanied homeless youth in urban, suburban, and rural areas of the Commonwealth.”
  • Adopt An Act Providing Housing and Support Services to Unaccompanied Homeless Youth (House Docket #364, filed by Representative Jim O’Day and Senator Katherine Clark) which will address the critical need for housing and support services geared specifically for unaccompanied homeless youth.

Public Safety and Housing Sex Offenders

The mission of the Work Group for People with Sex Offense Histories is to maximize the safety of the community by minimizing the potential for re-offense through the identification and development of stable, supportive housing options for registered sex offenders who are committed to an offense-free life.

Towards the goal of greater access to housing, stability and community safety, this Work Group urges the legislature to:

  • Adopt  “An Act relative to the creation of a sex offender management board” (HD782) (sponsored by Representative Kahn):   This legislation creates an interagency council that ensures that all of the work with sex offenders within the state of MA is based upon the current research in this field.  It moves beyond the “one size fits all approach” to utilize different assessments and treatment protocols for adult sex offenders  than for children.
  • Adopt “An Act to protect our communities (SD1613), sponsored by Senator Clark. (Representatives Brodeur and Wong filed corresponding legislation, HD 3309, in the House).  This comprehensive legislation will:
    • Empower the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB) to reclassify offenders on its own initiative or upon written request by a District Attorney or police department.
    • Ensure that the Board has access to all relevant information necessary to determine an offender’s level of risk and clarify what types of incidents are to be reported.
    • Strengthen interagency communication by providing direct access to registry information for agencies responsible for ensuring child safety.
    • Make Level 1 sex offender information publicly available via an in-person request at local police departments.
    • Make information about licensing history of childcare facilities publically available online.

Fiscal Year 2013 State Budget on Housing/Homelessness

On July 8, Governor Deval Patrick finalized the Fiscal Year 2013 budget.

The Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless offered this summary of the budget’s housing/homeless provisions, which include:

  • Language establishing the special commission on unaccompanied youth homelessness
  • Full funding of $11.3 million for the transportation of students experiencing homelessness back to their schools of origin
  • A $6 million increase to the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP)
  • An $8.5 million increase for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) homelessness prevention program
  • A $2 million increase for state-funded public housing operating subsidies
  • Critical language requiring the Administration to notify the Legislature at least 60 days before implementing eligibility changes or benefits reductions in the Emergency Assistance (EA), HomeBASE, Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC), and Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children (EAEDC) programs.

The Governor also sent back positive amendments on several sections related to the electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card changes proposed by the Legislature. In so doing, he said:

 “I’m not going to do anything that makes vulnerable people beg for their benefits. This notion of humiliating poor people has got to be separated, and quite frankly disposed of, from how we make a program work and work well and with integrity.”

To see the Governor’s vetoes and signing statement, click here.

The Governor also filed a supplemental budget request yesterday, which includes a recommendation for additional funds to address family homelessness in FY’13. He is asking for $15 million more for the Emergency Assistance family shelter and services line item, 7004-0101. If approved, this would bring EA shelter and motel funding up to $111.7 million, still significantly lower than the FY’12 funding level of $137.5 million. In his letter to the Legislature that accompanied his request, Governor Patrick said:

“I am also proposing $15 million for projected funding needs for emergency housing services for low-income families. While the reforms in the emergency family housing program included in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget will save millions of dollars for taxpayers and get better outcomes for families, the current funding level provided in the Fiscal Year 2013 budget is not sufficient to meet projected costs for the entire year.”

Follow this link to read the letter and supplemental budget request.