Media Release: Coalition for Homeless Individuals to seek new funding in 2016 state budget

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

BOSTON – With increasing numbers of men and women facing homelessness in the Commonwealth, the Coalition for Homeless Individuals is seeking new state funding to combat the root causes of homelessness.

The closure of the Long Island Bridge followed by record snowfall this winter has sharply increased the need for homelessness services for individuals. Providers have worked to stretch every dollar to lend a helping hand, despite more than a decade of stagnant state funding for homeless individuals.

That funding only covers a portion of a provider’s expenses. On Tuesday night, February 17, Father Bill’s & MainSpring sheltered 301 people despite funding that covers just 126 beds. Additionally, many emergency shelters, including Pine Street Inn and Father Bill’s & MainSpring, have kept their doors open around the clock this winter even though their funding does not cover day programming.

“Massachusetts is facing a crisis with the number of individuals who need our help,” said John Yazwinski, President and CEO of Father Bill’s & MainSpring. “For years, we have been doing as much as we can to provide outreach and services on a limited budget. But this winter has proven that we cannot continue to cut corners in the fight against homelessness.”

Under the Commonwealth’s system for combating homelessness, people experiencing homelessness are classified into two groups: individuals – including adults and unaccompanied youth – and families. The two groups receive separate services from separate funding sources. Since 2001, the main source of funding for homeless individuals has experienced a 12 percent decline in inflation-adjusted dollars. An increase of $5.5 million – to $48.5 million – would restore funding back to the 2001 inflation-adjusted level.

The coalition is also calling on the Department of Housing and Community Development to convert 100 returned housing rental vouchers in the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program to allow for flexible rental assistance, which would be used by proven shelter providers to move homeless individuals out of emergency shelter into permanent housing.

Providers have developed effective programming that serves as a launching pad to permanent housing. Coalition members offer an array of services beyond shelter, including diversion and rapid re-housing, medical care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and job training to drive a transition out of homelessness. Coalition members have also embraced the Housing First model, with many providers using their state funding to build and operate housing units – ensuring stable footing to go along with an extensive support system.

Prolonged underfunding, however, has meant that providers cannot keep pace with the number of homeless individuals in the Commonwealth. Providers across Massachusetts will be reaching out to their legislators to ask them to return funding to 2001 levels.