Governor Deval Patrick's Budget Recommendation - House 1 Fiscal Year 2012

Governor's Budget Recommendation FY 2012

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Homelessness Reforms

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Governor Patrick    FY2012 House 1 Budget Recommendation:
    Issues in Brief

    Deval L. Patrick, Governor
    Timothy P. Murray, Lt. Governor



The Governor’s fiscal year 2012 budget recommendation reforms the Commonwealth’s emergency shelter program for families.  The reform will reduce the state’s reliance on shelter and move towards a system with a housing first approach that will provide greater opportunity for self sufficiency while using resources more efficiently.


In State of Homelessness, a report released January 11, 2011, the National Alliance to End Homelessness found that homelessness increased by 3% nationally between 2008 and 2009, and attributes that increase in large part to economic indicators associated with the global recession. They also found that among subpopulations, homeless families had the largest increase (4%). This trend holds true in Massachusetts, with the report citing a 14.18% increase in family homelessness during that same time period. This historic increase in the number of families in need has stretched resources across the Commonwealth.

The Commonwealth has been on a path to reform for several years and the fiscal situation has intensified the need for improvements. This reform opportunity is in line with nationally recognized best practices that allow families to receive help without having to first wait in shelter. Currently, the primary response for homeless families across the Commonwealth is Emergency Assistance. In 2008 the Legislative Homeless Commission released their report detailing how to prevent and end homelessness in Massachusetts by 2013. At that time the Commission charged the Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness (ICHH) with implementing a system that would take Massachusetts to a housing-focused approach. The fiscal year 2010 budget transferred funding that supports homeless services and shelter costs for individuals and families from the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) to the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to combine emergency shelter programs with the State’s housing delivery system.  Under the consolidation plan, DTA’s emergency shelter programs were transferred to DHCD to help carry out “Housing First”, which focuses on helping individuals and families quickly access and sustain housing. The shelter-based system offered a shelter bed while a family waited for a housing subsidy to be allocated, often a very long wait. Housing First adds capacity to prevent eviction by the mediation of landlord disputes or payments against arrearages; avoids shelter through the early identification of housing where possible; and coordinates community services to stabilize housed families to preserve their tenancies. An important aspect of this reform is leveraging existing service programs in the community rather than intensive service delivery within the shelter.

Since 2008, the ICHH and DHCD have launched several pilot initiatives that tested innovative approaches to preventing and ending homelessness for families through greater resource flexibility and coordination. The Patrick-Murray Administration is now continuing its comprehensive initiative to reform our emergency shelter and housing delivery systems so families can enter into more stable situations for themselves and their children.

Fiscal Year 2012 Budget Proposal

The fundamental design of the reform is based on the principle of getting the right resource to the right person at the right time. Rather than offering emergency shelter as the primary response, three key benefits are defined which offer a more effective and efficient response to different family needs:

  • Target young (21 and younger heads of household) families, whose vulnerability is rooted in extreme poverty, for a dedicated transitional congregate shelter program to better prepare them for more permanent housing and independent living.
  • Prioritize families for shelter who cannot be immediately diverted and need an emergency response. This includes families who are at risk of domestic abuse in their current housing situation and families that, through no fault of their own, are homeless due to fire or natural disaster.
  • The balance of the caseload is targeted for immediate diversion and prevention services and rental assistance and rehousing through a new program call the Massachusetts Short Term Housing Transition Program. The Short Term Housing and Transition Program is funded through an allocation of a portion of existing EA resources. Term Housing and Transition Program -funded diversion and rehousing efforts will serve families who are about to become homeless more cost effectively and flexibly than shelter. These activities have proven effective over the past year’s collaboration with ICHH Regional Networks.

Illustration of the services a homeless family currently receives vs. in reformed system.

Prepared by Sarah Glassman, Executive Office for Administration and Finance ·
For more information contact: (617) 727-2040

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