United Way Convening New Boston Commission to End Family Homelessness

Innovative solutions are needed to provide a coordinated response to the crisis of family homelessness across the Commonwealth, and in 2020, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley was instrumental in pushing forth a City of Boston ordinance to establish a commission of nonprofit leaders and experts from city and state agencies to develop a plan to prevent and end family homelessness in Boston.

The ordinance passed, and just last week, Mayor Michelle Wu announced the formation of the Special Commission to End Homelessness in the City of Boston. United Way will serve as the convening organization, furthering our work to address homelessness, housing insecurity and stabilize families in safe, affordable housing.

United Way has worked alongside the Mayor’s Office to identify representatives to the commission, coordinate community engagement and outreach efforts, set the agenda for meetings and facilitate discussions, providing its expertise and best practices in system change. The Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC) will work with the Mayor’s Office of Housing, United Way and the Commission to perform data analysis, finalize recommendations, and develop a strategic plan to end family homelessness in Boston.

In addition, to ensure families with lived experiences of homelessness are represented and can share best practices, United Way is working to identify individuals in the Boston community to fill three additional seats on the Commission. These community members will help inform the eventual recommendations included in the plan and be valuable partners in the ongoing work of ending family homelessness.

“It is critical that city and state leaders come together to discern the impact of the lack of stable housing for children experiencing homelessness, identify the current gaps in resources for homeless families, and commit to working together to fill those gaps and end this crisis,” said Christi Staples, Vice President of Policy and Government Relations at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “We are honored to leverage our expertise, and that of individuals with lived experience, to develop solutions to prevent and end homelessness across the Commonwealth by meeting this charge to establish a comprehensive plan to unite city resources in a coordinated effort to ensure no family in the City of Boston is without a home.”

In concert with key initiatives to support youth, young adults and families experiencing homelessness, our work with the Special Commission to End Family Homelessness is the latest in United Way’s advocacy for shifts in policy to address housing insecurity across the Commonwealth. Last month, the Joint Committee on Housing reported out favorably a supportive housing bill led by Rep. Joan Meschino and United Way. The bill would expand supportive housing to enable swift, equitable and targeted deployment of funds to help adults, youth, and families experiencing chronic homelessness.

Members of the Commission include:

  • Boston City Councilor Erin Murphy
  • Jim Greene, Assistant Director for Street Homelessness Initiatives at the Mayor’s Office of Housing
  • Sheila Dillon, Chief of Housing for the City of Boston
  • Brian Marques, Senior Director of Opportunity Youth at Boston Public Schools
  • Kate Bennett, Boston Housing Authority Administrator
  • Alvina Brevard, Associate Director for Division of Housing Stabilization at the Department of Housing and Community Development
  • Kate Barrand, President and CEO, Horizons for Homeless Children
  • Catherine D’Amato, President and CEO, Greater Boston Food Bank
  • Shiela Moore, CEO, Hildebrand Family Self Help Center, Inc.
  • Larry Seamans, President, FamilyAid Boston
  • Danielle Ferrier, CEO, Heading Home Inc.
  • Linn Torto, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness
  • State Senator Lydia Edwards
  • State Representative Brandy Fluker Oakley

More information about the Special Commission to End Family Homelessness, including the proposed timeline for the development of a strategic plan, is available here on the City of Boston’s website.