BOSTON – A broad coalition of 70 housing advocates and providers, healthcare institutions, and nonprofit and philanthropic leaders today urged the Joint Committee on Housing to favorably report out new legislation sponsored by State Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull) that would transform the Commonwealth’s homeless response system and advance long-term housing solutions throughout Massachusetts.
House Bill 3838 – An Act to create and implement a Massachusetts Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool Program to address the medically complex needs of disabled men, women, and children experiencing homelessness – would create a new Massachusetts Flexible Housing Pool (MFHP) – a nimble pot of public and private resources to help meet the complex housing and health needs of individuals, youth, and families experiencing homelessness. The goal of this bill is to expand supportive housing and services for adults, youth, and families experiencing homelessness, and enable funds to get out quickly and equitably to those that need it most.
“A flexible housing subsidy pool program re-envisions the Commonwealth’s approach to homelessness by shifting from crisis response to create stability across a continuum of services. To accomplish this, we need to braid public and private funding into a single, flexible source to meet the needs of vulnerable residents. By bridging the current gaps and barriers, we strive to bring to scale housing programs that would make experiences with homelessness rare and brief in Massachusetts,” said Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull). “With federal dollars coming to the Commonwealth, we have a unique opportunity to innovate.”
“The public health and economic consequences of homelessness are clear,” said Bob Giannino, President and Chief Executive Officer at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “The pandemic has pushed our crisis response system to the limit, further straining the state’s patchwork of critical services and supports that stabilize households that are experiencing severe, persistent, and complex behavioral health issues. For the past few months, we have been working with providers and advocates from across the Commonwealth to identify new solutions. Now is the time to take coordinated, comprehensive action to ensure these resources are leveraged effectively and equitably.”
The state administers and funds dozens of programs to support individuals, youth, and families who are high utilizers of crisis services, including behavioral health, emergency room health care, substance use disorders, shelters and more. Currently, the burden is on housing providers, or even the residents who are in crisis themselves, to navigate funding from multiple state and federal housing, health care and human services agencies and access the services to stabilize them.
This flexible pool would bundle capital, operating and supportive services funding streams so that the most vulnerable community members can get the housing and services they need and shifts the burden from providers to pull resources together from multiple sources.
Research shows that supportive housing most effectively and efficiently meets the needs of families and individuals in crisis by combining affordable housing with intensive, coordinated services to help people struggling with substance use disorders, chronic physical and behavioral health issues maintain stable housing and access critical health care services. According to a national study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, this model saves an average of over $6,000 a year per person in healthcare costs.
The Massachusetts Pay for Success Initiative to Reduce Chronic Homelessness – a partnership between the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance, and United Way – shows that this model works. Over the past six years, this Pay for Success Initiative served more 1,000 vulnerable individuals and has demonstrated a savings to healthcare costs in the amount of $5,257 per person per year. 84% of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness who receives supportive services and a housing voucher remain housed one year later.
Major metropolitan regions like Chicago and Los Angeles have taken an innovative approach to address this issue – creating a flexible pool of funding, coupled with private support and health care investments, to help fill in the existing gaps.
Specifically, the bill would do the following:
- Strengthen the coordination and delivery of supportive services to individuals, youth, and families experiencing homelessness.
- Ensure that existing state programs are deployed equitably to reach our most vulnerable residents.
- Create a statewide Funder’s Collaborative to End Homelessness, tasked with securing private contributions to the MFHP and seeding local innovations.
- Braid existing resources for housing and health care into a unified, flexible funding stream, managed by a third-party nonprofit, to support trauma-informed service delivery, regional coordination efforts, and integrated services.
- Improve outcomes and identify best practices for sustained investments.
“With the expiration of the federal eviction moratorium, now is the time to strengthen the coordination and delivery of supportive services that help people exit streets, doubled-up housing, and emergency response systems like hospitals, jails, and shelters,” said Giannino. “Together, we have an opportunity to re-imagine our region’s housing infrastructure and services and expand access to safe, decent, affordable homes for our next generation.”
Organizations signing on as of October 12, 2021 include:
United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley
Berkshire United Way
Cape and Islands United Way
Northern Berkshire United Way
United Way of Central Massachusetts
United Way of Fall River
United Way of Greater Plymouth County
United Way of Greater Fall River
United Way of Pioneer Valley
United Way of South Central MA
United Way of Tri-County
Arise For Social Justice
Asian Community Development Corporation
Catholic Social Services
Children’s Law Center of MA
City of Taunton, Department of Human Services
Community Action Agency of Somerville, Inc.
Community Counseling of Bristol County
CRE Strategic Advisors
East Boston Social Centers
Eliot CHS/Homeless Services
Eliot Community Human Services
Everett Haitian Community Center (EHCC)
Family Service Association
Father Bill’s and MainSpring
Harborlight Community Partners
Hildebrand Family Self-Help Center
Homes For Families
IBA-Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción
Inter-Church Council of Greater New Bedford
La Comunidad, Inc.
Latinos unidos en Massachusetts
Lynn Housing Authority and Neighborhood Development
Massachusetts Association of Behavioral Health Systems
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless
New Hope Inc.
North Shore Community Development Coalition
Pine Street Inn
Preservation of Affordable Housing (POAH)
Somerville Homeless Coalition, Inc.
South Coast Regional Network to End Homelessness
Southcoast Leadership Council to End Homelessness
Southeastern Massachusetts SER-Jobs for Progress, Inc
The Arc of Bristol County
The Home for Little Wanderers
The Neighborhood Developers / CONNECT, Chelsea
Union Capital Boston
Victory Programs, Inc
Wellspring House, Inc.
Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness
YWCA Southeastern Massachusetts