United Way Partners with Sen. Crighton, Reps. Hawkins and Meschino to Advance Housing Priorities, Form New House Caucus to Build Awareness and Support
BOSTON – United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley today announces new and renewed efforts in the Massachusetts Legislature to reduce homelessness by removing barriers to securing safe and stable housing. The efforts are part of a statewide movement to stabilize 4,000 households through permanent supportive housing across the Commonwealth.
This legislative session, Sen. Brendan Crighton and Rep. Joan Meschino introduced Senate Bill SD.674 and House Bill HD.216, respectively, “An Act to create and implement a Massachusetts Flexible Supportive Housing Subsidy Pool Program.” United Way is prioritizing advocacy for the proposed legislation, which would create a statewide funding stream to support trauma-informed service delivery, regional coordination efforts, and integrated services for individuals, youth and families experiencing homelessness.
Supportive housing combines safe, stable, affordable housing with intensive, coordinated services and is a highly effective, cost-efficient strategy to advance housing stability across the Commonwealth. The bill would expand permanent supportive housing and services and enable swift, equitable and targeted deployment of funding to address emotional wellbeing, substance dependence, healthcare, and other life factors that can impact housing stability.
“Stable housing is the foundation that allows individuals to re-build their lives,” said Senator Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn). “With Massachusetts housing prices at an all-time high and affordable housing stock at an all-time low, we need to support creative solutions that take a holistic approach to housing security and alleviate the strain housing costs place on our Commonwealth’s most vulnerable residents.”
“This legislation re-envisions our approach to addressing homelessness in the Commonwealth by attending to the nuanced challenges that houseless populations with disabilities face,” said State Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull). “By putting new trauma-informed services in place within a supportive housing structure, the Commonwealth would take a major step in mitigating chronic homelessness and would help our most vulnerable residents thrive.”
United Way is committed to ensuring that, for those unhoused, homelessness is rare, brief, and non-recurring. In response to community advocacy around the lack of affordable housing and supportive services, in 2021, United Way, Citizens Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA), and the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance (MHSA) launched a Supportive Housing Pipeline Coalition with the goal to convene key leaders and stakeholders across all relevant systems and sectors to develop and advance a unified agenda to address chronic and high-need homelessness. The Coalition launched a statewide effort to stabilize 4,000 households through permanent supportive housing by January 2027. According to the Massachusetts Pay for Success Initiative, 84% of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness who receive supportive services and a housing voucher remain housed one year later.
“The lack of affordable housing supply in Massachusetts causes high costs, creates conditions for discrimination, and strains prevention and assistance programs. The siloed systems of healthcare, education, and employment also contribute to an overburdened emergency housing response system. The proposed Flexible Supportive Housing Subsidy Pool will braid private and public funding to support our most vulnerable residents, providing affordable housing and meeting households where they are,” said Bob Giannino, President and CEO at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “We are grateful to Sen. Crighton, Rep. Hawkins, and Rep. Meschino for working to build public will and capacity for progress towards our shared goal, developing a House Caucus to strengthen understanding among legislators of the issue, and working to advance this critical legislation that will alleviate providers from the burden of navigating funding sources to enable streamlined coordination of services.”
United Way will also facilitate and serve as a thought partner for the House Caucus to End and Prevent Homelessness to provide legislators with the information, resources, and insight they need to create a continuum of housing resources that contributes to the holistic wellbeing of every individual, family, and community in Massachusetts. Reps. Jim Hawkins and Joan Meschino serve as co-chairs for the group, which held its first meeting on January 31.
The caucus will provide learning opportunities for legislators, with topics including an overview of permanent supportive housing, emergency response and collaboration, population data trends and racial equity implications, and strategies to scale the continuum of care to prevent homelessness. Equipped with data and evidence from individuals with lived experience, the bipartisan coalition of Massachusetts legislators will engage and inform other policymakers throughout the state about best practices for reducing and ending youth, young adult, and family homelessness.
“We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of elderly homeless,” said State Representative Jim Hawkins (D-Attleboro). “The very thought of an 80-year-old woman living alone in her car should be enough to bring everyone to the table, today, to respond.”
On February 10, Rep. Hawkins, United Way, and the South Coast Regional Network to End Homelessness will host a virtual legislative breakfast to discuss the recently filed legislation to advance supportive housing, the Commonwealth’s FY ‘24 budget priorities in relation to affordable housing, and the development of the House Caucus to End and Prevent Homelessness.
The event will feature a panel of speakers including Congressman Jake Auchincloss, Sen. Paul Feeney, Rep. Carol Doherty, and Rep. Meschino. Those interested in attending the webinar can register here.