BOSTON – United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley today urged the Joint Committee on Ways and Means and the House Committee on Federal Stimulus and Census Oversight to allocate at least $300M in supportive housing and leverage a portion of these funds to pilot the MA Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool – a nimble pot of public-private funding to help meet the complex housing and health needs of our most vulnerable residents. Christi Staples, who leads the Statewide Campaign to End Homelessness at United Way, testified at the virtual hearing on the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) focusing on labor and workforce development and housing.
TESTIMONY OF CHRISTI STAPLES, UNITED WAY
“The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the inadequacy of the safety net system in Massachusetts as a public health response for adults, youth and families experiencing homelessness. The pandemic has pushed our crisis response system to the limit, further straining the state’s patchwork of critical services and supports that keep low-income households stable. Now is the time to take coordinated, comprehensive action to ensure these resources are leveraged effectively and equitably.
Supportive housing is a highly effective, cost-efficient strategy that combines affordable housing with intensive, coordinated services to help people struggling with chronic physical and mental health issues maintain stable housing and access critical health care services. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, this model saves an average of over $6,000 a year per person in healthcare costs. Furthermore, according to the Pay For Success Initiative, 84% of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness who receive 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 nimble, flexible pool of funding, coupled with private support and health care investments, to help fill in the existing gaps. Here in Massachusetts, stakeholders have identified the need for a similar fund that braids public and private funding and is responsive to the needs of our most vulnerable neighbors.
I specifically ask you to prioritize investing at least $300M for Supportive Housing efforts, such as creating and piloting the Massachusetts Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool, mirrored off Representative Meschino’s legislation – H.3838. We have a unique opportunity to strengthen the coordination and delivery of supportive services that help people exit streets, doubled-up housing, and the shelter system. The flexible fund seeks to achieve the following goals: improvement in overall health of participants, increased use of appropriate health services, and corresponding reduction in use of crisis care such as hospital emergency rooms; fewer days in jail, court, or police custody; and increased stability and length of residency in supportive housing.
Homelessness was already increasing in the years preceding the pandemic, which has since exacerbated housing insecurity in Massachusetts. As we look across the state, we find more vulnerable men, women and children facing increasing challenges keeping a roof over their heads. This one-time investment in housing infrastructure and services will build a solid foundation for economic recovery by expanding access to safe, decent, affordable homes for our next generation.”