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FY'19 Budget Advocacy: Amendments to Improve Homelessness Prevention, Housing, and Benefit Programs

FY'19 Budget Advocacy: Amendments to Improve Homelessness Prevention, Housing, and Benefit Programs

April 13, 2018, last updated April 23rd

The House budget debate is underway! The debate began today (April 23rd) and is scheduled to go until Thursday.

Friday, April 13th, was the deadline for State Representatives to file amendments to the House Committee on Ways and Means ("House Ways and Means" or "HWM")
 fiscal year 2019 budget recommendations. We are working with Representatives Marjorie Decker and Jim O'Day to file key amendments related to the Emergency Assistance family shelter and services program (EA, line item 7004-0101), housing and services for unaccompanied youth and young adults (line items 4000-0007 and 4000-0300), and the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition homelessness prevention program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316).

Please ask your Representative to cosponsor the amendments listed below today. You can find out your Representative's name and contact information via www.wheredoivotema.com. If you do reach out to your Representative, let us know the response. Here is our April 18th action alert.

Key Amendments

Overview sheet for Representatives 

* See a list of amendment cosponsors, and our longer list of important amendments, on this House amendment Google Doc. This document will be updated frequently. *

- The HWM budget would increase funding for the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316) from $15 million to $17 million, but it does not include the expanded definition of family so that unaccompanied youth, elders, and people with disabilities also can access RAFT homelessness prevention resources. RAFT amendment fact sheet (updated 4-18-18)

Representative Marjorie Decker has filed a RAFT amendment, Amendment #1328, to restore the expanded definition of family, increase overall funding to $18.5 million, and make sure that at least $3 million will be made available to households without children under 21.

Follow the amendment link above to see if your Representative has signed on already. If not, p
lease ask your Representative to cosponsor this amendment through the online LAWS system. 


- The House Ways and Means budget would retain harmful, current eligibility language that allows the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to deny Emergency Assistance (EA, line item 7004-0101) shelter access to families that have not yet stayed in places not meant for human habitation.

Representative Marjorie Decker has filed two Emergency Assistance amendments: Amendment #1301 to create a $300,000 pilot to allow otherwise eligible families to access EA before having to prove that they have stayed in places not meant for human habitation and Amendment #1308 to ensure that DHCD does not further restrict families' rights to apply for EA in person by maintaining in-person application sites (in addition to telephonic options.) EA amendment fact sheet

Follow the amendment links above to see if your Representative has signed on already. If not, please ask your Representative to cosponsor these amendments through the online LAWS system. 



- The House Ways and Means budget would provide $1 million for housing and services for unaccompanied youth and young adults under the age of 25 who are experiencing homelessness out on their own (line item 4000-0007). This would be an increase over the $675,000 FY'18 funding level, but less than the amount needed to provide adequate statewide resources. 

Representative Jim O'Day has filed two youth homelessness amendments: Amendment #1173 to increase the funding for youth housing and services to $4 million in line item 4000-0007 and Amendment #1177 to include specific language in the Executive Office of Health and Human Services line item to provide $150,000 for the work of the Massachusetts Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth in line item 4000-0300. Youth homelessness amendment fact sheet

Follow the amendment links above to see if your Representative has signed on already. If not, please ask your Representative to cosponsor these amendments through the online LAWS system. 


- Currently, the Coalition is working with Representative Kay Khan and Senate President Harriette Chandler to move forward legislation to ease access to Massachusetts IDs for people experiencing homelessness (House Bill 2737/Senate Bill 1906). Both bills are pending in their respective Committee on Ways and Means.

Representative Khan has filed an amendment, Amendment #802, to incorporate the bill language into the FY'19 budget. Mass ID amendment fact sheet

Follow the amendment link above to see if your Representative has signed on already. If not, please ask your Representative to cosponsor this amendment through the online LAWS system. 

Please also see our House Ways and Means budget page for our preliminary analysis of how key homelessness prevention, housing, emergency services, and benefits programs fared in the HWM budget, as compared to our budget priorities.

Check back on this page for more details and updates.

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FY'19 Budget Advocacy: The House Ways and Means Budget Has Been Released

FY'19 Budget Advocacy: The House Ways and Means Budget Has Been Released

April 11, 2018

Today, the House Committee on Ways and Means ("House Ways and Means" or "HWM") released its fiscal year 2019 budget recommendations for the Commonwealth. The $40.98 billion budget is the first budget under the leadership of House Ways and Means Chairman Jeffrey Sanchez. 

Here is our preliminary analysis of how key homelessness prevention, housing, emergency services, and benefits programs fared, as compared to our budget priorities.

Check back on this page for more details on House budget amendments. Amendments are due by this Friday, April 13th at 5 p.m. The full House will debate the budget the week of April 23rd.

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Join in Our FY'19 Budget Campaigns to Promote Housing and Economic Stability

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* You can reach your legislators by calling the State House switchboard at 617-722-2000, and can look up their contact information on the Legislature's website or at www.wheredoivotema.com. *


Thank you to everyone who signed our one-minute online action to support deeper investments in homelessness prevention, housing, cash assistance, and emergency services, as lawmakers were developing the fiscal year 2019 state budget.

Track the Coalition's FY'19 priorities and outcomes here

Overall budget fact sheet

Budget Priority Campaign Highlights

Emergency Assistance (EA, line item 7004-0101): Include language to ensure that families experiencing homelessness are not required to stay in places not meant for human habitation before accessing shelter; FY'19 budget fact sheet (PDF, updated 2-21-18)

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Housing and services for unaccompanied youth experiencing homelessness (line item 4000-0007): Increase funding to $4 million from the FY'18 funding level of $675,000; FY'19 fact sheet (PDF, updated 2-13-18)

Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children program (EAEDC, line item 4408-1000): Provide full grants to participants experiencing homelessness by eliminating the homelessness penalty. Have your organization endorse the EAEDC budget and bill campaignsFY'19 budget fact sheet (PDF, updated 3-21-18)

Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT,  line item 7004-9316): Increase funding for the RAFT homelessness prevention program; FY'19 budget fact sheet (PDF, updated 3-6-18); FY'17 statewide RAFT report from the Regional Housing Network of Massachusetts (and PDF, released 2-27-18)

Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP, line item 7004-9024): Increase funding for the MRVP program to $120 million from the FY'18 funding level of $92.7 million and make language changes to improve the program for participants, such as allowing households to use the subsidies in units at the current fair market rent as determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, instead of the 2005 HUD fair market rents; FY'19 budget fact sheet (PDF)

Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP, line item 7004-9030): Increase funding for the AHVP program to $7.7 million from the FY'18 funding level of $5 million to assist people living with disabilities secure long-term, stable housing; FY'19 budget fact sheet (PDF)

 

Sign Our Online Action to Legislators in Support of Key FY'19 Budget Issues

Sign Our Online Action to Legislators in Support of Key FY'19 Budget Issues

March 8, 2018

Thank you for taking action with us! Click on the image to go to the action page, or click here.
Legislative Action Day 2018: Thank You for Joining Us on Tuesday, February 27th

Legislative Action Day 2018: Thank You for Joining Us on Tuesday, February 27th

Last updated March 1, 2018

*
Legislative Action Day Follow-Up Action: Please take one-minute to sign our latest online action to support deeper investments in homelessness prevention, housing, cash assistance, and emergency services.*

Thank you to everyone who participated in Legislative Action Day 2018 on Tuesday, February 27th! The event was held at the Massachusetts State House in Boston, hosted by Representative Jim O'Day. We are grateful to everyone who raised their voice to help end homelessness!

Click here to download the flyer (PDF).

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The day began with registration and a light breakfast at 9 a.m. The legislative speakers included Representative Jim O'Day, Senate President Harriette Chandler, Senator Pat Jehlen, Senator Joe Boncore, and Senator Jamie Eldridge, and State House staffer, Cinda Danh. We also had speakers from Worcester Fellowship, Boston Youth Advisory Board, the Massachusetts Poor People's Campaign, Glass House Shelter Project, Boston Center for Independent Living, Women's Lunch Place, and other allied organizations who shared their lived experiences of homelessness and housing instability. The agenda is available here. (Please note that due to the untimely death of Representative Peter Kocot, a true friend of the Coalition, several of the previously scheduled legislative speakers were unable to attend.)

Photos from the day are available here. Special thanks to our main photographer, Kevin Lilly!

Read our press release and media advisory.

Here is some of the Legislative Action Day media and online coverage:

 - Homeless advocates to converge on Massachusetts State House

 - Chandler: State Senate 'ready to go' on housing bill
 - "Homeless, not worthless"

Fact sheets for our overall budget priorities, top four budget priorities (Emergency Assistance, housing and services for unaccompanied youth and young adults, Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children program, and the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program), and details about our bill priorities are on the Current Policy Campaigns page. We also have an online spreadsheet with details and status updates on our bill priorities.

A key part of the day were meetings with state legislators and their staff to talk about why participants support investments in housing, homelessness prevention, emergency shelter, income support programs, and related resources. If you are doing additional meetings, here are some tips to help guide your legislative meetings (PDF).

If you met or called your legislators as part of Legislative Action Day, please complete this online response form to share your feedback.


Thank you also to everyone who participated in our training call on Tuesday, February 13th to help participants prepare for the day. 



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Take Action with Us Calling on Elder Affairs to Release the EAEDC Bill

Take Action with Us Calling on Elder Affairs to Release the EAEDC Bill

Please sign and share our online letter to Senator Barbara L'Italien and Representative Danielle Gregoire, the Chairs of the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs

Please sign and share our online action to improve benefits for participants in the state's Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled, and Children program (EAEDC). House Bill 2077 and Senate Bill 2039 currently are awaiting action by the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs, and we need your help to move the EAEDC bills of committee and onto the next step toward passage. Our action is directed to Senator Barbara L'Italien and Representative Danielle Gregoire, the Chairs of the Joint Committee on Elder Affairs.

Here is the EAEDC bill fact sheet.

Thank you!


Take Action with Us Calling on Governor Baker to Release FY'18 Homelessness Funds

Take Action with Us Calling on Governor Baker to Release FY'18 Homelessness Funds

December 28, 2017, last updated January 3, 2018

January 2nd update: Thank you to everyone who took action with us! We heard today that the Governor has released all of the youth homelessness funds (totaling $675,000). We are awaiting final confirmation that the RAFT homelessness prevention funds also willl be released. Here is coverage from State House News and WCVB: http://www.wcvb.com/article/gov-baker-lifts-hold-on-spending-earmarks/14532127 and the Boston Globe: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2018/01/01/baker-withholds-money-for-human-service-programs/f0dLFUjgb35Am34E2WLkSJ/story.html

January 3rd update: The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) still is awaiting confirmation that the increased RAFT funds will be released. 


Please join us in asking Governor Charlie Baker to release key homelessness funds already allocated by the Legislature for fiscal year 2018: $675,000 for housing and services for youth and young adults experiencing homelessness (line item 4000-0007) and $2 million in homelessness prevention funds for elders, people with disabilities, and youth through the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program (line item 7004-9316).

Even though the fiscal year is halfway over and there is tremendous need, these funds have not been spent.

Read the Coalition's letter to the Governor here and sign/share our online action today.

You also can reach the Governor's office by calling 617-725-4005, 888-870-7770, or TTY: 617-727-3666.


If you have questions or receive any feedback, please contact Kelly and Tina.

Thank you for taking action with us!
The Senate Has Passed the RAFT Veto Override

The Senate Has Passed the RAFT Veto Override

November 2,. 2017

The Massachusetts Senate voted this afternoon to restore funding and expanded eligibility language to the RAFT homelessness prevention program so that unaccompanied youth/young adults, elders, and people with disabilities can access critical resources to avoid or exit homelessness. Thank you to everyone who has been weighing in in support of the veto override! Stay tuned for implementation updates here: www.mahomeless.org/advocacy
The Senate Veto Override Debate Continues

The Senate Veto Override Debate Continues

September 28, 2017; last updated October 18th

** Please see our latest update at http://www.mahomeless.org/advocacy/item/raft-override **


The Senate continues to override FY'18 budget vetoes, while the House successfully overrode all of the Governor's vetoes in its chamber. 

During their September 28th veto override debate, the Senate overrode the Governor's elimination of funding for the unaccompanied youth and young adult homelessness line item, 4000-0007, by a vote of 35-2. This means that $675,000 now will be restored to the FY'18 budget to once again provide housing and wraparound support services for young people experiencing homelessness out on their own. It previously was overridden in the House on September 13th by a vote of 140-12.

On October 4th, the Senate also took action to override the Governor’s Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC, line item 4403-2000) veto that would have reduced the annual children's clothing allowance from $300 to $250, and struck language requiring advanced notice before eligibility restrictions or benefits cuts are made. This override was particularly important as the Governor was looking to count Supplemental Security Income when determining eligibility for TAFDC which would have rendered an estimated 5,800 families ineligible for TAFDC and/or only eligible for reduced grants. The Senate vote was 35-2, and the House vote was 132-20.


The Senate will be back in formal sessions on October 19th. We will be advocating for the override of the Governor's Residential Assistance for Families in Transition program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316) veto. A Senate override would restore the proposed $2 million increase to RAFT, and restore the language that would allow the program to keep serving unaccompanied youth, elders, people with disabilities, and other households without minor children.

During FY’17, 3,980 households were served by RAFT. This included 124 households who previously were ineligible under the more limited definition of family, 56% of which were households with disabilities. With $15 million in FY’18 (including the earmark of $2 million for households without minor children), we anticipate that the state would be able to prevent homelessness for an estimated 4,878 households, based on the average FY’16 RAFT expenditure of $3,075/household (including the $539 administrative fee for each household approved). According to the 2015-2016 RAFT report published by the Regional Housing Network of Massachusetts, the state’s FY’16 RAFT investment of $12.5 million saved the Commonwealth an estimated $137 million. This veto override already was approved by a 135-20 vote in the House.

Please sign our updated online action on the RAFT veto override to State Senators here. Stay tuned for more details on this page; read more about our original list of veto override requests here.

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Take Action to Help Override Governor Baker's Vetoes to Key Homelessness and Housing Programs in the FY'18 Budget

Take Action to Help Override Governor Baker's Vetoes to Key Homelessness and Housing Programs in the FY'18 Budget

July 17, 2017; last updated August 17th; see also http://www.mahomeless.org/advocacy/item/senate-veto-override-debate for Senate debate updates.

Governor Charlie Baker just issued his FY'18 budget vetoes. Among the $320 million in vetoes were cuts to important language and funding related to homelessness, housing, and benefits programs. Fortunately, he does not have the final word. The Legislature can override his vetoes with 2/3 votes from both the House and Senate. Help make that happen by signing our one-minute online action to State Legislators.

What did he cut?

The Governor zeroed out the unaccompanied youth homelessness line item, 4000-0007, saying that the $675,000 appropriated by the Legislature was too small: "I am vetoing this item because it is too small to be effective at the enacted level of funding." (Fortunately, this veto did not cut the funding for the Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Commission and the annual Massachusetts Youth Count. $150,000 will be provided for those initiatives through the Executive Office of Health and Human Services administrative line item-- even though there is no direct language/earmark.) See our latest campaign fact sheet here.

He also eliminated the $2 million increase to the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition Program (RAFT, line item 7004-9316), and struck the language that would allow the program to keep serving unaccompanied youth, elders, people with disabilities, and other households without minor children.

In the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (TAFDC, line item 4403-2000), the Governor reduced the annual children's clothing allowance from $300 to $250, and struck language requiring advanced notice before eligibility restrictions or benefits cuts are made. This is particularly concerning as the Governor is looking to count Supplemental Security Income when determining eligibility for TAFDC and render an estimated 5,800 families ineligible for TAFDC and/or have their grants reduced.

The Governor also eliminated language from the Department of Housing and Community Development administrative line item (line item 7004-0099) that allows families participating in the HomeBASE program (line item 7004-0108) to retain preferences and priorities for long-term state-funded subsidized housing opportunities.


In some good news, the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, line item 7004-9024, increase to $92.7 million was approved.

We already started to push for veto overrides and will push for supplemental funding for programs that were vetoed. As noted above, the Legislature can restore language and funding by 2/3 votes in both the House and Senate. 


** Please sign our online action to State Legislators, asking them to override these vetoes swiftly. **

Please also join the Coalition in letting Governor Charlie Baker know that you are disappointed in his cuts to key programs like youth homelessness, RAFT, and TAFDC. Click here for the Governor's contact information. ** You also can call your legislators via the State House switchboard: 617-722-2000.

If you have any feedback from the Governor's office or from your State Representative and Senator, please share it with us: kelly @mahomeless.org or call 781-595-7570 x17.

Thank you so much for your continued support and advocacy. Please stay tuned and engaged!


Related Budget Materials:

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Take Action with Us to Restore Funding for Youth and Young Adults Experiencing Homelessness

Take Action with Us to Restore Funding for Youth and Young Adults Experiencing Homelessness

Youth without homes can't wait

September 11, 2017, updated September 18th

Please invite your State Representative and Senator to join us this Tuesday, September 19th for a briefing at the State House on the need to restore funding for housing and wraparound services for unaccompanied youth and young adults experiencing homelessness. See our campaign fact sheet, media advisory, and below for additional briefing details. To find out who your legislators are, use the Legislature's search feature  or go to www.wheredoivotema.com.


This event is organized by the Coalition and hosted by Representative Jim O'Day, Senator Harriette Chandler, Representative Kay Khan, and Representative Marjorie Decker. 

We also have room for a limited number of members and supporters to join us as well. RSVP here if you would like to attend.

If you haven't signed our online petition asking the Legislature to override the Governor's youth homelessness and other key vetoes, please click here and enter your address at the bottom to get started.

Who: Legislators, staffers, youth and young adults experiencing homelessness, providers, advocates, and others
What: Legislative briefing on restoring youth and young funding in the FY'18 state budget
When: Tuesday, September 19th, 1-2:30 p.m.
Where: Massachusetts State House, House Members' Lounge, 3rd floor (near the House Chamber)
RSVP: Online here or by emailing Kelly

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EAEDC Bill Hearing Recap: Taking Action to Improve Benefits for Elders, People with Disabilities, and Youth

EAEDC Bill Hearing Recap: Taking Action to Improve Benefits for Elders, People with Disabilities, and Youth

October 3, 2017; last updated October 25th

Join the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless for the bill hearing on An Act relative to assisting elders and people with disabilities in the Commonwealth (House Bill 2077/Senate Bill 2039)!


Wednesday, October 11, 2017
2:00 - 5:00 p.m.
Joint Committee on Elder Affairs Hearing
State House
Hearing Room A-1*
Boston, Massachusetts 02133


The Committee is chaired by Senator Barbara L'Italien and Representative Danielle Gregoire. Here is the full committee list and the list of bills that will be heard that day.

* If you are able to provide oral and/or written testimony, please RSVP here or contact Kelly. *

Relevant materials and links:
Testimony links:

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It's Time for the Annual TAFDC Clothing Allowance!

It's Time for the Annual TAFDC Clothing Allowance!

August 30, 2017

Good news for families participating in the Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) program: For the month of September, the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) is once again increasing the income eligibility limits and payment standards for the TAFDC program. This increase in the payment standard is known as the children's , and occurs only for September. 

Families currently participating in the TAFDC program will receive an additional $250/eligible child. Families that are not currently receiving TAFDC benefits but apply before the end of September and are approved also will receive the full clothing allowance benefit in the fall. If you are looking to access the benefit, here is a link to local DTA office locations and contact information.

Families may receive an additional $50/eligible child later, too, if the Legislature overrides a veto issued by Governor Baker that reduced the benefit from the $300 recommended by the Legislature back down to $250. The Legislature will begin to take up veto overrides after Labor Day. Learn more about the veto override efforts here and sign our online action to your state legislators to encourage them to take this important action.
Legislators and Advocates Speak Up and Stand Up with Families Experiencing Homelessness

Legislators and Advocates Speak Up and Stand Up with Families Experiencing Homelessness

August 22, 2017, last updated August 30th

Learn more about House Bill 659, An Act to protect families experiencing homelessness from having to sleep in unsafe places, here.

“Government policies or regulations should never deliberately put people, and especially children, in danger. This regulation without any nuance forces parents to place children in harm’s way in order to receive shelter. This is unjust and cruel.” - Representative Marjorie Decker, the bill's lead sponsor (D-Cambridge)


“I am proud to cosponsor H.659. Children and families who are facing homelessness shouldn’t be forced to risk their health and safety for even a single night before they are given access to Emergency Assistance shelter. I have supported this policy change for years, and I hope this session it will finally be enacted into law.” - Representative Kay Khan (D-Newton)

“Nobody should have to face the dangerous and undignified experience of sleeping in public areas, especially kids. This legislation affirms Massachusetts’ commitment to supporting families and providing all our kids with safe, happy childhoods. This starts with a roof over their heads, something which everyone deserves and which we will continue to pursue for everyone in the Commonwealth.” - Senator Barbara L'Italien (D-Andover)

“Being able to safely go to sleep every night with a roof over one’s head should be considered a basic human right. I cosponsored H. 84 and H. 659 because homelessness and housing instability remain chronic and still-too-common ills in our Commonwealth.  These important bills will take concrete steps to address and prevent homelessness and housing instability.” - Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester)

“I am proud to continue being a vocal advocate for increased investment in resources for families experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. Preventing homelessness and ensuring that families are provided with support programs are imperative to the welfare of the Commonwealth.” - Representative David P. Linsky (D-Natick)

“The issue of ensuring safe shelter for our most vulnerable children and families experiencing homelessness is urgent and tragic. This bill would reduce the risk of harm to families by providing emergency housing assistance for those who would otherwise be sleeping in exposed, unprotected areas. The goal is to keep these families intact and their children safe.” - Representative Jim O'Day (D-West Boylston)

Organizational Testimony (PDF): 

For videos from the hearing, check out our YouTube playlist.

For audio from the hearing, check our new SoundCloud account.






Stand Up with Families Experiencing Homelessness: Join Us for a State House Bill Hearing on August 22nd!

Stand Up with Families Experiencing Homelessness: Join Us for a State House Bill Hearing on August 22nd!

July 27, 2017; updated August 25th

Massachusetts currently requires many families experiencing homelessness to prove that they already have stayed in a place not meant for human habitation before being eligible for a shelter placement through the state's Emergency Assistance (EA) program. In fact, between the policy's implementation in the fall of 2012 and June 30, 2017, at least 2,682 families with children first stayed in an unsafe place before ultimately being placed in shelter.

Please join us at the State House on Tuesday, August 22nd to show your support for House Bill 659, An Act to protect families experiencing homelessness from having to sleep in unsafe places. This bill was filed by Representative Marjorie Decker of Cambridge. See our bill fact sheet here and listen to the personal testimony of advocate/mother, Lynnette.

The Joint Committee on Housing will be taking testimony that day on this and other bills related to the Department of Housing and Community Development and manufactured housing. The hearing will begin at 10 a.m., and will be held in Room B-2. The committee is chaired by Senator Joe Boncore and Representative Kevin Honan.

Please contact Kelly if you are able to provide in-person, written, and/or video testimony in support of the bill. 

*Please also complete this form if your organization is able to be an official endorser of the legislation.*

Current endorsers include: 
  • Advocacy Network to End Family Homelessness
  • Allston-Brighton Health Collaborative
  • Arise for Social Justice
  • Boston Area Rape Crisis Center
  • Central West Justice Center
  • EMPath
  • Greater Boston Legal Services
  • Horizons for Homeless Children
  • Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless
  • Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
  • MetroWest Legal Services
  • MLPB
  • National Association of Social Workers, Massachusetts Chapter
  • Northeast Justice Center
  • Out Now
  • Partners HealthCare
  • Poor People’s United Fund
  • Project Hope
Important links: ea places not meant for human habitation chart 8 2 17 for website