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Legislative Victories

Since its creation in 1985, the Coalition has successfully advocated for policy changes to assist individuals and families who are homeless or at-risk of homelessness. These efforts have ensured access to basic safety-net programs for homeless families and individuals, and helped expand housing, homelessness prevention, and income resources to better help low income households avoid homelessness altogether.  Our key achievements include:

  • Anti-Homelessness Act of 1983: The Coalition and its members spearheaded the effort to establish the cornerstone on which each of our state's efforts concerning homelessness rests. This initiative, the Anti-Homelessness Act of 1983, made it possible for homeless people to receive Foods Stamps and income assistance; established the public funding of shelters; created a network of homelessness prevention benefits through the Department of Public Welfare (now the Department of Transitional Assistance); and ensured that homeless families would be given a temporary place to stay.
  • Rental Subsidy Programs to Assist Homeless Families: Having established the right to benefits and emergency services, the Coalition shifted our to more permanent solutions to homelessness.  In (insert year), we successfully established a rental subsidy program for families in shelters/hotels/motels.  This innovative initiative provided a rent certificate or voucher to homeless families to supplement their public assistance, gave landlords incentives to rent to low-income families, and provided families with personalized, on-site housing search assistance.
  • Moratorium on the Destruction of Single Room Occupancy (SR0)Housing: To help protect critical housing stock for low income individuals, the Coalition led efforts to establish Chapter 671 , a moratorium on the destruction, conversion or alteration of SRO units.  This moratorium was the first of its kind in the nation.
  • The early 1990s saw the housing market burst and a deep recession take hold. As the state scrambled to put together budgets with reduced tax revenues, the Coalition and our members fought to prevent deep cuts in housing, income, and homelessness prevention programs.
  • Protection of Income Support Benefits for Destitute Elders and Persons with Disabilities: The Coalition coordinated efforts to protect the state's General Relief program, which provided monthly income payments to elders, persons with disabilities, and other unemployable households. The General Relief program was ultimately replaced by the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, the Disabled and Children program. A tightening of the eligibility standards resulted in the elimination of income support benefits for half of those previously served by the General Relief program. The Coalition and our legal service partners filed a lawsuit to force reforms in the eligibility determination procedures of this new income program to protect and expand benefits for destitute elders and households with disabilities.
  • Protecting Homelessness Prevention Programs for Low Income Families with Children: The Coalition led efforts to fight a barrage of attacks on the state’s homelessness prevention programs for families with children. Many of these prevention programs were eliminated from 1991 to 1993, but the Coalition’s tireless efforts saved the Emergency Assistance Rent Arrearage Program. With annual funding at approximately $10 million, this critical prevention program helped 8,000 families a year for over 10 years to save their housing and avoid homelessness. Unfortunately, the legislature eliminated this last prevention program in 2002 in response to the recession gripping the state after 9/11.
  • During the recession after 9/11, the Coalition worked harder than ever to create policy changes that would improve the lives of those who were homeless or at- risk for homelessness.  The tough fiscal situation and the increasing number of people in need of services forced us to think innovatively to come up with low-cost, effective programs.
  • Improved Access to Subsidized Housing for Elders and Persons with Disabilities Facing No-Fault Evictions: The Coalition encouraged the Department of Housing and Community Develop (DHCD) to change its policy around granting homeless elderly and disabled households facing no-fault evictions. Until this change, households facing an eviction were not eligible for homeless priority status until they were within days of the eviction. It was impossible for households to obtain affordable housing within this short time frame. Moreover, if a judge granted the household a stay of execution in order to give the household time to find housing, the household then lost its homeless priority status. At the Coalition’s urging, DHCD issued a clarifying statement to local housing authorities stating that elderly and disabled households with a stay of execution on a no-fault eviction should be considered homeless and given priority status for housing. This change gives these households a chance to reach the top of a housing authority’s list before they are actually on the street.
  • Simplified Application Process for State Subsidized Housing: For many years, the Coalition advocated for a simplified housing application process to make it easier for low income households to access these resources. The Coalition filed legislation and budget language to establish a single application for all state affordable housing programs. The Coalition was successful in getting language into the FY’05 budget requiring the development of a single, statewide application for state housing resources. In response to these efforts, DHCD moved forward with implementing a common statewide application. Given new technology, the state is now moving beyond the common paper application and is working on developing a web based application system for all state and federal subsidized housing.
  • Protected Income Benefits for Thousands of Recipients of the Emergency Aid to the Elderly, Disabled and Children (EAEC) Program: Starting in 2004, the Romney Administration began proposing cuts and other changes to the EAEDC program, the state’s last-resort income support program for the elderly and persons with disabilities. These cuts, proposed over successive budget years, included reducing the monthly grant from $304/month to $267/month, tightening the disability standards which would have resulted in thousands of disabled recipients being cut from the program, and establishing work requirements for the program with sanctions reducing or eliminating benefits to those who could not comply. Each year, the Coalition successfully fought off these attacks, protecting these benefits for those who depend on them for their survival.
  • New Protections for Families in Shelter: As this decade’s recession progressed, the number of families requesting emergency shelter began to climb. In response, the state Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) began tightening eligibility and application procedures. To obtain data on how many needy families were being turned away, the Coalition encouraged the state legislature to insert reporting requirements in the family shelter line item.  This language requires DTA to submit quarterly reports on the numbers of families applying for shelter, as well as the number of families were denied and the reasons for denial. According to these reports, 50% of the families asking for shelter were regularly being denied assistance. Using this information, the Coalition successfully fought off Administration attempts to establish new rules that would have made even more families ineligible. The Coalition also won protective language preventing the Administration from making future rule changes without providing the legislature a minimum of 60 days notice, thereby providing the opportunity to appropriate needed resources to prevent the cuts. The Coalition successfully placed language in the state budget requiring DTA to place otherwise eligible families in shelter for up to 30 days while they acquired needed documentation. Initial statistics collected on the households placed in shelter pending verification showed that 80% of the families provided shelter under this “placement pending” rule were ultimately found eligible for shelter.
  • Established RAFT, A New Homelessness Prevention Program for Families with Children: As the economy began to improve, the Coalition spearheaded efforts in 2004 to establish a new prevention program for families with children. The Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program was created to provide homeless and at-risk families with cash assistance to secure new housing or maintain their existing housing situations. Initially funded at $2 million in 2004, funding for the program was increased the following year to $5 million. The program now helps more than 3,000 families a year to stabilize their housing, thus preventing homelessness.
  • Improved Access to Shelter for Working Poor Families with Nowhere to Stay: Set at 100% of the federal poverty line, the income cut off for family shelter was so low that many working families were ineligible for assistance. As a result, working poor families with children who could not afford housing were literally left out in the cold. In 2005, the Coalition successfully won an increase in the income eligibility standards for family shelter, raising the income cut off to 130% of the federal poverty line.  The increase in the income cut off provided these families with a safe haven, and prevented them from living on the streets.
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