According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), more than 610,000 Americans are homeless on any given night. Nearly 25 percent of homeless people are children, with a third of them living in unsheltered places like parks, cars, and abandoned buildings. Massachusetts saw the 5th highest increase in homelessness among all states between 2012-2013 and had a total of 19,029 people counted as experiencing homelessness in January 2013.
There are many reasons why people become homeless – reasons often beyond their control or ability to deal with. These can include loss of employment, long-term illness, domestic violence, divorce, substance abuse, and mental health issues that can make it difficult, if not impossible, for people to pay rent or make mortgage payments. However, Massachusetts offers a number of programs to help families and individuals tackle homelessness on a short- or long- term basis.
The Emergency Assistance (EA) program, run by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), provides temporary emergency shelter to low-income families with children and to homeless pregnant women who have no safe place to live. The program also assists those in need find permanent housing.
Local Housing Authority Transition Housing Program
The Local Housing Authority Transitional Housing Program (LHATHP) provides temporary housing and support services to the homeless in Massachusetts. These shelters cater to families with children; runaway teens and teen parents; women and children fleeing domestic violence; and single adult men and women without children. The program helps individuals and families become self-sufficient by providing job training, education courses, counseling, employment assistance, and day care.
HomeBASE offers financial assistance – up to $4,000 per 12-month period – that can be used to pay rent, utility bills, security deposits, and other expenses that enables a family to stay in current housing or move to new housing. Assistance is based on the individual needs of a family, which is assessed on a case-by-case basis. HomeBASE also provides childcare services, furniture, and moving expenses. To qualify for HomeBASE, families must be eligible for EA.
Residential Assistance for Families in Transition
Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) provides short-term financial assistance to low-income families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. RAFT helps families who are behind on rent, mortgage payments, or utility bills by paying first/last month rent as well as moving expenses. To be eligible for RAFT, families must be homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Families cannot receive assistance from both RAFT and HomeBASE in a given 12-month period.