On May 15, the Senate Committee on Ways & Means (SWM) unveiled its fiscal year 2014 budget recommendations. Senators filed amendments to that budget by last Friday. We need your help!
Please call as soon as possible to ask your State Senator to co-sponsor two amendments and to show support for Amendment #309 and #247 by participating in the caucus and debate processes. Senators can sign on as co-sponsors by contacting Sen. Donnelly’s office (617-722-1432) until the start of the floor debate which begins Wednesday, May 22nd. Have the aide get back to you to let you know what action your State Senator plans to take on these amendments.
SUGGESTED SCRIPT: (Ask to speak to an aide if the Senator is not available).
Hello, my name is _______ and I live at___________. I am very concerned that since September 2012, approximately 240 families including more than 400 children have been forced to sleep in places “not meant for human habitation” before they were placed in emergency shelter. Therefore, I am asking Senator____ to co-sponsor Senator Donnelly’s Amendment #309 Senator Donnelly’s to Emergency Assistance Line Item 7004-0101 and Amendment #247 of Senators Donnelly and Spilka to RAFT Line Item 7004-9316. Please let me know what the Senator will do. I can be reached at (phone number). Thank you for taking my request into consideration to protect homeless families with children who are at imminent risk of having to stay in unsafe places not fit for humans (such as a car) before they can access emergency family shelter. Placing vulnerable families with children who have no place to go in a potentially harmful and dangerous situation has to change.
The House passed their budget in April WITHOUT this protective language requiring the Dept. of Housing and Community Development to place families experiencing homelessness in emergency shelter who are at imminent risk of having to stay in a place not meant for human habitation. So, now the Senate’s FY14 budget is our only hope to have the possibility of getting this measure into next year’s budget. Since September 2012, at least 240 families that we know of, including more than 400 children have been forced to sleep in places “not meant for human habitation” before they were placed in emergency shelter!
• Senator Donnelly’s Amendment #309 to Emergency Assistance Line Item 7004-0101
Senator Ken Donnelly of Arlington has filed Amendment #309 to require the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) to presumptively place families into the Emergency Assistance (EA) family shelter program if they provide credible proof that they otherwise would be forced to stay in place not meant for human habitation and that they otherwise would meet the EA eligibility criteria.
• Senator Donnelly and Senator Spilka’s Amendment #247 to Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) Line Item 7004-9316
The Senate Ways & Means Budget proposes that $500,000 of RAFT funds “may” be used to provide these families shelter for up to seven days, while their eligibility for other programs is assessed. (Residential Assistance for Families in Transition or RAFT is a homelessness prevention program for low-income families). This is a good step in the right direction, but the language is NOT sufficient to ensure that children will, in fact, be sheltered before they have to sleep in unsafe places.
Senator Donnelly and Senator Karen Spilka of Ashland also have filed Amendment #247 to build upon Senate Ways and Means' plan to provide temporary accommodations to families experiencing homelessness. The amendment focuses on those families being turned away from the Emergency Assistance program because they have NOT YET stayed in a place not meant for human habitation.
The amendment mainly would require that DHCD promptly (Dept. of Housing & Community Development) refer these families to the RAFT (Residential Assistance for Families in Transition) providers when they are within 24 hours of having to stay in a place not meant for human habitation. The RAFT provider would then place this family in such temporary accommodations, while ensuring that Emergency Assistance (EA) eligible families still are served by the EA program. It would also require DHCD to notify the Legislature 60 days before the allotted funds are anticipated to run out, so that the Legislature can take action. Furthermore, this amendment requires RAFT providers to ensure that these families receive the full $4000 of RAFT funds. This amendment is needed to strengthen the new safety net proposed by Senate Ways and Means, so that the most vulnerable families are able to access temporary accommodations immediately.
Please ask your Senator to strongly support the EA and RAFT amendments throughout the caucus and debate processes. To find out who your State Senator is, go to: www.wheredoivotema.com. Submit your address and click on the link to the Senator’s webpage.
Complete the Advocacy Circle: Call Sr. Linda Bessom SND 781-595-7570 x 18 or e-mail her at Linda@mahomeless.org to let her know who you called if your Senator will be co-sponsoring these amendments.
Thank you for making a difference!
Endorsed by the Homelessness Task Team of the MACUCC
Linda Bessom, SND, is the Senior Community Organizer for the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless. She represents the Coalition on the MACUCC's Task Force to End Homelessness.