FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 10, 201710
ACTION FOR BOSTON COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT URGES LEGISLATURES TO HELP
HOMELESS FAMILIES WITH SAFER ACCESS TO EMERGENCY SHELTERS
CURRENT REGULATION REQUIRES LIVING IN DANGEROUS AND
UNINHABITABLE CONDITIONS IN ORDER TO QUALIFY
Action for Boston Community Development advocates for low-income residents and families struggling to overcome poverty. With our mission to empower those that are disadvantaged, ABCD joins the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless and State Rep. Marjorie Decker in changing the requirements for emergency shelter assistance in Massachusetts.
Currently, in order for homeless individuals or families to qualify for emergency shelter, it is required that shelter seekers spend a night in a setting deemed dangerous or uninhabitable – e.g., under a bridge, in a car, on the street, at a bus station, a campground, or in an emergency room reception area.
ABCD finds the current policy inhumane because it places those who are already vulnerable at a risk of danger, illness, or worse. The burden of proof to show dire need for shelter is unfairly placed on the homeless individual or family. The policy is degrading and often deters those in need from seeking the best solutions out of their dismal situation.
“Massachusetts has obligations to its residents. To force a homeless family to stay in a place that is not safe or unfit is suppression and stops those eligible for shelter to get a foot onto the right path,” said John Drew, President/CEO of ABCD. “This policy shuts the door on the poor and destitute until they go away. Homeless families are resorting to sleeping in cars and hospitals as those in power want to shut down hotel shelters to decrease the numbers of those actually in need,” Drew said.
“We deal with poverty and homelessness and it’s getting worse. There are more families being displaced, more individuals turning to opioids, drugs and alcohol as a way to cope. We should not be systematically obstructing access to shelter. More humane solutions are needed.”
Over 600 families were placed in shelters this past fiscal year, but had to prove they slept in an unsafe place first. Since the current policy’s implementation in late 2012 to the June 2017, over 2,600 families with children have stayed in an uninhabitable or dangerous place prior to obtaining access to an emergency assistance shelter, according to the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development.
As the cost of living continues to escalate, more families struggle to rent or sustain shelter within their financial means. Simply put – there are not enough options for affordable housing. Turnover rates on scatters sites are slow. The state should provide more options for temporary shelter as homeless families are assessed for housing. There needs to be more advocates and navigators to point families in need towards the right direction. There should be more construction towards the need of affordable housing.
“Until more solutions are made available and put into action, we urge legislation to remove the state requirement that the homeless have to spend a night somewhere dangerous or uninhabitable in order to qualify for emergency shelter. It’s demeaning, and we should have better standards for our citizens no matter if they are poor or down and out. Let’s help those in need to keep their dignity so they can rise out of poverty,” said Drew.
ABCD supports legislation to direct the Department of Housing and Community Development to provide emergency shelter to those who are in need and qualify, without requiring them to prove they have stayed in a place unfit for human habitation.
Help protect our families in need. The children especially should not have to experience the dangers of homelessness by sleeping in unsafe places.
A Massachusetts-based nonprofit human services organization, ABCD provides low-income residents in the Boston and Mystic Valley areas with the tools, support and resources they need to transition from poverty to stability and from stability to success. Each year, we’ve served more than 100,000 individuals, elders and families through a broad range of innovative initiatives as well as long-established, proven programs and services. For more than 50 years, ABCD has been deeply rooted in every neighborhood and community served, empowering individuals and families and supporting them in their quest to live with dignity and achieve their highest potential. For more, please visit bostonabcd.org.