Monday, March 11, 2013

A Working Model to End Family Homelessness

A Working Model to End Family Homelessness
By Timothy P. Murray

Massachusetts will be a stronger and better Commonwealth if all families have access to affordable housing. Stable housing options means more people are back on their feet, employed, and investing in our economy. As Chair of the Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness, we are constantly pushing to decrease the number of homeless families in need of shelter. In the last three months, we have reduced the number of families who need shelter by more than 28% statewide.

In 2011, Governor Patrick and I worked closely with the legislature to implement housing reform, and began shifting some resources from supporting shelter to affordable housing and homelessness prevention. By providing critical services to families at the right time, we are now experiencing a positive trend with more families receiving the immediate assistance they need.

During the height of the Great Recession, an influx of federal stimulus funds bolstered programs like shelter diversion and rapid rehousing. Building from this successful model, our Administration established the HomeBASE program and recapitalized the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) program. Together, these two programs have targeted housing-based assistance for homeless and at-risk families. Since July 2012, HomeBASE has helped over 400 homeless families avoid shelter and another 1,300 families leave shelter and become housed. RAFT has prevented more than 2,150 families from becoming homeless in the first place. Additionally, we have increased resources for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, adding approximately 700 vouchers targeted to provide homeless families with long-term housing stability.

Evidence clearly indicates that with a Housing First approach, we can reduce the long-term costs of ending homelessness and provide sustainability for families in need.

I recall my time working as a housing advocate at a non-profit agency in Framingham in 1991. I primarily assisted single women and their children who were either homeless or on the verge of becoming homeless. Some were already in shelters, others were living with friends or family, and our agency had a contract with the state to help these families find stable and affordable housing.

In one instance, I worked with a mother who had three young children and was at risk of eviction from her apartment because she owed back rent. With children at home, she worked as much as she could around their school schedule to earn enough to meet her monthly expenses, but it was challenging. We met almost weekly, filling out applications for affordable housing for nearly two years, while we did what we could to keep her family from becoming homeless. Her landlord was a decent man, and more than once he agreed to wait a few weeks for back rent owed, as she struggled to work as many hours as she could. During this time, I worked with her to navigate the tangled, and often disconnected array of public and private human service programs to find any assistance for her.

After a couple of years, I left that housing job and another advocate took over this family’s case. Then, sometime in 2005, when I was Mayor of Worcester, I got an email from this woman asking if I was the same Tim Murray who worked as her housing advocate in the 1990’s. When we reconnected, I learned the rest of her journey.

The housing agency continued to work with her and she was approved for a housing voucher, ending the constant threat of homelessness. Having stable housing marked a turning point for her family. She continued to work as many hours as possible and then enrolled in a community college. Next, she went on to Framingham State College (now University) and earned a degree, which helped her secure a full-time job. She no longer needed the housing voucher, and a few years later she bought her own home in an affordable housing neighborhood created through the Chapter 40B program. Today, she is still working hard and has put all three of her children through college.

Her story demonstrates that while maintenance of an emergency system is necessary, housing and support services can have the most lasting impact. Governor Patrick often describes our Administration’s efforts to help others by offering a “hand up, not a hand out.” We are taking that same approach as we take on the challenge of ending homelessness in Massachusetts. The progress we are making in partnership with legislators, advocates and providers is leading to more success stories. Although this work is arduous and complex, we will not be satisfied until all families in Massachusetts have access to the opportunity and stability that comes with an affordable place to call home.

As always, thank you for your support with this and other issues.


Tim Murray

Friday, March 8, 2013

Frequently asked questions about Ed Markey

Ed Markey has compiled a distinguished record of service as the Congressman from the 5th District in Massachusetts. Now that he is a candidate for the US Senate, it is important that he is introduced to all the voters in Massachusetts. Here are some frequently asked questions about Congressman Markey:
Ed Markey, Candidate for the US Senate

· As a Senator, Ed Markey will work to invest in opportunity for all Americans.
· Ed Markey believes in an innovation economy that will expand opportunity to entrepreneurs, innovators, educators, scientists and workers all across the country.
· Ed Markey believes Massachusetts is primed to lead the way, as we build on the gains President Obama and Democrats in Congress have made to jumpstart our economy. 

· Ed Markey is proudly pro-choice.
· We need someone like Ed Markey in the Senate who will stand up for women’s rights, especially now when extremist Republicans threaten to take away women’s access to affordable health care.
· Ed Markey will work with president Obama to guarantee women have access to preventive care, like birth control and cancer screenings.

· Ed Markey is passionate about issues affecting our environment.
· Markey has one of the strongest environmental records in Congress.
· Ed Markey is the candidate who will bring a green agenda to the Senate, by advancing legislation on global climate change, clean energy and green-tech jobs.

· Getting assault weapons off our streets will be a top priority for Ed Markey if elected to the U.S. Senate, and he’ll stand up to interest groups like the NRA.
· Ed Markey supports legislation to require background checks on all gun sales, ending the notorious “gun show” loophole. 

· In the Senate, Ed Markey will be a passionate voice to ensure equal rights for all Americans, no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.
· Ed Markey has actively fought for marriage equality and has aggressively worked to end discrimination against the LGBT community.
· We can count on Ed Markey to work with Elizabeth Warren to ensure Massachusetts has two votes in the Senate for basic unalienable rights for the LGBT community. 

Q: Who is Ed Markey?
· Ed Markey is from Malden and has served the 5th Congressional District as its Congressman for 36 years.
· He's a passionate leader on issues such as growing our innovation economy and protecting our planet. He has worked to protect women’s rights and stand up for middle class families. He's an advocate for stronger gun laws and taking on the gun lobby.
· For example, in the Senate…
o Ed Markey will champion comprehensive energy and climate change legislation. That work will help cut carbon pollution and create jobs in the green energy sector.
o He always stands up for a woman’s right to choose and supports President Obama’s plan to improve women’s access to preventive care.
o Ed Markey will be a strong advocate for tougher gun laws. He wants to ban assault weapons, like the ones used in Newtown.
· He’s running so that Massachusetts will have two votes in the Senate, along with Elizabeth Warren, to help move President Obama’s agenda forward.

Q: Why should I vote for Ed Markey over Stephen Lynch?
· Massachusetts needs a senator who will work with President Obama and Elizabeth Warren to create solutions…
o On gun control. Ed Markey supports a ban on assault weapons.
o On women’s rights. Ed Markey is pro-choice, and he voted for Obamacare, which improves women’s access to birth control and cancer screenings.
o And on creating an innovation economy. Ed Markey will make sure Massachusetts continues to lead the nation in the high-tech, bio-tech and clean tech industries and job creation.
· Sending Ed Markey to the Senate means having a voice and a vote for the issues that matter most in Massachusetts. 

Q: What would be Ed Markey’s top priority in the Senate?
· Ed Markey always stands up for middle class families. He’ll take on special interests liken the gun lobby and big oil. And he'll help grow an innovation economy that will create jobs of and for the future.
· Ed Markey is a progressive voice on the issues that matter most to Massachusetts..