Massachusetts places historic limit on families seeking homeless shelter

Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey signed a spending invoice Tuesday that may implement a time limit on stays within the state’s emergency shelter system, reversing a 40-year-old “right to shelter” for families and pregnant ladies.

The legislation — which incorporates $251 million for shelters beginning this fiscal 12 months — will implement a nine-month limit on stays within the system beginning in June, however the legislation additionally permits for 2 90-day extensions following that preliminary time limit.

Healey stated the spending invoice “dedicates resources to balance the budget and maintain critical services and programs,” in a press release to NBC News Wednesday.

“It also implements a length of stay policy for Emergency Assistance shelter, which is a responsible step to address our capacity and fiscal constraints as Congress has continued to fail to act on immigration reform,” the assertion continued.

Healey added that her workplace is “finalizing details” within the coming weeks to “ensure that families and providers are informed of the requirements and the services that we have available to help them secure work and stable housing.”

The legislation additionally requires the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities, which oversees the state’s emergency shelter system, to determine a rehousing plan that features case administration for these leaving shelters. Families shall be eligible to use for extensions to their stays based mostly upon issues like whether or not they’re pregnant or just lately gave beginning; their veteran standing, employment standing or participation in workforce coaching; their imminent placement in housing; or their must keep away from instructional interruptions for youngsters in public faculties.

Extensions will even be thought-about for these identified with a incapacity or medical situation; single dad and mom caring for disabled kids or relations or single dad and mom with out ample youngster care; and people prone to hurt from home violence.

Massachusetts was the one state to have a “right to shelter” legislation to offer housing for families and pregnant ladies indefinitely. But the state’s system has confronted historic challenges due to a rise in resident homeless families — who’re dealing with one of the vital unaffordable housing markets within the nation — and an inflow of migrant families who discover themselves in want.

The shelter system has housed roughly 7,500 families since Healey set a cap at that number in October, saying in a press release that the shelter system was turning into “unsustainable.”

Healey referred to the exceptional change within the quantity of families who certified for shelter in current months. According to the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities, the variety of families in state shelters jumped from just below 4,000 in March of 2023 to over 7,500 in April of this 12 months — with one other 700 families on the shelter waitlist.

According to the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, a bit of over half of the present 7,500 families within the state’s emergency shelter system are those that just lately got here to the state as refugees or migrants.

State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz, the Democratic chair of the House Ways and Means committee, which was concerned in negotiations with the state Senate on the laws, informed NBC News earlier than it handed that even with its potential enactment, Massachusetts would nonetheless have one of the vital beneficiant shelter programs.

“It’s still one of the most generous, it is probably the most generous program in the country, in terms of what it provides,” Michlewitz said. While some other major cities like Chicago and New York allow only short stays in their shelter systems, “we’re talking months here in Massachusetts,” he stated.

Shelter administrators have argued against the nine-month stay, pointing to knowledge from the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities which finds that the typical size of stays for families within the system is almost twice as lengthy, at about 16 months.

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