Baker pushes family homelessness program
Plans to steer money for motels to prevention
GOV. CHARLIE BAKER says he plans to make a big dent in the number of homeless Massachusetts families by taking $20 million now being used for shelter and hotel-motel stays and redirecting the funds to services that will keep families in their own homes or steer them to housing in their own communities.
Baker is also proposing $2 million to support homelessness support services for those with mental illnesses.
The homeless initiatives are examples of what Baker believes is his forte, tweaking the policies dealing with a complicated issue to generate better results and cost savings. It will be some time before any results from the new initiative are available, but the governor is confidently predicting big savings by helping families before they become homeless rather than afterwards.
“We don’t spend any money on the front end,” he said at a State House press conference.
The new approach attempts to connect families seeking emergency assistance with supports that will keep them in housing in their existing communities. Mary Lou Sudders, Baker’s secretary of health and human services, said the state’s homelessness problem isn’t caused by a lack of affordable housing as much as it is by a lack of access to services that families need, such as child care, job training, rental assistance, or substance abuse treatment.The $20 million, dubbed the End Family Homelessness Reserve Fund, will be used to provide those services. The program, which will be carried out by private service providers, must be approved by the Legislature before it can proceed.
Baker rolled out the homelessness initiative on Monday in advance of the release of his fiscal 2016 budget on Wednesday. That budget is expected to call for more than $1 billion in spending cuts in the coming fiscal year.