Press Release by United Way

(BOSTON)  State Representative Joan Meschino, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley and Heading Home today announce that the Joint Committee on Housing has reported out favorably legislation that would create a flexible funding stream to support trauma-informed service delivery, regional coordination efforts, and integrated services for individuals, youth and families experiencing homelessness.

The legislation, introduced by State Representative Joan Meschino this session, would align existing resources to create a Massachusetts Flexible Housing Pool (MFHP), a nimble pot of public and private funds to help meet the complex housing and health needs of individuals, youth, and families experiencing homelessness. The goal of this bill is to expand supportive housing and services for adults, youth, and families experiencing homelessness, and enable funds to get out quickly and equitably to those that need it most.

“This legislation re-envisions our approach to addressing homelessness in the Commonwealth,” said Representative Joan Meschino (D-Hull). “By braiding public and private funding into a single, flexible source, this bill has the potential to support vulnerable residents wherever they may fall along a continuum of need.  I want to thank the Chairs of the Joint Committee on Housing for supporting this legislation, and I look forward to a continued partnership with United Way and Heading Home as we continue our legislative advocacy.”

House Bill 3838An Act to create and implement a Massachusetts Flexible Housing Subsidy Pool Program to address the medically complex needs of disabled men, women, and children experiencing homelessness, has the backing of a broad coalition of 70 housing providers, healthcare institutions, and nonprofit and philanthropic leaders who have been advocating to transform the Commonwealth’s homeless response system and advance long-term housing solutions throughout Massachusetts.

Federal, state, and local leaders recently convened for a virtual legislative breakfast hosted by State Representative Jim Hawkins, United Way and the Southcoast Coalition to End Homelessness. At the event, speakers highlighted the historic opportunity presented by the American Rescue Plan Act funding and H3838 to build upon housing infrastructure and wraparound health services to create a solid foundation for economic recovery, advance housing stability and build a stronger safety net that addresses the complex health needs of our most vulnerable residents.

“We have a truly unique opportunity to test and re-imagine the Commonwealth’s approach to homelessness by creating a pool of flexible funding that enables coordinated, comprehensive action to ensure resources for individuals and families are leveraged quickly and effectively,” said Bob Giannino, President and Chief Executive Officer at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley. “We appreciate the support of Committee Co-Chairs Sen. Keenan and Rep. Arciero in favorably reporting this critical bill. With this legislation, together we will take the strain off providers accessing the state’s patchwork of critical services and supports while strengthening the coordination and delivery of supportive services that help people exit streets, doubled-up housing, and emergency response systems.”

This flexible pool proposed by H3838 would bundle capital, operating and supportive services funding streams so that the most vulnerable community members can get the housing and services they need and shifts the burden from providers to pull resources together from multiple sources.

“House Bill 3838 is an exciting moment in the evolution of how our state housing and health and human service systems partner in a very intentional manner to address homelessness, coupled with needed service access,” said Heading Home CEO Danielle Ferrier. “It is an opportunity to more comprehensively advance and structure the systems in such a way that address the causes of homelessness in a comprehensive, multi-systemic manner, creating a system approach and design that is geared toward ensuring permanency in housing, family preservation and aging in place.”

The state administers and funds dozens of programs to support individuals, youth, and families who are high utilizers of crisis services, including behavioral health, emergency room health care, substance use disorders, shelters and more,” said Giannino. “Currently, the burden is on housing providers, or even the residents who are in crisis themselves, to navigate funding from multiple state and federal housing, health care and human services agencies and access the services to stabilize them.”

Research shows that supportive housing most effectively and efficiently meets the needs of families and individuals in crisis by combining affordable housing with intensive, coordinated services to help people struggling with substance use disorders, chronic physical and behavioral health issues maintain stable housing and access critical health care services. According to a national study from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, this model saves an average of over $6,000 a year per person in healthcare costs.

The Massachusetts Pay for Success Initiative to Reduce Chronic Homelessness – a partnership between the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance, and United Way – shows that supportive housing works. Over the past six years, this Pay for Success Initiative served more 1,000 vulnerable individuals and has demonstrated a savings to healthcare costs in the amount of $5,257 per person per year. 84% of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness who receive supportive services and a housing voucher remain housed one year later.