The Problem of Homelessness
Massachusetts remains one of the most expensive states in the country for housing, child care, education and other basic living costs. The foreclosure crisis, the decrease in federal housing programs and affordable housing stock, the still unstable job market and struggling economy for low income households has continued to lead to an increase in homelessness. In July of 2008, there were approximately 2,080 families in the EA program. Five years later that number has more than doubled, with over 4,500 homeless families residing in the system, with more families being turned away than ever before. (Source: Homes For Families) “With the economic crash we began to see an increase in low to middle income families becoming homeless.” said Program Director Jane Banks, “Families who had previously been sufficient couldn’t continue to make ends meet. Often the only jobs available to them are part time and low wage.”
In Massachusetts, our state policy is to provide shelter and services to all homeless children and their families and not to allow them to live in cars or on the street. This has resulted in more and more families entering shelters and being housed in hotels and motels. CHD is one of over 50 shelter providers receiving funding from the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). Last year, CHD participated in a statewide effort to reduce the number of families sheltered in motels, by increasing our shelter units. At CHD we are proud to be able to serve children and families across western Massachusetts create more stable housing situations for themselves.
As the largest shelter provider in western Massachusetts, we maintain three different shelter models. We have three traditional congregate care programs; one in Amherst serving six families, one in Springfield serving eight families and our newest congregate serving fathers with their children. We also have several scattered site units throughout Hampden County with outreach case management services attached. The third model is the co-shelter model, with 24/7 staffing.
At CHD, we believe that all people deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. We do a lot of work that’s incentive based, rewarding people for making positive choices like keeping children in school, looking for and finding work or improving job skills. We meet people where they’re at, focus on their strengths and build on them. We also work hard role modeling communication and building skills for future success.
In FY 14, with significant wrap around support, 100% of the families CHD moved into stable housing were able to maintain their housing situation. None returned to the shelter system. We believe this is a testament to our families and the relationships we have built with them over the years. Given the opportunity to succeed, along with appropriate support and people who believe in them, our families will and are, successful.
Referrals come through the Department of Housing and Community Development. If you are homeless, or you know someone who is, more information is available at www.mass.gov.