Governor Patrick issued Executive Order Number 492 on November 18, 2007 that reinstated the Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness (ICHH). Department of Housing and Community Development Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein chairs the Council, which is working to implement the recommendations from the Massachusetts Commission to End Homelessness. Co-chaired by Rep. Byron Rushing and the Department of Housing and Community Development, the plan called for a new statewide “housing-first” approach to ending homelessness. ICHH members include representatives from fourteen different departments who serve populations that may experience homelessness.
The Patrick Administration has reformed our shelter system. The first step was successfully moving our shelter program out of the Executive Office Health and Human Services and into our Department of Housing and Community Development, which brought a new focus to actually housing people, as opposed to sheltering them.
Next, the ICHH established ten Regional Networks to End Homelessness. The Administration and Legislature appropriated $8.25 million for this pilot project, and the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Charitable Foundation provided $1.3 million to support two Networks and the pilot evaluation. These resources have allowed every community in the Commonwealth to become part of an integrated, collaborative effort to end homelessness by helping families find housing, as opposed to shelter.
Massachusetts is now a leader in the Housing First movement. After taking the best practices learned from the Regional Networks, the Administration developed and implemented the HomeBASE program. HomeBASE brought the Commonwealth to the next level by providing flexible funds to keep families housed or rapidly rehouse them out of shelter (to read more about rapid rehousing, please see the National Alliance to End Homelessness report on rapid rehousing). Between July 2012 and April 2013 HomeBASE helped 1,800 families exit homelessness, and in conjunction with RAFT prevented 3,000 families from entering shelter.
The Council meets monthly to provide solutions to ongoing systemic barriers to ending homelessness, and has taken on five key priorities for 2013: (a) continuing to reform the ways in which the state responds to homelessness and housing scarcity through the Governor's FY 2014 budget proposal, (b) preventing and ending homelessness among veterans, (c) preventing and ending homelessness among survivors of domestic violence, (d) preventing and ending homelessness among older adults, and (e) preventing and ending homelessness among unaccompanied youth.