Governor Patrick issued Executive Order Number 492 on November 18, 2007 that reinstated the Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness (ICHH). Lieutenant Governor Timothy P. Murray chairs the Council, which is working to implement the recommendations from the Massachusetts Commission to End Homelessness. Co-chaired by Representative Byron Rushing and Department of Housing and Community Development Undersecretary Tina Brooks, the 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.
Under Lt. Governor Murray’s leadership, the 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). Using all of the prevention and rehousing resources in our toolbox in the first half of FY2012, we transitioned over 1,000 families out of shelter and motels and into housing, and prevented over 2,700 from having to enter the shelter system altogether.
The Council meets monthly to provide solutions to ongoing systemic barriers to ending homelessness, and has taken on three key priorities for 2012: (a) continuing to reform the ways in which the state responds to homelessness and housing scarcity through the Governor's FY 2013 budget proposal, (b) preventing and ending homelessness among veterans, and (c) preventing and ending homelessness among survivors of domestic violence.