And there are still 29,000 people on their Section 8 voucher waitlist.
That is why the agency's $4.5 million in stimulus grants could not have come at a better time. The Partnership received $4.1 million as a Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Rehousing grant; $450K in Diversion and Prevention; and, $156K in support services.
Recovery Act Impact: Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership
"We would never have gotten to the families we did without these grants," said Chris Norris, executive director of the agency.
According to Norris, the Partnership was able to use the funds to place 307 families, who were homeless and living in motels, in apartments. The funds were used to help these families with rental assistance for a year, wit the families providing a third of that cost.
The funds also enabled the Partnership to provide ongoing stabilization services for those families to ensure their success in being self sustaining. "We work with these families to make sure they know how to be a good tenant," said Norris. "They are building their 'housing resume.'" The Partnership also connects these clients to GED programs, to financial literacy classes and to job training services.
"We are facilitating these connections,' said Norris."We are serving as a safety net, a network, to make these connections and assist these people."
The funds also enabled the Partnership to provide diversion and prevention services which enabled two members of their staff to offer families other options as they came through the front door of homeless shelters in Revere and Malden. Sometimes that involved providing information about food stamps, access to transportation or negotiating with family members. "If we can buy time, that's the best case," said Norris. "We'd rather have someone in a safe environment at home than in a motel."
One of the most significant benefits of the stimulus funds, said Norris, was the ability to assess best practices and processes and apply these results to future programs. "It was like an incubator to test best practices," said Norris. For instance, the funds enabled the Partnership's staff to go to motels and seek out
In fact, the Partnership made a list of recommendations to the state regarding homelessness prevention that include standardizing family assessments and making them part of an ongoing process; providing additional funds for stabilization of previously homeless families; and, establishing and leveraging relationships with property owners.
"The stimulus grants have given us the opportunity to test new theories and innovative ideas," said Norris. "We couldn't have done it before. It has also definitely increased our capacity to provide the services that we know work."