Homeless priority: eligibility and screening

Learn what qualifies as homeless priority and how the Centralized Screening Office reviews your situation.

When you apply for rental vouchers or public housing in CHAMP, you may be able to claim “homeless priority.” The Centralized Screening Office (Archipelago Strategies Group, or ASG) will determine if you’re eligible. If so, you could receive assistance more quickly.

Table of Contents

What is homeless priority?

You may claim “homeless priority” in CHAMP when you apply for a state voucher (MRVP, AHVP) or for public housing. Households that are eligible for homeless priority may get housing faster. Priority is a way to speed up the application process, not a guarantee of housing, which is managed by housing agencies. A verified priority will get you housing faster—but not immediately. 

What situations are eligible for homeless priority

  1. You lose your housing because of fire, flood, or natural disaster. You'll need: An Official Fire Report or letter from the Board of Health saying your house is uninhabitable, a Federal Disaster Declaration, or an official report from the Red Cross or Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). 
  2. You lose your housing because the city or town claims it for development. You’ll need: Official notification from the government agency taking your land or property. 
  3. Your housing was condemned or deemed uninhabitable. You’ll need: An official “Order of Displacement” because the housing does not meet State Sanitary, Zoning, or Building Codes for a person to live there. 
  4. A court judgment or court document requires you to leave your house. This is known as a “no-fault” eviction. You'll need: A court document evicting you that doesn’t list anything you did to cause the eviction.  
  5. You have a serious illness or injury caused by your current housing, or your housing prevents you from getting the care necessary to treat the condition. You’ll need: A completed “Severe Medical Emergency” form by a verified medical provider. The Centralized Screening Office will provide this form to you. 
  6. You are experiencing an abusive situation, sexual assault, or stalking in your current housing or left your housing because of an abusive situation, sexual assault, or stalking. You’ll need: Official medical, court, or social service agency reports or letters.

Additional Resources

What the Centralized Screening Office will verify

If you claim homeless priority when you apply for a state voucher or public housing in CHAMP, you will receive an email, letter, and phone call from the Centralized Screening Office. They screen all homeless priority claims and veteran preference for state vouchers (MRVP, AHVP) and public housing. They will collect documents to verify priority and determine if you qualify. If you do not qualify, you can appeal their decision.

The Centralized Screening Office verifies important parts of your claim for housing priority, including:  

  • Proof of your primary residence 
  • Evidence that you are or will be displaced  
  • Verification of your current temporary living arrangements  
  • Other important information about your current housing situation 

The Centralized Screening Office uses Commonwealth of Massachusetts guidance on priority verification (760 CMR 5.00), following a process to assess and affirm the validity of each claim for those seeking housing assistance.

Contact   for Homeless priority: eligibility and screening


M-F 8:30am-5pm


15 Union St., Suite 207, Lawrence, MA 01840

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