Press Release

Press Release  State’s Emergency Assistance Director and United Way of Massachusetts Bay Announce New Partnership to Support Safety Net Options for Homeless Families

As Emergency Shelter System Reaches Capacity, $5 Million Grant Program Created for Local Organizations and Community Partners to Stand Up Short-Term, Overnight Sites
For immediate release:
11/07/2023
  • Governor Maura Healey and Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll
  • Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities

Media Contact for State’s Emergency Assistance Director and United Way of Massachusetts Bay Announce New Partnership to Support Safety Net Options for Homeless Families

Karissa Hand, Press Secretary

Boston — Today, Emergency Assistance Director General Scott Rice announced a partnership between the Healey-Driscoll Administration and the United Way of Massachusetts Bay to support overnight safety-net shelter for families and pregnant individuals with no alternative shelter options. As the state’s emergency shelter system reaches capacity, the partnership will create a $5 million grant program, administered by the United Way, to provide funding to community-based organizations, faith-based groups, and volunteer organizations to stand up short-term, overnight shelter sites. 

“Massachusetts is in a new phase of managing our emergency shelter system, and we are doing everything possible to ensure the safety and wellbeing of families,” said General Scott Rice. “We are grateful for this partnership with the United Way and hope that our community partners take advantage of this financial support to stand up safety net shelter sites in this time of great need.”  

“In an ideal world, our shelter system can do just what it has done – flex to accommodate a wave of people seeking shelter – but the reality is our state cannot meet the current demand,” said Bob Giannino, President and Chief Executive Officer at United Way of Massachusetts Bay. “We have seen the many ways that community-based organizations have stepped up to respond to this crisis and are proud to partner with the Commonwealth to amplify its efforts to find additional, temporary safety-net shelter accommodations and ensure everyone in Massachusetts has a safe place to stay. Our next challenge is to develop the affordable housing we need across the state.” 

“The Administration is tapping all available resources to support families in need of shelter, but we can’t do this critical work alone,” said Secretary of Housing and Livable Communities Ed Augustus. “We are grateful to have such an exceptional partner in the United Way, not only for their existing efforts on the Massachusetts Migrant Families Relief Fund, but also for their continued leadership today to administer this safety net shelter grant program.” 

The new grant program is being implemented as the winter months approach to support families on the waitlist who do not have overnight shelter alternatives. Community-based organizations, faith-based groups, and volunteer organizations will be able to apply for funding through an application process administered by the United Way that will be made available soon. 


Prospective safety net shelter sites include communal gathering spaces with restroom facilities and heat, such as community centers, school buildings, and places of worship. Grant funds could be used to support eligible uses that include, but are not limited to, facilities staff, supplies such as cots and blankets, and food.  

This grant program is being supported by existing federal funds targeted at innovative housing and shelter initiatives. More information will be made available by the United Way of Massachusetts Bay for organizations looking to apply. 

In addition, the United Way’s Migrant Relief Fund continues to support the essential needs of migrant families, including temporary accommodations, food, clothing, diapers, hygiene items, transportation, health screenings, translation services, ESOL classes and legal assistance. The fund has raised $1.4 million since it was launched in August. 

The state’s Emergency Assistance (EA) family shelter system has expanded at an unsustainable rate, more than doubling caseload over the past year. Last month, Governor Healey announced that the state does not have enough shelter units, service providers, or funding to continue to safely and responsibly expand shelter capacity beyond approximately 7,500 families – which is expected to be reached by this Wednesday or Thursday. There are currently 7,439 families enrolled in emergency shelter across the state. 

Additional Support for Families 

In addition to safety-net shelter options, the Family Welcome Centers in Allston and Quincy will continue to offer services, including hot meals and basic necessities like diapers, warm clothes, and hygiene kits. They will also work with families on a case-by-case basis to determine safe housing alternatives and connect them with community-based services and behavioral health supports.  

The Executive Office of Health and Human Services will also continue its efforts to connect families with support. That work includes providing access to food assistance programs, mental health resources, and developing new guidance for hospitals working with families experiencing homelessness. 

“Our Family Welcome Centers are an important resource for parents and kids throughout the Commonwealth. Our FWCs remain open and their teams committed to serving families who need assistance to rebuild their lives in our state,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Kate Walsh. “Families can count on the FWCs to go the extra mile to help meet their needs—from complex benefits navigation like SNAP and WIC to fundamental needs like diapers and winter clothing.” 

Governor Healey is also activating 75 more members of the National Guard to provide basic services at emergency shelter locations and support the upcoming work authorization clinic hosted in partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. This brings the total number activated to 375, which includes 50 at Joint Base Cape Cod. 

Work Authorization and Employee Training  

The work authorization clinic with the Department of Homeland Security, scheduled for the week of November 13, will be extended to another week beginning on November 27 to accommodate more shelter residents and help process more work authorizations as efficiently as possible.  

The legal clinic builds on programs currently operated by the state to provide legal assistance to EA families and help shelter residents start working. In the last few weeks, nearly 300 people in the shelter system have enrolled in MassHire and participated in work readiness services, ESOL classes, and career workshops. Many have already been connected with employers like Dunkin Donuts, Market Basket, Walmart, Sysco food distributors, Yankee Candle and Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton. 

“The Healey-Driscoll Administration appreciates our partnership with MassHire workforce boards and career centers as we connect immigrants in shelter with work readiness programs and resources,” said Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Lauren Jones. “The upcoming clinic will be an incredibly valuable tool to expedite work authorization for individuals, and as a result, open more pathways and job opportunities for newly arrived talent with employers looking for skilled workers.” 

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Media Contact for State’s Emergency Assistance Director and United Way of Massachusetts Bay Announce New Partnership to Support Safety Net Options for Homeless Families

  • Governor Maura Healey and Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll 

    Governor Healey and Lieutenant Governor Driscoll are committed to bringing people together and making Massachusetts a place where every worker, business and family can succeed.
  • Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities 

    The Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities (EOHLC) was established in 2023 to create more homes and lower housing costs in every region. EOHLC also distributes funding to municipalities, oversees the state-aided public housing portfolio, and operates the state's EA family shelter.
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