Emergency Assistance - Family Shelters and Services

  • Description
  • Funding History
  • Proposals

Massachusetts is one of the few places in the U.S. that provides shelter, through its Emergency Assistance (EA) program, to all low-income homeless families who meet certain eligibility criteria. Low-income homeless families are eligible for EA shelter if they live at or below 115% of the federal poverty level and have lost their homes to fire, natural disaster, loss of income, were living in unhealthy or unsafe conditions or were forced to leave their housing because they were victims of domestic violence.

The EA program, managed by the Division of Housing Stabilization (DHS) within the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), provides funding for both family shelters as well as for hotels and motels that house homeless families when the family shelters are full.

In recent decades the state has adopted policies to try to reduce the number of homeless families in Massachusetts. In 2010, homelessness assistance programs funded in the state budget moved from the Department of Transitional Assistance to DHCD to provide homeless families and individuals with better access to housing resources. Yet, just as the state made this change, the Great Recession hit. Many low-income workers lost their jobs and housing.

The state made several other changes to decrease the number of low-income homeless families living in EA shelters. The 2010 budget lowered the income level at which families were eligible for shelter from 130% of the federal poverty level to 115%. The 2012 budget created the HomeBASE program which provides short-term assistance to help families stay out of shelters by remaining in their current housing or moving into a new place. The FY 2013 budget further reduced families’ access by limiting shelter to families who meet the eligibility criteria noted above.

DHCD tracks over time the number of low-income homeless families living in family shelters and hotels and motels here.

Updated January 2017

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