First Shelter Exit Notices In Massachusetts Won’t Go Out Until July

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By Sam Drysdale
State House News Service

After previously warning that families in Massachusetts’ emergency shelters could get notice starting June 1 that they have 90 days to exit the state-funded housing, the Healey administration said Friday that it is holding off on delivering those notices until early July.

Healey administration officials said earlier this month that families could start getting kicked out of the emergency shelter system by Sept. 1, after receiving a 90-day notice to exit on June 1. The Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities is writing the regulations to implement a law that legislators passed in April setting a nine-month limit on how long families can stay in the state’s emergency shelters.

EOHLC said Friday that it has not finalized its formal guidance on the length of stay policy approved by the Legislature, so the first exit notices will not go out at the start of June.

“In accordance with the supplemental budget passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, the Executive Office of Housing and Livable Communities will release formal guidance outlining the polices and protocols for the 9-month EA length of stay limit soon. Notices under this new policy will begin going out to the first families in early July,” a spokesperson for the secretariat said.

The first families to exit the emergency assistance program under this new policy will receive 90-day exit notices beginning in early July — meaning they will have until early October to find other housing options — but not all families will be affected by the length of stay policy immediately, according to EOHLC.

Providers have said they are concerned about thousands of families having to exit the system at the same time — putting even more pressure on Massachusetts’ already low-vacancy housing market. EOHLC said it will implement the policy on a rolling basis to ensure that families are adequately supported in their transition out of the shelter system.

Housing advocates have pushed back against the quick turnaround for families receiving notice that they have to leave shelter. Part of their argument is that the law that created the nine-month time limit also funded a number of housing assistance and workforce training programs to help families get on their feet and leave shelter on their own accord.

“Hospitals, providers, everybody understood this was a policy that was going to be implemented in a way that gave us time to scale up immigration support services, clinics, job partnering — these things are actually starting to pay off — but now we’re going to put people out before they’re ready and local cities and towns and nonprofits are going to bear the brunt of that,” Andrea Park of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute said earlier this month.

Many homelessness service providers assumed families would start hitting their nine-month limit next spring. However, EOHLC said they would apply the limit retroactively to the start of 2024, meaning families could be asked to leave this fall. Top Democrats in the Legislature did not contradict that interpretation of the law when asked.

The Healey administration says recent investments in rehousing benefits and shelter supports have yielded a steady uptick in the rate at which families are exiting the emergency shelter system.

Over the last six months, 1,491 families have exited shelter: 197 in December, 209 in January, 230 in February, 269 in March and 304 in April, and 282 in May as expanded housing and job placement services have been funded by the state. The May figure is expected to increase as end of May exit data is reported back to EOHLC in the coming days.

The pace at which families are coming into the shelter system has also slowed since a massive spike last summer.

In the summer of 2023, up to 40 eligible families per day were seeking emergency shelter services from the state. Gov. Maura Healey instituted a 7,500 family maximum capacity for the system last fall, and the number of families seeking services has slowed since, according to EOHLC. Now, about 20 eligible families apply for shelter every day.

Additionally, as the swell in shelter applicants has been largely driven by newly arriving immigrants into Massachusetts, the administration noted that 3,711 immigrants in the shelter system have filed for work authorization applications since November 2023, with the vast majority approved. Of those, 1,081 people have gotten jobs and 1,016 are enrolled in English for Speakers of Other Languages classes.

About Michael Silvia

Served 20 years in the United States Air Force. Owner of New Bedford Guide.

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