On her ongoing efforts to address the issue of homelessness in Boston, on March 17 Mayor Michelle Wu announced the formation of a Special Commission to End Family Homelessness made up of non-profit leaders and experts from both city and state agencies. The commission will study local family homelessness and will be tasked with developing a plan to prevent and end family homelessness in Boston.
“Boston’s housing crisis has been pushing families out of our city,” said Mayor Michelle Wu. “I’m grateful to the members of this Commission and look forward to their work to prevent and end family homelessness in Boston.”
In 2020, a city ordinance was passed to establish a Special Commission to End Family Homelessness. The purpose of the Special Commission is to develop an actionable and measurable plan to end family homelessness in Boston. The ordinance names members for the commission including the Mayor of Boston, the City’s Chief of Housing, the City’s Chief of Health and Human Services, the Boston Public Schools Superintendent, as well as state seats including the Governor of Massachusetts, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Community Development, representatives from the Boston Legislative Delegation, homeless service providers and individuals with lived experience of homelessness or housing insecurity.
“As the Chair of Public Health, Homelessness and Recovery, I am proud to be a member of the Commission on Family Homelessness,” said Erin Murphy, Boston City Councilor At-Large. “I look forward to our work ahead as we collaborate together to create a coordinated plan to end family homelessness in Boston. There is such a negative impact on the health and educational progress of children who are homeless, so we need to come up with a concrete action plan to end this crisis. I am ready to partner with the other members on this Commission to make ending family homelessness a reality.”
Boston currently works with nonprofit and community partners to coordinate housing and services for homeless individuals in Boston. It applies for and distributes grants, collects and reports data about homelessness in Boston, and sets system-wide policies and goals. Since 2015 the City of Boston has reduced individual chronic homelessness by 19 percent, reduced Veteran homelessness by 32 percent, and has transformed the homeless services system into a coordinated network focused on helping the most vulnerable households across our City. The City has helped to house over 15,000 people experiencing homelessness, housed over 1,000 chronically homeless individuals and more than 1,300 homeless veterans.
“Mayor Wu’s Special Commission is a tremendous leap forward for Boston in understanding, planning, and tackling the unique housing and support needs of homeless children and their parents,” said Larry Seamans, President of FamilyAid Boston. “As one of the city’s oldest and largest providers of housing supports for homeless families, we look forward to working with the commission to further the goal of ending family homelessness in Boston.”
“During my time on the council, I was proud to pass the legislation to create the Special Commission to ensure our City always had an actionable plan to end family homelessness,” said former City Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George. “I believe that this Commission is essential to tackling the racial, economic, and institutional barriers to supporting our most vulnerable families experiencing housing insecurity. I am so grateful for the members of this Commission for their dedication to Boston families and ending family homelessness.”
The City of Boston contributes significant resources to ending family homelessness, including BHA’s preference for homeless families, MOH’s homeless set-aside policy, and homelessness prevention programs managed by the Office of Housing Stability. The Massachusetts DHCD funds and manages a statewide shelter system for families and invests in short and long-term housing resources to house homeless families out of shelter. To execute the strategic plan that the commission recommends, Boston will need to collaborate with the state to build a well-coordinated system to ensure resources reach the households with the greatest needs. A coordinated system will promote a housing-centered response to family homelessness, strengthen housing pathways and expand eviction prevention partnerships to prevent and end family homelessness in Boston.
The United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley agreed to convene the Commission, and the Mayor’s Office of Housing has hired the Technical Assistance Collaborative (TAC) to work with the Commission to develop a strategic plan to end homelessness among families in Boston on the following timeline.
February 2022: Preliminary Map of Resources and Responsibilities
March 2022: Data analysis and Gaps Analysis
April 2022: Facilitate focus groups and planning meetings with core constituencies and stakeholders to review gaps analysis and use it to establish shared vision, goals, recommendations, and strategies to end family homelessness in Boston.
May 2022: Review draft recommendations with Commission or other decision-makers.
June 2022: Finalize feedback of recommendations and draft plan.
• City Councilor Erin Murphy
• Jim Greene, Assistant Director for Street Homelessness Initiatives, Mayor’s Office of Housing, City of Boston
• Sheila Dillon, Chief of Housing, City of Boston
• Brian Marques, Senior Director of Opportunity Youth, Boston Public Schools
• Kate Bennett, Boston Housing Authority Administrator
• Alvina Brevard, Associate Director for Division of Housing Stabilization, Department of Housing and Community Development
• Kate Barrand, President and CEO, Horizons for Homeless Children
• Catherine D’Amato, President and CEO, Greater Boston Food Bank
• Shiela Moore, CEO, Hildebrand Family Self Help Center, Inc.
• Larry Seamans, President, Family Aid Boston
• Danielle Ferrier, CEO, Heading Home Inc.
• Linn Torto, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness
• State Senator Lydia Edwards
• State Representative Brandy Fluker Oakley