BOSTON (AP) — Efforts to catch families before they fall into homelessness would get a boost under a plan being pushed by Gov. Charlie Baker.
Baker wants to put $20 million into an “End Family Homelessness Reserve Fund.”
The goal would be to get the 5,000 homeless families living in shelters or hotels into permanent housing while preventing others from slipping into homelessness.
Baker said his budget plan would maintain current spending on homeless programs, about $180 million, but would shift some of that money to what he called front end programs to help stem the homeless problem.
Baker said the goal is to support aggressive casework coupled with a focus on prevention.
He said the more aggressive approach is in best interest of the families, and is also more cost-effective than placing a family in a shelter or motel where it may take months for them to receive services.
State spending on hotels and motels for homeless families this year will be more than $40 million, or $110,000 a day, according to the administration.
Baker said his approach is also geared to help families maintain local ties.
“This will keep families in their communities,” he said. “That is goal number one.”
The Republican governor said he also wants to focus on the problem of homeless mentally ill individuals.
Baker has included $2 million for homelessness support services at the Department of Mental Health in his budget proposal.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders said it’s important to create a unique plan for each homeless family and individual to help them get into stable housing — whether that includes child care, education, job training, rental assistance or substance abuse treatment.
Karen LaFrazia, executive director of Boston’s St. Francis House, the largest day shelter in New England, said it’s heartening to see Baker’s focus on family homelessness, but said more funding could help service providers reduce homelessness among single men and women.
“We’re hopeful that the Baker Administration will show the same commitment to homeless individuals across the commonwealth,” LaFrazia said, adding that St. Francis House and other shelters that serve adult men, adult women and unaccompanied youth over 18 have faced stagnant state funding.
“With an increased allocation of resources, our caregivers could provide even more services to help curb individual homelessness,” LaFrazia said on behalf of the Coalition for Homeless Individuals.
Baker’s predecessor, former Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick also vowed to combat the state’s homelessness problem.
In 2008, Patrick unveiled a $10 million initiative with the goal of virtually eliminating homelessness in Massachusetts by 2013.
Like Baker, Patrick also spoke about the importance of coming up with better ways to detect when individuals and families are on the verge of falling into homelessness — and move in swiftly with support.
Baker said his proposal differs from Patrick’s plan.
During last year’s campaign for governor, Baker pointed to his experience as health and human services secretary for former Gov. William Weld. Baker said the administration was able to move homeless families out of motels and into stable living conditions.
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