Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Calls Needed to Protect Homeless Families and DTA Infrastructure

Got this email from Elizabeth Toulan at the Family Economic Initiative, GBLS

The Patrick Administration has announced its intention to transfer administration of all homelessness services from DTA to DHCD. Calls to the Administration and to your State Representatives and Senators are needed ASAP to express concern about the unintended consequences of this proposed transfer as it applies to administration of the family shelter system.
Although we agree there is a need for more housing counseling and homelessness prevention services for DTA clients, and applaud the Administration’s commitment to ending homelessness, we believe that the Administration should not transfer administration of the eligibility determination aspects of the family shelter program (Emergency Assistance or EA) program to DHCD because:
1. There is no infrastructure at DHCD to operate an EA-type system because DHCD provides no other services directly to clients. For instance, DHCD has no offices around the state, does not have a computer system to send notices to clients, process applications or maintain client data, and has no administrative appeals division equipped to handle EA appeals. Given this lack of infrastructure, access to emergency shelter by homeless children and their parents will be harmed.
2. The Administration proposes to remedy this lack of infrastructure by transferring DTA employees to DHCD to operate the EA system. But this would mean that a homeless family would have to navigate both a DTA and DHCD bureaucracy in order to obtain full service. This would move away from a one-stop model of service and cause delays in service delivery.
3. In addition, creating a new service delivery system at DHCD will lead to increased state administrative costs, duplicate existing DTA systems, divert precious state resources that could better be used to fund actual housing opportunities, and make state government less efficient.
4. Transferring enough employees from DTA to DHCD to start a new system from scratch will also undermine DTA’s ability to provide food stamps and cash assistance to non-homeless families who increasingly need these critical benefits to weather the economic downturn.
Many of these concerns are outlined in more detail in a letter that was sent to the Lieutenant Governor last week and is attached to this email.
Please call the Governor and Lieutenant Governor (617-725-4005 or 1-888-870-7770), Undersecretary Tina Brooks of DHCD (617-573-1100), and/or Bob Pulster, the director of the Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness (617-573-1106) to express your concerns. And call your State Representative and State Senator and ask them to contact these officials with their concerns. If you do not know who your State Representative or State Senator is, go to www.wheredoivotema.com
The Administration intends to take formal steps to finalize this plan by the end of January, so calls are needed ASAP. Thank you!

Got this email from Elizabeth Toulan at the Family Economic Initiative, GBLS-- but it doesn't mean don't make your calls!

Good news: Lt. Governor meeting with Advocates on EA Family Shelter
Here's a clarification of yesterday's EA family shelter alert -
- The Lieutenant Governor has agreed to meet this afternoon (1/13/09) with the signers of the letter attached to yesterday's alert to discuss the concerns raised in that letter. This reflects the Administration's openness and responsiveness, which is greatly appreciated.
- The concerns about the Administration's proposal to consolidate homelessness services at DHCD relate ONLY to the administration of the eligibility determination element of the family shelter system. There is widespread support for the Administration's effort to provide more homelessness prevention and housing search/placement services for low-income families and to give DHCD a greater role in that area.
So, when you communicate with the Administration or others on this issue, please include your thanks for the Administration's responsiveness to community input and its commitment to homeless families.

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