By Nikole Lambert
Homelessness is one of the most preventable crises our civilized society has to cope with, and yet it is a struggle of epidemic proportions. High rent, domestic abuse, and job loss are factors that often lead to a family losing the roof over their head. HomeBASE has offered a temporary solution to this issue from 2011 until recently, because this year it was decided that funding would be cut and the program discontinued.
HomeBASE offers short-term financial assistance in the form of direct payments to landlords and vendors such as gas and electric companies. There is a cap of $4,000 per year for these benefits. The philosophy behind the program is that it is much easier to become independent and stable in a steady home than in a shelter.
Participants must be “Emergency Assistance” (EA) eligible, meaning that they do not have an income of more than 15% above the Federal poverty level of 23,021 for a family of four (MassResources.org). Also, recipients of EA must have been displaced due to domestic abuse, natural disaster, foreclosure, disability, disease, safety risk, a sudden change in family composition, or a not at-fault loss in income source. Benefits can only be used toward certain costs- paying rent, back rent, utilities, training goals, or childcare expenses are among the approved expenses.
This program currently keeps approximately 5,400 families out of emergency shelters. It provides many with the opportunity to take classes that will allow them to get better jobs, while allowing their children to attend school consistently. The state’s goal, ultimately, is make sure no one is sleeping on the streets – especially families with children. The Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership (MBHP) reports that putting the homeless in motel rooms as emergency shelters costs $100 per day. “…It costs less per month to provide rental assistance in a private apartment than to provide emergency shelter,” reads the MBHP report on the HomeBASE program.
Unfortunately, the number of applicants flooding the program was unanticipated; as of October 28th it will be closed off to new applications. The decision to terminate the program will be finalized December 9. If the program is terminated, an influx of 5,400 families will make their way through the emergency shelter program, losing the progress they have made toward stability. With enough support, this can be avoided, and it will save taxpayer money in the long run.