Mitch McConnell and his RepublicPain pals in Congress are getting their jollies by decimating vital programs for the poor and homeless once again. Call congress and tell them ENOUGH!!!
Decimation of the HOME program? This from our friends at Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association. The congressional Republican WAR ON THE POOR continues. Call your U.S. Senator and say “ENOUGH!!!”
The FY2016 Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) has released a bill that virtually eliminates the HOME program. HOME was funded at $900 million in FY16. This THUD bill funds HOME at $66 million (a staggering 93% cut from last year!).
The near elimination of HOME would have very harmful impacts on housing activities in the Commonwealth. Since 1992, Massachusetts has received $300 million in HOME funds. HOME is a critical resource in the effort to provide housing for people of low and moderate incomes. These funds are used for homeownership, production of rental housing, and preservation – all essential to making sure that people in need of housing have housing options, including people with special needs, the elderly, homeless veterans, and those at risk of becoming homeless.
In FY2015, Massachusetts received approximately $23 million in grants to larger cities, local consortia of cities and towns, and to DHCD for housing activities including rental and homeownership programs. Cuts to HOME will reduce the number of low income households the state and communities can assist. Of the 60 applications in the DHCD’s current rental round, 31 are seeking HOME for a total of $17 million. CHAPA is concerned that cuts to HOME would prevent DHCD from making awards.
Please take action today! The 3 part message is below.
Senator Markey – (202) 224-2742
Senator Warren – (202) 224-4543
Thank Senator Markey and Senator Warren for their continued strong support of housing programs, including the HOME program.
Remind them that the HOME program is critical to our ability to provide affordable housing in Massachusetts, and ask them to oppose the Senate bill, which cuts HOME by 93%.
Tell them that you support removing the budget sequester caps, so that all housing and community development programs can receive the funding they need to effectively serve communities in need. (Please note that this point is particularly important to make in your call – without removing the sequester budget caps, there’s just not enough money to fund HUD programs!)
Since 2007, the City of Washington, DC, has funded—from the City’s budget–a Voucher Program that provides 3,248 city funded Project Based and Mobile Housing Vouchers. Washington, DC is also working on a five year plan to end homelessness. A similar movement to end homelessness is occurring here in Boston that includes our coalition demands that Boston create its own voucher program (Please join in our efforts). Read more on Washington DC’s plan below in an excerpt from Kathryn Baer’s Poverty & Policy Blog.
Upon the founding of the Massachusetts Bay colony, Governor to be John Winthrop preached that Boston, as its capital, should set a moral example “as a city upon a hill, watched by the world.” So ask yourself, if DC can take care of their own by ending homelessness, why can’t we?
The District’s Interagency Council on Homelessness recently released its draft strategic plan for the next five years. This isn’t just another of those plans that officially-established entities produce, when required. It’s truly impressive — and in a number of ways.
The plan has many pieces. And the pieces have pieces. I may have more to say about some of them. For now, I’ll confine myself to a few general observations.
Ambitious Goals, Realistically Defined
The plan establishes three major goals — one for homeless veterans, one for chronically homeless individuals and families and a third for everyone else who is or will become homeless. They differ by deadline, but the basic goal itself is the same — an end to homelessness.
This doesn’t mean, as the plan makes clear, that no District resident will ever again experience “a housing crisis,” i.e., the crisis of not having housing. The plan instead envisions an end to long-term homelessness. By 2020, it says, “homelessness in the District of Columbia will be rare, brief, and non-recurring.”
This, as it says, is especially important for households that have the time-limited subsidies provided by rapid re-housing, but it’s critical for all — both for their own well-being and for the funds it would free up to meet the needs of others.
Enlightened View of Homeless People
Actually, this headline runs afoul of what seems to me an important change in thinking, both within the administration and among some service providers. “There are no ‘homeless people,’” the plan says, “but rather people who have lost their homes.”
They “deserve to be treated with dignity and respect,” which we know isn’t always the way they feel they’re treated now. Nor the way they’ve been viewed by past administration spokespersons, who’ve contended that families seeking shelter just want to live in a hotel room, for free.
The redefinition of homeless people has further implications. One is that they’re all ready for housing immediately, rather than only after they’ve successfully completed programs designed to fix them, e.g., by enabling them to kick drug and/or alcohol addictions.
In short, the plan unequivocally embraces the Housing First model — and quite clearly, in several places, addresses the fact that funding, through the Housing Production Trust Fund and other sources, has supported projects inconsistent with the model.
More generally, the plan stresses economic, rather than behavioral causes of homelessness. It doesn’t by any means ignore needs for services, including those that address behavioral health problems.
But key factors it identifies — and recurs to in its strategies — are the egregious shortage of affordable housing, wages that won’t cover housing costs and public benefits that are even more inadequate.
Another implication of the drafters’ view of homeless people is that programming must meet their needs, rather than expecting them to adapt to what currently exists. This is one of many indications that the drafters envision a system that will continue to evolve.
It’s why they call the plan a roadmap, rather than a blueprint. They set goals. They outline “pathways” from homelessness to housing. They use these, together with data on differing homeless groups to estimate “inventory” needs over time, e.g., the number of permanent supportive housing units required, the number of rapid re-housing subsidies.
But they also stress ongoing data collection and assessments “to understand what is working and where changes are needed.”
A Collaborative Venture
The District government alone can’t end homelessness, as the plan rightly says. Service providers have to make sure their programs mesh with the revamped — and evolving — system. Donors have to align their support with the system and help fill gaps. Developers, landlords and employers obviously all have roles. Churches and other community groups likewise.
Join us in our efforts to make Boston (and Massachusetts) that “City on a Hill” for those who are homeless.
Year after year the city’s homeless die in our streets. Warehousing the homeless in shelters is no solution, it doesn’t work! We say Enough!!! It has to stop!
Join the Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee, Mass Alliance of HUD Tenants, Save Our Section 8/City Policy Committee, Budget For All Coalition, among other groups, as we pressure City Council for an increase in the Mayor’s Housing budget and for the creation of a city funded voucher program for low-income renters and the homeless!
The Save Our Section 8/City Policy Committee already successfully lobbied the City to increase the Mayor’s proposed housing budget by $1.75 million, to offset federal housing cuts. However, these funds were earmarked for senior housing programs also in need (already a problem due to gentrification and an aging population, the city is likely to face a sharp increase in elderly homelessness in upcoming years). However, $1.75 million falls drastically short of the funding needed for those now homeless who are struggling and dying in our streets – can that be because the homeless can’t readily vote so some city pols don’t care to prioritize helping them?
Recently, members of our coalition met with the Department of Neighborhood Development and testified before City Council to request an increase of city funds for housing. We also asked the City to create a city-funded Voucher program to provide permanent rental housing for low income families and individuals that would help the city’s homeless.
Since 2007, the city of Washington, DC, has funded – from the City’s budget – a Voucher Program that provides 3,248 city funded Vouchers (both Project Based and Mobile Vouchers) for low income renters. Washington, DC is also planning a five year effort to end homelessness. If DC can do it, why can’t Boston?
We are asking the Boston City Council to add at least $5 million to the City’s budget for housing, and to earmark these funds for at least a Pilot Program to provide 400 Vouchers for the City’s homeless and low income families and individuals. The Council will be deciding on its budget priorities in the next two weeks so Boston residents need to act now!
Contact the Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee at 617-797-5557 to RSVP or if you have any questions.
A primer by Evan Horowitz of The Globe on what he justifiably re-labels as the Heroin Overdose Crisis. The article highlights alarming trends in heroin overdose deaths over the past several years. The state recently confirmed that 1,008 died from an opioid overdose in Massachusetts last year with those numbers expected to be revised upward. That is about three deaths a day and far higher than deaths from automobiles or gun violence. Many of those who have died were homeless. How many died unnecessarily after being kicked-out or cut-off from programs resulting from the infamous Long Island Bridge closing is speculative, but The Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee assumes that the sudden loss of a treatment beds for those struggling to stay clean led to further tragedies. Mayor Walsh and Governor Baker have been put on notice by us and other groups that this all has to end. We await the soon to be released recommendations from the Governor’s Opioid Working Group hoping they will be a step in the right direction.
In the meantime, The Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee is organizing a group summit of interested activist groups and other organizations to unite and pressure for further state action on the overdose crisis. If your group is interested in participating please get in touch with Gerry at 617-721-5347.
Heroin claimed three lives last week in Lynn, the latest deaths in an opioid crisis that has been escalating across the state for years. In search of a more durable solution, Governor Charlie Baker appointed a high-level working group, which heard from experts on the front lines as well as parents still mourning the loss of their kids.
One challenge in this fight may be the word “opioid” itself. It can refer to very different kinds of drugs, including prescriptions pain killers like OxyContin but also heroin. And whereas prescription opioids have actually become less pervasive in recent years — across all ages and most parts of the country — heroin use has been growing.
State statistics tend to lump together these two kinds of opiates, but if the national trends can be trusted, the state’s opioid crisis may be better understood as a heroin crisis. And understanding that could change how we approach the problem and save lives.
How serious is the opioid crisis?
Opioid-related deaths in Massachusetts have risen substantially over time, and they jumped nearly 50 percent in 2013, from 668 to 978.
Annual deaths in Massachusetts (2012)
(DATA: CDC, DPH.)
Back up — what’s an opioid again?
Opioids are among the oldest drugs, having been used for centuries to treat pain and produce states of euphoria. They come from poppy plants, but they can also be purified and synthesized in various ways. Familiar opioids include morphine, codeine, heroin, hydrocodone, oxycodone, fentanol, and others.
Is the crisis about opioids or heroin?
State-level data doesn’t distinguish between heroin and prescription pain meds, but the national picture is pretty clear. Prescription-type opioids do in fact kill more people, but their use seems to have plateaued. By contrast, heroin-related deaths have shot up since 2010.
Is it unique to Massachusetts?
It doesn’t seem to be. While the Centers for Disease Control doesn’t track heroin or opioid-related deaths across states, it does track total drug overdoses, and every nearby state has seen a large uptick.
Increase in overdose deaths 2010-2013
Who is being affected?
Again, the state-level data are somewhat limited, but the nationwide heroin and opioid scourge is chiefly affecting working-age adults, including many women, and is especially pronounced among non-Hispanic whites.
Is this crisis driven by rising drug use?
Here in Massachusetts, drug use has actually been declining. In the decade between 2002-3 and 2012-13, hard drug use (that is, drugs other than marijuana) fell. Likewise, over that same time period, illegal use of prescription pain meds dropped substantially.
Still, these kinds of overall trends can hide a lot of important variations. Even if fewer people are using drugs, a shift from less-deadly types like ecstasy to more-deadly types like heroin could cause a major public health problem, including more overdoses and overdose deaths.
What is Massachusetts doing?
The state has been taking a multipronged approach. It supports treatment and reintegration programs, including some which involve suboxone and other milder drugs that have been shown to help addicted patients stabilize their lives so they can stay clean for the long-term.
To deal specifically with the issue of prescription pain meds, the state has also invested in a prescription monitoring program, which lets doctors keep an eye on patients who might be getting drugs from multiple sources.
The fact that the opioid crisis may increasingly be a heroin crisis might seem a reason to de-emphasize the prescription monitoring plan. But even if prescription drug abuse isn’t growing, it remains an enormous problem. Plus, for some people, prescription opioids can be a step on the path toward more serious drugs.
What else can be done?
Part of the charge of the governor’s new opioid working group is to search for the best, most effective approaches. And the fact that the group includes the attorney general and the head of the Department of Health and Human Services is a sign that its recommendations will be taken seriously.
One open question, however, is whether this is really the kind of issue the state can tackle on its own. Given that heroin use seems to be surging around the region and across the country, the most effective approaches may require cooperation across states, including efforts to monitor state borders for smuggling and also commitments to share information about effective treatments.
The Patriot Ledger: On April 2, before an overflow crowd in the State House, 16-year-old Barbara Lynn O’Brien of East Bridgewater spoke before judges, legislators, and Attorney General Maura Healey, Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders and Gov. Baker. Her voice shaking at times, other times breaking into sobs, Barbara told the members of the Governor’s Opioid Addiction Working Group the story of how addiction has affected her family. When she finished, the room exploded into applause. This is what she read:
BARBARA O’BRIEN: My brother is a [homeless] heroin addict and a human being.
My name is Barbara O’Brien. I am 16-years-old and I go to East Bridgewater High School. My brother Shayne is a heroin addict and has been struggling with his addiction for eight years. Not only does Shayne’s addiction affect his life but it affects everyone around him more than he probably realizes. The time and tremendous amounts of effort it takes to try and help an addict makes you feel hopeless.
Although I am very young, this issue has affected my life dramatically. There would be nights when my mom would not come home because she would be out looking for Shayne to try and help him get into treatment. There were nights when I would cry because I didn’t know where my brother was because I hadn’t heard from him in over a month.
People don’t take this issue of addiction as seriously as it needs to be. Schools need to be more involved in educating students and providing resources for the students in the school who struggle with their family members who have addiction issues.
I used to be embarrassed to say that my brother was an addict because kids would look at me differently or think something was wrong with me just because of my brother. My feelings on why this happens are because kids in high school and adults think that anyone who is a drug addict is a bad person which is absolutely false!
The D.A.R.E program was only mentioned to me in seventh and eighth grades when I would go to a classroom for about an hour and listen to an officer tell stories about the situations he dealt with on the police force. There was no explanation given as to why and no one would ask questions because they were afraid.
If more people were educated on this topic, kids would not be so afraid to talk about it because they would realize they are not alone when they are struggling with a family member who is an addict.
I often talk to people about my brother’s addiction now because I want to educate people and let them know that it is OK. I try to tell them that it’s OK and that I know how they feel dealing with all the drama and stress they have in life because one person in their family has made a mistake and they don’t realize how much they are actually affecting the people around them. Just hearing that from me is not enough. I don’t have all the answers.
For reasons like this, resources need to be available in all towns to people of all ages so that the problems the families are struggling with can be fixed and, more importantly, the struggling addicts are dealt with faster.
For example, my brother from East Bridgewater had to go all the way down to Florida to be in a program that he is actually successful in just so that he can be alive and not have the disease of addiction take his life from him. I know that there are a lot of good treatment places in the local area but not enough.
I am trying to get across to all who are listening that I think there needs to be more resources for families and addicts to get help because if there were, people would have more hope for their loved ones struggling and the people who are not educated would not feel all alone. No one should feel alone.
I used to feel alone but now that I have taken the time to educate myself, I try to be there for the people around me because they have no one to go to.
Barbara Lynn O’Brien is a sophomore at East Bridgewater Junior/Senior High School. She is the daughter of Lynnel Cox, founder of Hand Delivered Hope, a statewide group of concerned citizens affected by substance abuse who work to educate the general public and raise awareness to break down the walls of stigma and shame.
TO: JAY ASH, SECRETARY OF HOUSING AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT FOR THE COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS
Tell Philadelphia Insurance: It’s wrong to deny claims for life-saving addiction service providers.
Launch a full inquiry into the immoral decision of Philadelphia Insurance to deny the insurance claims of Victory Programs and Bay Cove Human Services. Use the full power of your office to protect the people of Massachusetts during this officially declared opiate overdose state of emergency.
Why is this important?
When the only bridge to Boston’s Long Island was abruptly closed due to critical structural failures, hundreds of people who were in the middle of life-saving addiction recovery programs had to be evacuated in a matter of hours. They could not even bring their clothes or belongings along with them. It was an emergency, it was a disaster. As people of faith we did what we could. We opened the doors of our houses of worship to provide the displaced warm places to stay, we treated them with the dignity that they deserve as children of God.
What was most desperately needed, however, was something that requires specialized training and facilities we cannot possibly provide. Victory Programs and Bay Cove Human Services—the two largest addiction recovery service providers on the island—needed to relocate their services off of the now inaccessible island.
Luckily, they had insurance for just such a circumstance. Both had policies that covered the costs associated with an interruption of their operations as a result of an emergency. But when they filed claims to help relocate these life saving services, Philadelphia insurance denied their claims.
The reason? Routine maintenance was not covered by their policy.
An emergency bridge closure and the subsequent demolition of the bridge are not “routine maintenance”. Even more troubling is what came next. Philadelphia insurance canceled their policies entirely, forcing these life saving service providers to find new insurance policies at triple the cost.
As people of faith, this cold-hearted response to a public health disaster would shock the conscience at any time. But the Long Island Bridge disaster is actually two disasters rolled into one. It was a major interruption of addiction recovery services that happened at the worst possible time: during an ongoing officially declared state of emergency because of opiate deaths.
This officially declared state of emergency, though unprecedented, is no surprise. It is playing out every day in the headlines and on our sidewalks, in open air drug markets and in our medicine cabinets, in the inner city and in small towns. People are dying from opiate overdoses in previously unthinkable numbers. In December alone in Massachusetts, one hundred fourteen people died from opiate overdoses. Tragically, hundreds more have died in the months since.
Like the fire department after an earthquake, Victory and Bay Cove are critical parts of public safety infrastructure. They are saving lives during an emergency and so the Commonwealth must extend them every protection and accommodation possible as long as this state of emergency continues. As people of faith, we believe in a God of second and third and fourth chances, a God who is always faithful and doesn’t abandon people in need. That is why we strongly support Victory and Bay Cove. Not only because they are critical to the public good but because Victory and Bay Cove are doing the work of God, saving lives one person at a time. We know, as they know, that children of God are always more than their addictions and that as long as there is life there is hope.
You have the authority, Mr. Secretary, to oversee the operations of all insurance companies. Insurance companies exist as a way to pool risk. They exist so that when disasters occur, affected people and businesses can recover. The Long Island Bridge disaster is exactly the reason insurance companies exist, so that life saving services can continue even in the face of extraordinary events. For Philadelphia to put profits before people’s lives during a state of emergency is irresponsible and morally outrageous.
We believe in the new administration and we believe you can be a strong and tireless public servant who will stand up for the people of Massachusetts during this time of emergency. We call on you, Secretary Ash, to open an inquiry into this decision by Philadelphia Insurance. We implore you, meet with representatives of Religious Leaders for Long Island Refugees, we will support your efforts with the full weight of our moral voice.
Six months and counting since Long Island was closed. Still the city has not replaced about half of the drug treatment beds that were lost.
The Globe gets it right. Mayor Walsh and the city can’t seem to get their act together to fix the drug treatment bed shortage. And based on how they seem addicted to the bad decisions they have made, we at BHSC can’t help but ask, “do they really care enough to do so?” According to a Globe story earlier this year, more than 70 fatal opioid overdoses a month were being investigated by State Police (excluding deaths that have occurred in Boston, Worcester and Springfield). With people dying, Walsh and his administration need an intervention by the state. Do it Governor Baker! Make it so!
By The Editorial Board APRIL 22, 2015
LAST YEAR’S abrupt closure of the Long Island bridge put the work of several Boston nonprofits in jeopardy, and the state should be playing a more active role in helping them — and saving the critical addiction-treatment services they provide. Attorney General Maura Healey has stepped up to the challenge, providing legal help to Bay Cove Human Services and Victory Programs, both of which were housed on the island. Governor Charlie Baker’s administration has helped too, by granting them some flexibility in meeting their state contracts. But the governor could help Bay Cove and Victory Programs solve their most immediate problem by allowing them temporary use of state facilities.
Victory operated a 47-bed rehab center for women on Long Island, while Bay Cove provided detox treatment for about 100 people a week. With the state in the midst of an addiction epidemic — something both Healey and Baker have vowed to tackle — those aren’t services that the state can afford to lose for good. The initial plan to move the services to the former Radius Hospital site fell through amid community opposition. Since then, Boston officials have helped the nonprofits look for new real estate, but more than six months after the bridge’s closure, neither of the two had yet secured a permanent location — though the CEO of Bay Cove said in an interview this week he was hopeful of finding new space soon.
To add insult to injury, the insurance company that covered both nonprofits rejected their business-interruption claims, a ridiculous decision that Healey is helping them fight. The bridge’s closure would seem like an almost textbook example of business interruption over which the agencies clearly had no control. Regardless, legal disputes can drag on for years, and unless the insurance money comes through, it’ll be even harder for the agencies to find replacement facilities in Boston.
That’s where the state could help. The state-owned Shattuck Hospital, for instance, is not fully occupied. And the state controls other institutional properties in Boston and nearby.
Letting either service provider wither away, because of a bridge closure completely outside their control, would be a self-inflicted setback in the state’s fight against addiction. The providers have expertise that the state should want to preserve, and if all it takes is an agreement to rent a state facility, it would be well worth the effort to find one.
Homeless March to Demand State Action on Homelessness, Opioid Addiction Crises
Who: The homeless, the formerly homeless, and their supporters.
What: March and Rally to Demand State “Intervention” to Reopen Long Island to End Opioid Addiction Crisis and Provide “Housing First” for the Homeless.
Where: Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (Woods Mullins Shelter, corner of Mass Ave and Albany St.) and Boston Common by the State House.
When: Thursday, April 23, 10 AM at Albany St. and Mass Ave., Noon at the State House (approximate).
Background: Six months after the City of Boston’s abrupt termination of 260 people in 11 addiction recovery programs on Long Island in Boston Harbor, 9 programs serving 185 people remain closed, including more than half the detox beds in Greater Boston. More than 2,000 people have been denied detox since October—doubtless a factor in the state’s spike in opioid deaths. While some new beds have opened at Southampton Street for 450 homeless people also kicked off of Long Island, hundreds still remain on cots and floor mats at shelters across the City in unsanitary and inhumane conditions.
In response, scores of homeless activists will march to the State House to demand immediate action by Governor Baker. Organized by the Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee (BHSC), marchers will leave the Woods Mullins Shelter at Mass Ave. and Albany St. and march down Washington St. to the State House. To highlight their plight marchers will make symbolic stops at homeless organizations en route.
“The state’s homelessness crisis has gone on for too long, and the closing of the Long Island facilities last year made it worse,” according to homeless BHSC member Cleve Rea. “Beacon Hill must recognize the crisis for what it is, an emergency! The state must create and fund an effective plan to end homelessness now!”
“We understand that there is a state budget deficit,” said Jesse Maxwell, a homeless BHSC member who shelters in Cambridge, “but providing housing is more cost effective than warehousing us in filthy shelters and fleabag motels. And it better ensures that the most vulnerable who are homeless–the elderly, the mentally ill, the handicapped and the sick–get the services, dignity, and respect they deserve.”
Marchers also demanded that the state follow through on its promise to end the opioid drug overdose crisis in Boston, as well as statewide. The BHSC will deliver a letter to state officials demanding they take the lead. “The City is addicted to a bad decision (the evacuation of Long Island) and needs an intervention by the State to solve this crisis,” the letter states. “There is no reason why the Long Island campus cannot be re-opened this summer <using a ferry> …to make this happen now.”
“People are overdosing and dying daily. This is an emergency situation!” according to BHSC homeless member and recovered drug user Aubri Esters. “Mayor Marty Walsh and his administration need an intervention by the state NOW to insure those Long Island addiction stabilization and recovery beds are replaced, even including reopening programs on Long Island itself if necessary. More beds must also be added throughout the state.”
“These programs saved my life,” she added, “get them up and running and they can save many others.”
INTERVIEW AND PHOTO OPPORTUNITIES AT WOODS MULLINS, BOSTON COMMON.
The homeless and concerned community members formed the Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee in response to the chaotic shutdown of Long Island. That shutdown threw 700 already homeless people into the streets of Boston with no planning or notice.
Who:The homeless, the formerly homeless, and their supporters. Where: Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program (Woods Mullins Shelter,corner of Mass Ave and Albany St.) and Boston Common by the State House. When:Thursday, April 23, 9:45 AM at Albany St. and Mass Ave., Noon at the State House (approximate). What: Homeless March and Rally for Dignity, Respect, and Ending to Homelessness and Opioid Drug Crisis. Demand action by the state.Housing not Warehousing! Housing is a right!
Demand immediate adequate, sanitary housing for the homeless as well as restoration of recovery and detox services lost since the Long Island Bridge Disaster of October 8th…a crisis of neglect that should have been foreseen that resulted in evacuation of the Long Island Shelter with 4 hrs notice.
Rally and march to demonstrate the need for full restoration of programs in the past six months! Rally and march to demand an end to the crisis of homelessness!
Join the organized homeless community and supporters to raise an outcry for immediate remedies.
No more overdose and homelessness deaths! Housing first now!