Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Insane Cruelty of Gov. Patrick Toward Homeless Families

I am seething with rage.  For months we at Arise for Social Justice have been fighting to keep the proposed new rules about who's eligible for family shelter from becoming too draconian.  With our allies at Mass. Law Reform Institute and the Mass. Coalition for the Homeless taking the lead, we were able to make some small changes in the regs-- not enough to keep many new families from becoming homeless, but something, anyway, and our thoughts were turning toward this fall and winter and what we might be able to do to find shelter for the unsheltered.

Today we found out that the Dept. of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will be applying the strictest possible interpretations of the new regs-- not that the families described are ones that must be sheltered, but that these are the only families who will be sheltered.  The rest?  Out on the street and out of luck.  The regs were encouraged and signed by Gov. Patrick.

We had a woman in the office today who has a 20 year old underemployed son and an 16 year old daughter with severe autism.  Her husband left them unexpectedly ("I woke up one morning and he was gone.") and she fell behind in her mortgage and every other bill ("He hid how much debt we were in".). Now her house has been foreclosed on, and she has 30 days to get out.  She won't be eligible for emergency shelter. Maybe she'll be eligible for one of the fewer than 500 MRVPs that are supposed to help end family homelessness, or maybe the RAFT Program, a benefit to help families come up with first month's rent and security or other bills....and then what?

Actually we had two former homeowners today.  The second was a 74 year old grandmother with custody of her 10 year old granddaughter.  She hasn't made a full mortgage payment in over a year, and is having trouble getting onto the food stamp program, because she can't provide proof of shelter costs, because she doesn't have any.  They won't be eligible for emergency shelter, either, when they are finally evicted.

Last but hardly least, we met with a young woman with two children and two black eyes.  She's been staying with her sister and her sister's two children in a two bedroom, subsidized apartment.  Her sister was just notified that she faces eviction unless her "company" leaves.  The woman's two black eyes came about because she started hitting herself in the face when she completely lost it, realizing she and her kids were about to become homeless and had no place to go..But she doesn't fall into an eligible category, either.

Every day is like this.

One MLRI lawyer commented, "So we've come to a point where the state's housing agency issues a reg that would define a bus station as a 'housing situation' that is 'meant for human habitation' (because it has lights, heat, running water and toilets).  Thus a family with children living in a bus station is not sufficiently homeless to be eligible for shelter.  This is beyond Kafka."

I feel particularly angry at the service providers and their networks.  In spite of warnings by Arise and others, they put on their rose-colored glasses and gave the new head of DHCD, Aaron Gornstein, a stamp of approval before the evidence was even in. ("He's a compassionate person who really understands homelessness.")  Gornstein and Governor Patrick don't even have the guts to say, "We're done sheltering homeless families,"  but do it all under the banner of doing good for families!

Just as I have said that all poor people in Springfield were victims of last June's tornado, not just those who lost their housing, so all poor people, and the neighborhoods in which they live, are victims of  Patrick's new policies.  The dismantling of the communities of poor people continues.

I'm going to paste some information from the Mass Law Reform Institute about what actions you can take that might help-- we have to try-- try hard and right now.

But first I have to say something about Arise.  We are the only grassroots, poor people's organization from here to Boston and one of only three left in the state that will absolutely go to the mat for poor people, especially homeless people.  I can guarantee you that there's not one organization in a 90 mile radius that, tonight, is anguishing over how poor families will survive and which is also plotting, planning and organizing.  I suppose that's partly because our core members and our staff are all too familiar ourselves with foreclosure, eviction and homelessness.

If you think the work we do simply has to be done, then you've got to support us-- with your commitment, your actions and your cash.  We need donations very much.  Please send us some help at Arise, 467 State St., P.O. Box 5423, Springfield MA 01101.  And call us if you want to take action-- 413 734-4948


Please call today!  Ask the Governor and the Legislature to PUT A STOP to emergency assistance (EA) regulations that would leave homeless children and their families in dangerous situations. (Copy of proposed regulations is attached).

Under the new rules that will go into effect in 60 days unless we stop them, children and their families will be ineligible for shelter even if they
·        have nowhere to sleep except a bus station or a hospital emergency room
·        are in a double up situation where the child is being abused by a neighbor
·        are in a housing situation where the mother is being regularly raped by the primary tenant
·        are in a housing situation that is unfit for human habitation (such as not having running water) and the landlord could fix it but won’t
·        are in a housing situation with lead paint, exposed wires, overcrowding that violates the sanitary code, or infested with rats (as long as the infestation isn’t caused by accumulated garbage)
·        were evicted through no fault of their own (for example, because the landlord wants to put the building on the market) and have no place to go

And many of the families who might meet the new standards won’t be eligible due to new unreasonable third-party verification requirements.

Please call the Governor, 617.725.4005 or 888.870.7770
Ask him to PUT A STOP to these inhumane rules.

Please call your state Senator and Representative via the State House switchboard at  617.222.2000 (or get their direct numbers at 

Ask your Senator and Representative to ask Senate President Murray and House Speaker DeLeo to PUT A STOP to these inhumane rules.

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Pam Howland said...

I Just can't make it on Thursday but will make the calls.

Thanks for your rage.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Michaelann, for a clear, honest look at the compassion shown every day at Arise.