From Staff and Wire Reports
The state's new rental assistance program would remain closed to new applicants for at least the remainder of the fiscal year, limiting funds to homeless families already in the state's shelter system, according to recommendations from the Patrick administration and legislative leaders.
The cap on new families applying for rental assistance through the administration's new HomeBASE subsidy program, which started in August, was put in place by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) in November after surging demand put the program in financial jeopardy.
"The need for these recommendations follows a substantial and unexpected increase in the demand for emergency housing assistance and short-term housing assistance in the first quarter of the fiscal year 2012," read a letter obtained by the State House News Service and signed by top officials in the state Legislature and Patrick administration.
The logjam comes as service agencies in Gloucester and on Cape Ann continue to wrestle with growing needs for temporary shelter.
While the city of Gloucester last week gave its approval for Action Inc. to boost its number of shelter beds from 26 to 34 through April, Action leaders are working to better transition homeless who stay at the shelter to more permanent housing, but have noted the lack of local options and waiting times for available space in the state programs.
HomeBASE is a cornerstone of the Patrick administration's "housing first" approach to homelessness, focused on moving families out of temporary shelters and state-subsidized motel rooms into more permanent housing and surrounding them with the support services necessary to help them pay rent and keep their homes.
Gov. Deval Patrick in November approved a supplemental budget that included an additional $39.2 million for emergency housing assistance, including $18.2 million for the HomeBASE program that increased funding for the new initiative to $56.8 million in fiscal 2012.
But the early popularity of the program raised the likelihood that the state could not afford to continue paying benefits at current levels and caused policy makers to slam the brakes on it last month.
"This is a really important program that provides critical services to families in need and we need to find a long-term solution that is sustainable to preserve this service," said Secretary of Administration and Finance Jay Gonzalez, adding that the governor's budget proposal due in January will likely feature specific long-term fixes.
Material from the State House News Service was used in this report.