Last Friday, July 17th, Governor Charlie Baker signed the FY’16 state budget into law. In the process he vetoed or reduced some line items, and among the casualties were the $2 million for housing and services for unaccompanied youth, and $3 million (of the recommended funding of $90.9 million) for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP).
These cuts are harmful, because both of these initiatives are important in the struggle against homeless in Massachusetts, and they both particularly affect young people in the state.
- Based on a 2013 study with high school students, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education estimates that 4,085 high school students are experiencing homelessness out on their own. Thousands more unaccompanied youth and young adults who are experiencing homelessness are not reflected in these numbers because they already have dropped out of school or have finished school. See our post last month on homeless youth. (The funding for this line item was cut to ZERO from the recommended $2 million.)
- The importance of the MRVP is sometimes misunderstood. Low income families with children, disabled individuals and the elderly are some of our most vulnerable neighbors. Many of these are hard working people in extremely low paying jobs, in a state with a very high cost of living. The Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) and State-funded public housing can provide options and stability to more than 6,665 extremely low income households. Without this support, many of these families would likely be unable to pay for housing.
As early as this week, the Legislature will take up veto overrides to restore some of the funding and language to the final budget. In order to do this, both the House and Senate must vote with a two-thirds majority to override a veto. Help us ensure that youth without homes do not lose their chance to access much-needed housing and services, and that the MRVP program has as much funding as possible to provide housing to families, youth, and adults who are experiencing homelessness or housing insecurity! Please pick up the phone today to call your State Representative and State Senator. Here’s a directory of legislator contacts.
For insights into how meaningful the youth homelessness funding will be to youth, please read these two powerful MA Coalition for the Homeless blog posts by Synthia Kennedy (“We are not the enemy. We are houseless, not homeless”) and Ayala Livny (“The things that matter”), two of our strong allies in the multi-year Youth Without Homes Can’t Wait campaign.
Legislators can be reached via the State House switchboard (617-722-2000), or directly by following this link.
UPDATE: On Wednesday, July 29th, both the House and Senate overrode these vetoes, restoring this funding.
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