Joint Committee on Housing
The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association (MHA), on behalf of our member hospitals, health systems, physician organizations and allied healthcare providers, appreciates the opportunity to offer its strong support for HB659, “An Act to Protect Families Experiencing Homelessness from Having to Sleep in Unsafe Places.”
Under current Emergency Assistance regulations, families that are within 24 hours of staying in places not meant for human habitation can be turned away from shelter, even if the state’s Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD) believes that the family will be forced to stay in cars, transit stations, or hospital emergency rooms. According to the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, more than 600 families in FY2016 were approved for emergency assistance after first staying in a place not meant for human habitation, and in the first six months of 2017, more than 300 families stayed in places not meant for human habitation before being approved for shelter.
HB659 directs DHCD to provide Emergency Assistance shelter to otherwise eligible families with children without requiring families to prove that they already have stayed in a place not meant for human habitation, such as a car, emergency room, or campground. Families currently go to hospital clinics and emergency room waiting areas since they have no other safe place to sleep and need to qualify for emergency shelter services. However, hospital emergency room waiting areas are inappropriate locations for families with children to sleep and such activity only redirects resources away from the healthcare services that hospitals provide. Families who otherwise qualify for shelter shouldn’t have to tough it out in an emergency room waiting area to demonstrate their need for assistance from the state.
Thank you for the opportunity to offer comments on this important matter. If you have any questions or concerns or require further information, please contact MHA’s Vice President of Government Advocacy Michael Sroczynski at (781) 262-6055 or firstname.lastname@example.org.