Progress we’ve made for families facing homelessness

This past summer saw fast-paced policy activity with big impacts on families and children experiencing homelessness.

The fiscal year 2023 (“FY23”) budget and the 2021-2022 legislative season came to a close recently, and Horizons for Homeless Children would like to highlight some important changes for programs we closely watch. We thank our elected officials for their advocacy and look forward to the upcoming legislative session!

Below is a recap of policy developments from the past year that will benefit the families Horizons serves:

Early Education Wins:

Critical Funding for Horizons Programming in Shelters: Horizons successfully received $300,000 in funding to support the re-opening of Playspaces and the growth of our successful parenting support workshops across shelters statewide. Families in shelters have few resources dedicated to supporting positive childhood experiences and parent/child relationships. Horizons programming fills in this gap and aims to mitigate some of the traumas of childhood homelessness.

Growing Consensus on the Need for Funding Early Education: The FY23 budget passed this summer included $250 million to continue the successful “C3” (Commonwealth Cares for Children) Program, which launched in July 2021 and helped provide essential support to childcare providers when many were at risk of closing. The budget also contained $175 million as funding set aside to support structural reforms in the early ed system in Massachusetts—a welcome show of support for a service many low-income families need to find stability.

Housing for Families Wins:

Funding for Upstream Homelessness Prevention: The Commonwealth’s program for helping families avoid eviction, RAFT, saw a notable increase of 18% in the FY23 budget compared to the year before. This means an increase in resources to keep more families and children housed and away from the traumas of eviction.

Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) Boost: Massachusetts’ version of housing vouchers, the MRVP program, increased about 14% year-over-year. Horizons continue to support MRVP expansion as a way to provide long-term stability to low-income families with children.

Progress for Families in Poverty:

Cash Assistance Grant Increases: With inflation and the ever-increasing high cost of living in MA, families need more cash to afford basic needs. The Lift Our Kids coalition, of which Horizons is a proud member, worked hard to win a 10% grant increase for Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) in the FY23 budget. This increase, while still below the campaign’s long-term goal, brings monthly grants to a family of 3 up to $783 a month from $712. This increase exceeds the rate of inflation and delivers over $850 more in yearly support to many of the families Horizons serves.

Essential Policy Work Remaining:

While the FY23 budget cycle saw major steps forward in terms of funding expansion for programs serving homeless families, much more needs to be done to ensure that all children have access to developmental services, housing, and early education.

The close of the legislative season this summer meant that, unfortunately, none of Horizons’ Tier 1 bills became law. Legislative change is often a long road, and we look forward to working with our partners to drive big changes that eliminate family homelessness and support the growth and development of all children in Massachusetts. Thank you to our community for your continued support and advocacy alongside us in this important work!