Offered in response to a recent op-ed in the Boston Globe, Direct Cash Assistance is a Proven Way to Support Struggling Families
By Kate Barrand, CEO of Horizons for Homeless Children
Massachusetts is an exceptional place to live. As Economic Mobility Pathways CEO and former Acting Mayor Kim Janey pointed out, however, exceptional isn’t always a good thing. The Commonwealth, among other things, is an exceptionally difficult place to live for those facing economic adversity. Massachusetts ranks first among states in the exceptional growth in our rate of family homelessness. We have a so-called “right to shelter” system that directs too few resources at the huge segment of families cycling through the hidden homelessness of doubling up with friends, family, and near-strangers. Through the families we serve, Horizons for Homeless Children sees every day how our contradictory system of complex incentives and inconsistent supports makes family security difficult for too many.
Families with young children come to Horizons facing incredible economic challenges. Some two thirds of the families we serve in our childcare center in Boston earn under $20,000 a year—well below the federal poverty line for a family of two. Many have experienced homelessness due to domestic violence. All have children under the age of six.
The personal stories we see at Horizons are playing out at scale across our state and country as the impact of the Child Tax Credit’s lapse at the end of 2021 becomes clearer. According to Columbia University’s Center on poverty and Social Policy, 3.4 million more children were in poverty nationally in February 2022 than in December 2021. We agree with Ms. Janey, a restoration of these vital funds, whether at the state or federal level, would be transformative when combined with the supportive coaching model adopted at Horizons and Economic Mobility Pathways. Low-income families in Massachusetts do not need to be “fixed” by a patchwork safety net of nudges and shoves. Instead, they need a support system that respects their basic humanity and empowers them to make the progress they seek for themselves.