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Survey: State funding covers half the costs of homeless services

State funding for emergency homeless shelters covers less than half of the actual costs of providing services, forcing shelter officials to devote significant time to private fund-raising, according to survey results obtained by the News Service.

The survey, conducted by the statewide Coalition for Homeless Individuals, a group of homeless services providers, determined that state reimbursements cover 47 percent of the costs of 3,538 shelter beds available through providers.

The findings will be presented to lawmakers at a 10 a.m. State House briefing where service providers and individuals who have experienced homelessness will make their case for more public funds. Organizers said state Senators Cynthia Creem of Newton and Linda Dorcena-Forry of Dorchester and state Representative Joe Wagner of Chicopee are among the expected attendees.


The state Legislature is reviewing Governor Charlie Baker’s $39.55 billion fiscal 2017 budget proposal and the House and Senate are gearing up to pass their own versions of the annual appropriations bill.

According to the coalition, it commissioned the survey in 2015 to examine services covered by state funding through the budget’s “Homeless Individuals Assistance” account. The survey covered 34 of the 40 providers delivering homelessness services to individuals under the line item and it was conducted by consultant Joyce Tavon.

In addition to learning that each shelter bed turns over an estimated 7.26 times per year, the survey determined that funds in the line item cover services beyond emergency shelter, including permanent supportive housing to reduce chronic homelessness and assistance to food pantries and providers who offer day shelters, health care, and jobs training.

“These new survey results confirm what providers have known for a long time - that there are not enough resources available to help men and women in Massachusetts to move out of” homelessness, Lyndia Downie, president and executive director of Pine Street Inn, said in a statement. “Recent increases to state funding have been very important, but our providers need more stable state funding so that we can stay focused on moving individuals out of homelessness.”


State homelessness services and funding are divided into two groups - individuals and families - and the coalition said the main source of funding for services to homeless individuals in Massachusetts has declined by 7.4 percent in inflation-adjusted dollars since 2001.

According to state budget data, about $40.3 million was expended in the “homeless individuals assistance” line item in fiscal 2013, followed by $40.6 million in fiscal 2014, $42.8 million in fiscal 2015, and a projected $44.8 million in the current fiscal year, fiscal 2016. Gov. Charlie Baker in January proposed $43.98 million for the account in fiscal 2017, an allocation that the coalition says equates to level funding due to earmarking considerations. The coalition is seeking a $50 million allotment in the House and Senate budgets.

According to the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center, the account’s inflation-adjusted funding level in fiscal 2001 was $49.1 million.

While some service providers are eligible for federal funding, a coalition official said the vast majority of non-state funds used to cover costs are generated through fundraising.

The coalition’s members include partners include Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, Boston Public Health Commission, Boston Rescue Mission, St. Francis House, Project Place, Pine Street Inn, Springfield’s Friends of the Homeless, and Father Bill’s & MainSpring in Quincy and Brockton.