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Charlie Baker should extend state initiative to reach struggling families

RENÉE LOTH offers sound advice to Governor-elect Charlie Baker: Embrace Governor Patrick's "social impact bond" initiative for chronically homeless individuals ("A new strategy on shelter"). While social-impact bonds are a social sector darling, Baker should also commit to another radically logical idea: housing as a human right.

In 2012, right-to-shelter qualifications were tightened so that families must prove Massachusetts residency and nowhere else to stay — that is, they needed to cite factors such as domestic violence, natural disaster, or that they slept in a place that is not meant for human habitation.

These qualifications produce unintended consequences. Some families find themselves sleeping in the emergency room just to prove they're homeless.


Tighter restrictions that reduce the number of families who are homeless enough, so to speak, to qualify for shelter is no solution to the current crisis. The new governor should continue Massachusetts' landmark social impact bond work by addressing family homelessness.

As pediatricians and researchers, we at Children's HealthWatch understand that housing is a vaccine, and the best way to end homelessness is to prevent it. This has short-term returns on investment through savings in health care expenditures and from ending the need for motel placements. In addition, there are long-term returns in education and career achievement of children diverted from homelessness who become drivers of a thriving economy.

Richard Sheward
Senior policy analyst
Children’s HealthWatch