To the MHSA Community:
We are thinking of you at this time of uncertainty, as we all adapt - in ways large and small - to meet the challenge of COVID-19. The precautions taken by Governor Baker and recommended by the CDC are critically important, as we cannot yet comprehend the full impact of this pandemic on our community. What is clear is that the cancellation of large gatherings is necessary for us to protect one another, and it is with that in mind that we are canceling MHSA's annual Home for Good event, originally scheduled for May 7.
Canceling this year's Home for Good will create some hardship for MHSA since we have always relied on the funds raised from this event to close out our fiscal year. We are exploring options to find another way that we can come together at a later date in support of MHSA, each other, and the shared commitment we have to ending homelessness in Massachusetts.
Meanwhile, we are actively advocating for the planning and resources necessary to address this crisis both within the sheltering community and for those in permanent supportive housing. We are focused on all we can do to mitigate this illness and its potential impact on people experiencing homelessness and highly vulnerable individuals in supportive housing.
As a statewide intermediary to our member agencies, MHSA has taken these steps:
· We are gathering information from our member agencies to identify the priority needs of shelters and supportive housing in order to advocate for appropriate resources from the Commonwealth.
· We are advocating for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to play a lead role in arranging for alternate shelter quarantine sites since shelters do not have the capacity to quarantine infected individuals.
· We are organizing the network of permanent supportive housing providers to make certain they have technical assistance in planning for the unique challenges they may face.
· We have joined with other health advocacy organizations to assist them in dealing with the impact of COVID-19 on people experiencing poverty and homelessness in their systems of care.
· We are also taking the difficult necessary steps to ensure the MHSA staff is protected from infection and abiding by social distancing guidance while we continue to do our work.
As you take steps to protect yourself, your loved ones and your community, we hope you will also join us in taking action to meet the needs of those extremely vulnerable people who, because of their homelessness, are at great risk during the COVID-19 emergency.
1. First, please consider supporting the MHSA member agencies who are on the front lines of this crisis. MHSA member agencies across Massachusetts provide shelter, housing, health care, and so many other forms of support to people experiencing homelessness who are often struggling with complex medical and behavioral health issues as well. These organizations are doing incredible work with limited resources even in the best of times, and responding to COVID-19 will require implementing additional health and safety measures; adapting to pandemic-related staffing shortages; and the flexibility to adapt as this situation evolves. We encourage you to learn more about the 87 MHSA member agencies across Massachusetts who are doing this work; from our website you can follow links to the websites of individual member agencies to donate directly to them.
2. As we work together to respond to the immediate demands of this crisis, we also know that the adaptations that will be required - including the cancellation of our annual Home for Good fundraising event - will have an impact on MHSA financially. Any support you can still provide would be deeply appreciated. Your partnership will enable us to continue to advocate for the housing and resources necessary to end homelessness in Massachusetts.
Thank you for your support. Please do not hesitate to be in touch with any questions, and please be safe.
President & Executive Director