Homelessness in Massachusetts

Homelessness in Massachusetts

Homelessness is a housing crisis that affects people from all walks of life. Many homeless individuals are homeless for a short period of time due to a life-changing event like unemployment, family separation, domestic violence, or unexpected health issues. Others experience multiple episodes of homelessness in their lifetimes, sometimes cycling in and out of hospitals, prisons and other public systems of care. Still others are chronically homeless, staying on the streets or in shelters for long periods of time while struggling with disabling conditions like addiction, mental illness or other medical challenges.

For more, see the research of Dr. Dennis Culhane, University of Pennsylvania.

Homelessness is Expensive

For decades, Massachusetts reacted to homelessness with an emergency response. While shelter and emergency services have saved lives, they are not a long-term solution – and they are extremely expensive. A growing body of evidence has demonstrated that it is actually more cost effective to place a chronically homeless individual in supportive housing than to leave that individual on the streets or in shelter. Average Medicaid, shelter and incarceration costs drop significantly once the individual has a stable place to live and access to support services.

Transforming the System

MHSA’s advocacy and innovative program development are focused on transforming the traditional emergency response to homelessness to a system that focuses on long-term solutions. Rather than leaving people to live in shelters or on the streets for months or even years, we need an effective system that prioritizes quickly moving people back into housing with access to the appropriate support services. Critical components of this new system would include triage and assessment, short-term shelter, rapid re-housing, and permanent supportive housing.

Need for Action

MHSA is at the forefront of the movement to transform the response to homelessness in Massachusetts. But we can’t do it without you. We rely on the support of MHSA member agencies, policymakers, foundations, corporations, and individual donors to make our vision – a society where everyone has a place to call home – a reality. Will you join us?