Letter from MHSA President & Executive Director Joe Finn

In Response to the Killing of George Floyd

Dear MHSA Community:

I have heard the various words the past two weeks used to describe the brutal homicide of George Floyd: traumatic, horrific, sickening, all apt descriptions for anyone who sat for the full ten minutes and watched the taped record of what took place that fateful day. Such words at times can cast the dangerous impression that what happened was an anomaly, an event seemingly incongruous and abnormal.

Unfortunately, that is not the case.

It is not only about the stark historic record of “shocking and excessive” use of force against Black Americans, it is about the many unjust deaths at the hands of both those who are meant to “protect and serve” and those others who are never held accountable within our justice system.

I struggle for words because such words at times bring little comfort to those who have suffered such loss or to those who have dedicated themselves to addressing such injustice.

Such words at times can also screen the larger issue that confronts our nation and whether, as former President Barack Obama notes, it will ever be able to “live up to its highest ideals.” These events occur on a regular basis and highlight the fundamental inequities that are ingrained within the systems and structures of society as a whole. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley of Boston accurately noted that the events of the past two weeks are “layered with the trauma of housing injustice, economic injustice, education injustice, and health care injustice.” There can be no transformative moment from these events without the acknowledgement of this reality.

MHSA’s mission is to end homelessness. In this work, we too must be held accountable. These past two weeks must bring us to a renewed commitment to examining and addressing the social inequities and social disparities that create significant differences in homelessness for Black Americans in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. We endorse the principles articulated by the National Alliance to End Homelessness in its goals to end racial disparities in homelessness, including to confront structural racism and to prioritize “new tools, resources, and research on racial equity and homelessness to help advance the field in this work.” This should include measuring and reforming the disparities in distribution of housing, behavioral health and health care resources that exacerbate poverty and homelessness in Massachusetts.

Toward this end, MHSA is collaborating with our national partner, CSH, in advancing a data-driven process with the utilization of CSH’s Racial Disparities and Disproportionality Index (RDDI) across our housing and homeless initiatives to identify and address racial injustices where they exist. This will be combined with an analysis of factors that create inequity within and across systems of care.    

I was always taught to believe that actions speak louder than words. Now truly is the time for action.

Joe Finn

President & Executive Director