Through our public policy work, One Family amplifies the voices of the families we serve.
We advocate for government policies and resources to support families experiencing or at risk of homelessness in their journeys towards greater self-sufficiency, with a particular focus on preventing family homelessness before it occurs. One Family Scholars, Credential to Career Coaching participants, One Family Board members, staff, and supporters engage directly with policymakers to advance these advocacy goals.
Public Policy Achievements
Working collaboratively as a member of the Healthy Families EITC Coalition, One Family was part of the successful effort to significantly increase the Massachusetts Earned Income Tax Credit. This policy change will put money directly in the pockets of families headed by working parents, helping over 400,000 low-income working Massachusetts families to make ends meet. As a result of this victory, a Massachusetts family with two children eligible for the maximum credit will receive $1,684.80, an increase of 30%.
By engaging One Family Scholars in our Public Policy efforts, One Family supported the leadership development of dozens of One Family Scholars, equipping them with advocacy skills that they can now use in ongoing efforts to make positive change. Going forward, we will also support Credential to Career Coaching participants in building their advocacy skills.
As a result of the efforts of One Family program participants, Board members, and staff to engage their state legislators, and a legislative push spearheaded by State Representative Kay Khan and State Senator Jamie Eldridge, in July of 2019 the Mass. Legislature included continued funding for the One Family Scholars program in the State Budget. Outreach to Governor Baker and members of his administration helped to ensure that this investment in the One Family Scholars program was included in the FY20 Budget signed into law by the Governor.
Massachusetts State Representative Jack Lewis discusses One Family's approach and accomplishments during a legislator panel at One Family's Leadership Retreat - March 22, 2019.
Facts on Family Homelessness
The State of Family Homelessness
184,661 homeless people in the U.S. are parents and children who live together as a family. (i)
As of Oct. 2018, 3,647 Massachusetts families were living in homeless shelters overseen by the Massachusetts DHCD. (ii)
Each day in Massachusetts, there are over 13,000 people experiencing family homelessness in shelters and transitional housing. Thousands more experience family homelessness living doubled-up, couch-surfing, or in campgrounds and cars. Over the course of a full year, these many forms of homelessness will impact countless other children and parents in our Commonwealth. (iii)
160,000 families across Massachusetts are currently on waiting lists to access public housing (iv)
The Causes of Family Homelessness
The primary causes of family homelessness are a lack of affordable housing and a lack of family-sustaining jobs for parents with limited higher education. Families often fall into homelessness because of an unforeseen financial challenge, such as a death in the family, a lost job, or an unexpected bill, creating a situation where the family cannot maintain housing. Families experiencing homelessness share similar characteristics with very low-income housed families. They usually are headed by a single woman with limited education, and have high rates of domestic violence and mental health problems such as depression and severe anxiety.
The Effects of Family Homelessness
Homeless children often experience disrupted school and educational development. Children experiencing homelessness are:
2-4 times more likely to have mental health problems requiring clinical evaluation (v)
Twice as likely as other children to have a learning disability, repeat a grade, or be suspended from school (vi)
Twice as likely to experience hunger (vii)
Less likely to have adequate access to medical and dental care, with increased incidence of malnutrition, exposure to environmental toxins, and chronic illness (viii)
More vulnerable to developmental delays, poor cognitive outcomes, and depression (ix)
There are significant increases in rates of depression among mothers who experience homelessness (45% to 85%) compared to all low-income mothers (40% to 60%) and to all individuals living in poverty (25%) (x)
i. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Continuum of Care Homeless Assistance Programs Homeless Populations and Subpopulations. 2017.
ii. Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development. DHCD EA Monthly Report, Statewide Summary. October 2018.
iii. U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress. 2018.
iv. Lisinski, Chris. "Secretary Warns "Time is Not Our Friend" to Address Housing Shortage". Statehouse News Service. 2019.
v. Bassuk, Richard, and Tsertsvadze. The Prevalence of Mental Illness in Homeless Children: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis 2014.
vi, vii, viii. American Psychological Association. Effects of Poverty, Hunger, and Homelessness on Children and Youth. 2018.
ix. United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. Ending Family Homelessness, Improving Outcomes for Children. 2016.
x. Bassuk and Beardslee. Depression in Homeless Mothers: Addressing an Unrecognized Public Health Issue. 2014.
Public Policy Agenda
To accomplish our mission of preventing homelessness and breaking the cycle of family poverty in Massachusetts, we have developed three key public policy strategies:
Strategy #1: Prevent family homelessness by providing pathways to greater self-sufficiency
Strategy #2: Prevent family homelessness by providing access to affordable homes
Strategy #3: Amplify the voices of families who have experienced homelessness and housing insecurity
To learn more about our legislative priorities for each of these strategies, download our full advocacy agenda below:
One Family Advocacy Team
One Family's Advocacy Team has launched its second year!
This year's team includes 14 members representing One Family Scholars, C2C Participants, and alumni, all of whom are dedicated to creating meaningful change in our Commonwealth. The Advocacy Team will inform One Family's public policy agenda, and will engage directly with their elected officials around the issue of family homelessness.
Stay tuned for updates on the Advocacy Team's work throughout the year.
Support Homeless Families
Interested in learning more about our advocacy work on preventing family homelessness, or interested in getting involved? Use the form below to contact our Public Policy team: