Worcester Bravehearts Letter to the Editor

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Friday, July 11, 2014

Worcester Telegram & Gazette

To the Editor:

On behalf of everyone at RCAP Solutions, I would like to thank the Worcester Bravehearts, the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce and the residents of Worcester for their generosity and support for our recent “Gone to the Birds Night” at Hanover Insurance Park.

The event, coupled with the Worcester Chamber’s Business After Hours event, featured the first-ever Bravehearts jersey auction and a special birdhouse raffle which raised over $2,200 for homelessness prevention initiatives throughout Worcester Country.

We will not soon forget the excitement on the faces of the children at the game as the players signed their jerseys. The entire night was a wonderful and gratifying experience that made us proud to a part of the community we serve!

Special thanks also go out to the incredible Bravehearts staff, Cheryl Hughes of Clinton for the birdhouse donation and artist Mark Waitkus of West Boylston for the signed Bravehearts print.

We thank the volunteers and those in the community who supported this fundraising initiative. The outstanding show of support proves that the people of the Worcester region stand with RCAP Solutions and our mission of fostering personal and public self-reliance and improving the quality of life for individuals and families in the communities where we live.

Most sincerely,

KAK Signature

Karen A. Koller, CAE

President & CEO, RCAP Solutions

USDA Rural Development Celebrates Earth Day by Supporting Water Quality Projects in 40 States and Puerto Rico

 

Of the USDA projects announced in the following release, RCAP Solutions provided technical assistance on 9 projects in CT, ME, MA, NY, and RI that were awarded funding over the past several years.  This resulted in $34,640,000  in USDA Loans and $59,111,872  in RD and Farm Bill grants for a total of $93,751,872 to small communities for water and wastewater system improvements.  

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WASHINGTON, April 22, 2014 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today celebrated Earth Day by announcing record support for 116 projects that will improve water and wastewater services for rural Americans and benefit the environment.

“Having reliable, clean and safe water is essential for any community to thrive and grow,” Vilsack said. “I am proud that USDA helps build rural communities from the ground up by supporting water infrastructure projects like these. I am especially proud that we can help communities that are struggling economically and those that have urgent health and safety concerns due to their failing water systems.”

Today’s announcement is USDA’s largest Earth Day investment in rural water and wastewater systems. Nearly $387 million is being awarded to 116 recipients in 40 states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The Department is providing $150 million in grants through the 2014 Farm Bill plus $237 million in loans and grants from USDA’s Water and Environmental Program.

Also noteworthy this year are USDA’s accomplishments to help communities with the greatest needs. Sixteen of the Earth Day projects are in areas of persistent poverty. Twenty-nine are in communities served by USDA’s ” StrikeForce Initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity.” StrikeForce is a USDA initiative to reduce poverty by increasing investments in rural communities through intensive outreach and stronger partnerships with community leaders, businesses, foundations and other groups that are working to combat poverty.

Climate change in particular is putting more stress on municipal water systems. Many areas around the country have seen changes in rainfall, resulting in more floods, droughts, declines in snowpack, intense rain, as well as more frequent and severe heat waves. All of these are placing fiscal strains on communities – causing them to make more frequent (and often more expensive) repairs and upgrades.

Among projects funded this year, the city of McCrory, Ark., is receiving $2.1 million to build a water treatment facility and two water supply wells, and refurbish its two water storage tanks. The improvements will reduce high manganese and iron levels in the water supply to provide safe drinking water to McCrory’s nearly 800 residents. McCrory is in Woodruff County, a persistent poverty area that is part of USDA’s “StrikeForce initiative for Rural Growth and Opportunity.”

Paintsville, Ky., is receiving a $4.9 million loan and $2.1 million grant to rehabilitate its sanitary and stormwater sewer systems. This is one of 10 projects funded by USDA that will improve water infrastructure in rural areas of Kentucky. The Paintsville project will serve nearly 2,300 residents and businesses and protect the ecosystems of Paint Creek and nearby lakes.

The city of San Joaquin, Calif., is receiving a $1 million loan/grant combination to replace a contaminated well. The city had to shut down one of its three wells due to high levels of bacteria. Once completed, this project will ensure San Joaquin residents have safe, clean drinking water.

In Ohio, the Erie County Commissioners will use $3 million in loans and nearly $3 million in grants to replace individual on-site waste treatment systems that discharge into and pollute the Sandusky Bay and surrounding areas. The commissioners also will build a wastewater collection system for the Village of Bay View and the neighboring Bay Bridge area. The Bay View peninsula is a vital ecological and economic area in the Western Basin of Lake Erie.

Earth Day is observed annually on April 22 to raise awareness about the role each person can play to protect vital natural resources and safeguard the environment. Since the first Earth Day celebration in 1970, the event has expanded to include citizens and governments in more than 195 countries.

President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values. President Obama and Agriculture Secretary Vilsack are committed to a smarter use of federal resources to foster sustainable economic prosperity and ensure the government is a strong partner for businesses, entrepreneurs and working families in rural communities.

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, has a portfolio of programs designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.

American Renters Still Cannot Afford Rent Nationwide

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On March 24, the National Low Income Housing Coalition released Out of Reach 2014. This is the 25th anniversary of Out of Reach. The first Out of Reach was published in 1989.

This year, the national two-bedroom Housing Wage of $18.92. The Housing Wage represents the hourly wage a full-time worker must earn in order to afford a modest rental home while spending no more than 30% of their income toward housing costs. This means that nationally a household must have income of least $39,360 a year in order to afford a two-bedroom unit at the Fair Market Rent (FMR) of $984 per month.

Wages of renters continue to fall short of housing costs. The average renter in the U.S. earns $14.64, $4.28 less than the national two-bedroom Housing Wage and fifty-one cents less than the one-bedroom Housing Wage of $15.15.

Extremely low income (ELI) households, those with incomes of 30% or less of the area median (AMI), comprise one out of every four renters, and fare even worse when seeking affordable housing. ELI renter households are only able to afford rents of $493 a month, far less than the two-bedroom FMR of $984 and the one-bedroom FMR of $788.

A full time worker earning the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour can afford just $377 per month in rent. A minimum wage earner would need to work 104 hours per week, or have 2.6 jobs earning the minimum wage, to afford a two-bedroom rental unit. While Congress and some states are considering raising the wage from $7.25 to $10.10 over the next three-and-a-half years, this wage would still fall short of the Housing Wage of $18.92. Housing will still be out of reach for low wage workers in every state in the nation.

While the national data illustrate the gap between what people earn and what housing costs, the data that are the most useful for housing advocates are those that tell the state and local story. The five states with the highest two-bedroom Housing Wage are: Hawaii ($31.54); District of Columbia ($28.25); California ($26.04); Maryland ($24.94); and New Jersey ($24.92).

Massachusetts Numbers:

In Massachusetts, the Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment is $1,252. In order to afford this level of rent and utilities – without paying more than 30% of income on housing – a household must earn $4,174 monthly or $50,090 annually. Assuming a 40-hour work week, 52 weeks per year, this level of income translates into a Housing Wage of $24.08.

In Massachusetts, a minimum wage worker earns an hourly wage of $8.00. In order to afford the FMR for a two-bedroom apartment, a minimum wage earner must work 120 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. Or a household must include 3.0 minimum wage earners working 40 hours per week year-round in order to make the two-bedroom FMR affordable.

In Massachusetts, the estimated mean (average) wage for a renter is $17.47. In order to afford the FMR for a two-bedroom apartment at this wage, a renter must work 55 hours per week, 52 weeks per year. Or, working 40 hours per week year-round, a household must include 1.4 workers earning the mean renter wage in order to make the two-bedroom FMR affordable.

The report was released in a press conference with NLIHC President and CEO Sheila Crowley, NLIHC Research Analyst Althea Arnold, and Director of Housing Policy at Consumer Federation of America and former president of NLIHC, Barry Zigas. Mr. Zigas headed NLIHC in 1989 when the first Out of Reach was issued. He discussed the origins of the report. Ms. Crowley emphasized the importance of increasing the affordable housing stock for low income renters through an adequately funded National Housing Trust Fund.

As has been the case each year, Out of Reach attracts considerable media coverage. In the week of its release this year, the report was covered by the Washington Post, USA Today, Huffington Post, CNN, and dozens of state and local print, television, and radio outlets.

Out of Reach 2014 can be found at http://www.nlihc.org/oor/2014
To view NLIHC’s press release on the report, go to: http://nlihc.org/press/releases/4214

Massachusetts State Report: http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/oor/2014-OOR-MA.pdf

WaterSense celebrates Fix a Leak Week

L3_leaks_laundry_31114While Fix a leak week may be almost over, it’s always a good practice to check for leaks in your home!

Easy-to-fix household leaks account for more than one trillion gallons of water wasted each year across the United States, equal to the annual household water use of more than 11 million homes. In the race against water waste, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is urging people to fix household water leaks during the sixth annual Fix a Leak Week, March 17 through 23, 2014.

Water leaking from dripping faucets, showerheads and worn toilet flappers in one average American home can account for more than 10,000 gallons of water wasted every year, or the amount of water needed to wash 270 loads of laundry. These types of leaks are often easily correctable, in many cases requiring only a few tools and hardware that can pay for themselves in water savings. Fixing household water leaks can save homeowners about 10 percent on their water bills.

“A household can waste thousands of gallons from leaky plumbing fixtures and sprinkler systems, which is especially bad news if your community is suffering from a drought,” said Nancy Stoner, Acting Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Water. “Three simple steps—checking for leaks, twisting and tightening pipe connections, and replacing fixtures where needed can help people conserve water and save money on their utility bills.”

Finding and fixing leaks is simple to do in three easy steps:

  1. Check for leaks: Look for dripping faucets, showerheads and fixture connections. Check toilets for leaks by putting a few drops of food coloring in the tank at the back of the toilet and wait 10 minutes before flushing to see if color shows up in the bowl. If there is color, the toilet flapper likely needs to be replaced, which is an easy repair to make. Check irrigation systems and spigots too.
  2. Twist and tighten pipe connections: If your showerhead is dripping, make sure there is a tight connection between the showerhead and the pipe stem. It may just need a twist to tighten or some pipe tape to secure it.
  3. Replace the fixture if necessary: If you’re in the mood for an upgrade, look for WaterSense-labeled models, which are independently certified to use 20 percent less water and perform as well as or better than standard models.

To learn more about finding and fixing leaks, visit www.epa.gov/watersense/fixaleak.

Community Resources Program Update

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Scott Mueller, Director of Community Resources & Chief Rural Affairs Officer

Rural communities across the country are all experiencing challenges with keeping their localities clean, healthy, and economically vibrant.  This past year has certainly shown that the federal and state governments are tightening the purse strings further impacting local communities, but in particular the small rural communities.

RCAP Solutions Community Resources Program focuses on providing technical assistance at the local level to these smaller underserved communities focusing on providing Technical, Managerial, and Financial [TMF] technical assistance to those seeking to build capacity in these areas at the local level.

In particular one area which has shown to be of great benefit to communities is in the area of Water and Wastewater Asset Management Planning [AMP] and Effective Utility Management [EUM].  In order support or bolster any local economy it is important to have the necessary infrastructure to support its existing workforce, businesses, and in many cases tourism economies which demands clean water.

The current trend is to operate and maintain existing systems in a long term and sustainable approach and there are many approaches smaller communities can take towards this end as the monies from the federal and state entities are shrinking.  As such the responsibility for community systems are ultimately lying with the community itself.  This can often be a daunting responsibility and we are here to help communities through this process.

RCAP Solutions is pleased to be able to again this year offer in many cases free technical assistance in these areas to those communities which qualify.  We also provide an array of other Direct Service Contract services to those seeking special and individualized services.

We wish all communities the best in the upcoming year and to find out more information as to our programs and services please contact Scott Mueller, Director of Community Services and Chief Rural affairs officer at 315-482-2756 or email smueller@rcapsolutions.org.

Understanding the Challenges and Solutions to Aging in Place

001_seniorsThe following is from a featured article in PD&R EDGE NEWS, an online publication from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development:

Over the next 40 years, the population of Americans over age 65 is expected to double from 40 to 80 million, and the population over age 85 is expected to more than triple from 6 to 20 million. Complicating these demographic trends is the desire of most elderly Americans to “age in place,” or stay in their own homes and communities as they age. On January 9, 2013, HUD’s Office of Policy Development and Research convened a panel of experts to discuss these looming demographic changes, their implications for American society, and models that enable elderly Americans to access the services necessary to successfully age in place.

An important context for the discussion was provided by panelist and former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros, who, like many Americans, approaches the subject through the lens of his own experiences with his parents. “My mother is 89 years old and lives in the home she and my dad bought 2 years before I was born,” said Cisneros. After some time spent in a nursing facility, his mother’s return home was accompanied by an “almost a palpable expression of peace and joy as she walked through the house.” For most Americans, the prospect of aging in place is not an esoteric policy discussion; instead, it strikes an intensely personal chord, touching on life, death, and the importance of family. Given the visceral connection most of us have to our homes and communities, institutions at the local, state, and the federal levels must tackle the challenges of our nation’s aging population and develop solutions that permit people to comfortably age in place.

Obstacles to Aging in Place

Although most Americans want to age in place, the reality, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services senior policy analyst James Toews, is that too many individuals enter long-term care institutions unnecessarily or prematurely. Homes and communities frequently are not designed to address the needs of seniors. Many seniors need assistance performing activities of daily living and live in environments that do not accommodate their functional limitations.

Following a catastrophic health event, 25 percent of elderly Americans who temporarily enter a nursing home will find it too difficult to leave. Toews identifies caregiver burnout as one of the primary barriers to aging at home — in the United States, family members provide about 85 percent of all caregiving. These family members may be unable or ill-equipped to provide the complex medical procedures their elderly relatives need, and the medical community offers them little support. In fact, this lack of support is a more significant factor in caregiver burnout than the complexity of the procedures.

RCAP Solutions provides a comprehensive array of elder service programs which can assist our aging population and those who are disabled.  Our Home Modification Loan Program provides financing to disabled persons and their families, enabling individuals to remain independent and make structural improvements affecting the safety of individuals and caregivers.  For more information, please click here.

To see the entire article please click here.

 

Families Living Doubled-Up Tripled from 2003 to 2009

 

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A new report released by HUD analyzes data from the American Housing Survey (AHS) and examines trends in household composition. Analysis of Trends in Household Composition Using American Housing Survey Data was prepared for HUD by Frederick J. Eggers and Fouad Moumen of Econometrica, Inc. Drawing upon AHS data collected between 2003 and 2009, Eggers and Moumen found that the number of households composed of multiple subfamilies tripled between 2003 and 2009, from 199,000 to 622,000. Additionally, the number of households containing a relative other than a spouse or a child under 18 rose by 1.6 million during the same time period.

The study defined doubled-up households as households containing a member other than a spouse, or containing an adult child over age 18 or 21. Overall, adult children over the age of 21 were the most common contributors to doubled-up households. Between 2003 and 2009, the percentage of doubled-up households with a child over 21 increased from 47.4% in 2003 to 50.5% in 2009. Doubled-up households containing a grandchild also increased between 2003 and 2009, from 12.7% to 14.1%.

According to study findings, economic conditions have contributed to the rise of adult children living at home. Between 2003 and 2009, the percentage of adult children with jobs in doubled-up households fell from 60% to 57%. The percentage of adult children reporting salaries, wages or self-employment income also declined. The authors conclude that economic hardship is driving household composition patterns, and further research is needed to determine the causes behind the rise of doubled-up households. A 2013 AHS module may provide more data on the links between doubled up households and homelessness.

View Analysis of Trends in Household Composition Using American Housing Survey Data at: http://bit.ly/1e5yQ2g

 

Fifty Years Ago Today

LBJ1President Lyndon B. Johnson introduced the War on Poverty during his State of the Union address.  

The following message was sent out from Robert Stewart, Executive Director of RCAP (Rural Community Assistance Partnership) a national network of nonprofit organizations working to ensure that rural and small communities throughout the United States have access to safe drinking water and sanitary wastewater disposal.  RCAP Solutions is one of the six regional partners within the RCAP network.

LBJ, The Great Society and The Origins of RCAP

January 8, 1964 is perhaps a date in history that you may not be familiar with, but is one of utmost importance to RCAP and much of the work each of you do every day in support of rural communities. It was on this date 50 years ago that President Johnson declared in his State of the Union Address that:

“This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort. It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won. The richest Nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it.”

While LBJ initiated an incredible number of programs collectively known as the “Great Society”, which I will note later, it was the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, creating the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) that would eventually lead to the organizations that we know today as RCAPs. Under Title III of that Act, “Special Programs to Combat Rural Poverty” were created to provide funding to rural families and communities; this assistance included loans that could be made to purchase land, improve the operation of family farms, allow participation in cooperative ventures, and finance non-agricultural business enterprises, while local cooperatives which served low-income rural families could apply for another category of loans for similar purposes. Community Action Programs were authorized under Title II leading to the creation of Community Action Agencies. Federal money was allocated to States according to their needs for job training, housing, health, and welfare assistance, and the States were then to distribute their shares of the Community Action grants on the basis of proposals from local public or non-profit private groups.

Within two years 1,000 community action agencies (CAA) had been established across America. One of these agencies, Total Action Against Poverty (TAP) out of the Roanoke Valley of Virginia, was chartered the following year. Like other CAAs, TAP was focused on helping poverty stricken individuals and families. However, they realized that to help families out of poverty conditions, community water and wastewater systems were required to provide essential services, protect the health of rural Americans and provide a foundation for economic development. These needs went beyond helping individuals to helping communities and to building community facilities. By 1968 TAP decided to expand its mission throughout the five adjacent counties by creating a new organization for these purposes and asking the OEO for support. Chartered as the Demonstration Water Project (DWP), this non-profit corporation received its first OEO grant in 1969. The success of this approach led DWP to approach OEO in 1971 to broaden its operations resulting in the award of a $6 million grant in 1972 to conduct a national program that then formed the National Demonstration Water Project (NDWP) on March 19, 1973 that included affiliates in five other states.

NDWP developed a program strategy involving field demonstration projects, research and publications, an information clearinghouse, provision of management and technical assistance and through the vehicle of the Commission on Rural Water (an ancillary group established by NDWP) a national alliance of concerned individuals and organizations to bring about needed changes and improvements in rural water and waste disposal services. Such awareness building was necessary since at this time millions of rural families were without community water and wastewater services. Between 1974 and 1978 NDWP spent over $9 million through its affiliates (which had grown by 1978 to 16 statewide affiliates and 35 special program agency partners) to improve or create water and wastewater systems in rural America. At this time NDWP funds were primarily for direct construction related costs.

In 1977 the Community Services Administration (CSA – successor to OEO) provided a grant to NDWP to study and survey the possible role of CAAs in water and sewer development in rural areas. Virtually all of the CAAs indicated a dire need for additional services in this area and over half were already providing these services. Realizing that the extent of the needs required a revised model, NDWP embarked on an initiative to transfer expertise to intermediaries for local development projects. The first two regions identified where interest was strongest and where viable organizations were in place that could be trained to provide assistance in water and sewer matters were RHI in New England (later to become RCAP Solutions) and the Center for Rural Affairs (which later spun off this work to create the Midwest Assistance Program) . These agencies would provide consulting assistance to rural communities and use existing development funding instead of relying on direct project subsidies as was the original NDWP design.

NDWP’s primary funding was transferred to the Economic Development Administration while CSA looked to expand the regional technical assistance model created by NDWP. From 1979 to 1981 CSA designated and funded four additional RCAPs: Virginia Water Project (now the Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project); Rural Community Assistance Corporation, Great Lakes Rural Network (now WSOS Community Action Commission) and Community Resource Group along with RHI and MAP. CSA used a six-region geographic division of the country first developed by the Farmers Home Administration and funded these as the Rural Community Assistance Program. In 1981 CSA was abolished and its duties transferred to the Office of Community Services within the Department of Health and Human Service. In 1989 the six RCAP agencies reorganized NDWP as RCAP, Inc. with a new governance structure that survives to this day: a 12 member Board of Directors consisting of one representative from each region and six at-large members.

RCAP is You!

While the path towards the final development of RCAP was not a “short or easy struggle,” it was an endeavor that has resulted in RCAP assisting and continuing to assist thousands of rural communities not only on water and wastewater needs but also in the areas of affordable housing, solid waste and recycling services, economic development initiatives and the creation of revolving loan funds for community development.

All of you who work for an RCAP are an enduring legacy of fifty years of struggle to alleviate rural poverty, to provide essential water and wastewater services, to create opportunities for affordable housing and home ownership, and to promote economic development. There is no more important way that you can dedicate your lives than by helping our fellow inhabitants of this great land in their attempts to provide a better life for themselves, their families and their communities. While your work to improve the living conditions and opportunities of rural Americans may not always be recognized, be assured that my appreciation for your dedication and your endeavors is boundless. RCAP and its employees constitute an organization and a force for good like no other; one that has a long history of success in its chosen field, one that draws its strength from the values, aspirations and resourcefulness of rural America, one that ensures that equal opportunity is paramount, one that is confident in its abilities, and one that is continually looking for ways to improve its range and delivery of services to those in need.

A Brief Digression – The Great Society’s Accomplishments

Not that I am an historian (I am a Texan!) but I wanted to simply remind everyone what one man, albeit the President, and Congress can accomplish. While everyone may not agree with or be supportive of what was accomplished in the five years LBJ was President, there is no denying the importance of this legacy on the United States. It is almost too easy to compare these achievements with that of our current Administration and Congress. I often wonder where our nation would be if the issues faced in those years were being addressed by our current Congress. But enough of all that, it’s easier for the following legislation and programs created from 1964-1968 to speak for themselves and this list is by no mean exhaustive!

• Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1968
• Voting Rights Act
• Economic Opportunity Act – which created Head Start and VISTA in addition to what was described earlier
• Medicare
• Medicaid
• Wilderness Protection Act
• Endangered Species Protection Act
• Wild and Scenic Rivers Act
• National Environmental Policy Act
• National Endowment for the Art and the Humanities
• Omnibus Housing Act, Fair Housing Act
• Stronger Air and Water Quality Acts
• Appalachian Regional Commission
• Elementary and Secondary Education Act
• Higher Education Act
• Expansion of Food Stamps
• Child Nutrition Act
• Public Broadcasting Act – Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio
• Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act
• Creation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Urban Mass Transit Administration

One final note (from this veteran) on LBJ: he was the first member of Congress to volunteer for service in WWII (sworn in on December 9, 1941) and was awarded the Silver Star while serving in the Pacific. While the Vietnam War was his ultimate downfall, I believe it is important to remember all the many accomplishments of LBJ, including those that led to the creation of what are now the RCAPs.

A Vision Fulfilled – An Excerpt from LBJ’s State of the Union Address on January 8, 1964:

Unfortunately, many Americans live on the outskirts of hope–some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity.

This administration today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. I urge this Congress and all Americans to join with me in that effort.

It will not be a short or easy struggle, no single weapon or strategy will suffice, but we shall not rest until that war is won. The richest Nation on earth can afford to win it. We cannot afford to lose it. One thousand dollars invested in salvaging an unemployable youth today can return $40,000 or more in his lifetime.

Poverty is a national problem, requiring improved national organization and support. But this attack, to be effective, must also be organized at the State and the local level and must be supported and directed by State and local efforts.

For the war against poverty will not be won here in Washington. It must be won in the field, in every private home, in every public office, from the courthouse to the White House.

The program I shall propose will emphasize this cooperative approach to help that one-fifth of all American families with incomes too small to even meet their basic needs.

Our chief weapons in a more pinpointed attack will be better schools, and better health, and better homes, and better training, and better job opportunities to help more Americans, especially young Americans, escape from squalor and misery and unemployment rolls where other citizens help to carry them.

Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children.

But whatever the cause, our joint Federal-local effort must pursue poverty, pursue it wherever it exists–in city slums and small towns, in sharecropper shacks or in migrant worker camps, on Indian Reservations, among whites as well as Negroes, among the young as well as the aged, in the boom towns and in the depressed areas.

Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it. No single piece of legislation, however, is going to suffice.

We will launch a special effort in the chronically distressed areas of Appalachia.

We must expand our small but our successful area redevelopment program.

We must enact youth employment legislation to put jobless, aimless, hopeless youngsters to work on useful projects.

We must distribute more food to the needy through a broader food stamp program.

We must create a National Service Corps to help the economically handicapped of our own country as the Peace Corps now helps those abroad.

We must modernize our unemployment insurance and establish a high-level commission on automation. If we have the brain power to invent these machines, we have the brain power to make certain that they are a boon and not a bane to humanity.

We must extend the coverage of our minimum wage laws to more than 2 million workers now lacking this basic protection of purchasing power.

We must, by including special school aid funds as part of our education program, improve the quality of teaching, training, and counseling in our hardest hit areas.

We must build more libraries in every area and more hospitals and nursing homes under the Hill-Burton Act, and train more nurses to staff them.

We must provide hospital insurance for our older citizens financed by every worker and his employer under Social Security, contributing no more than $1 a month during the employee’s working career to protect him in his old age in a dignified manner without cost to the Treasury, against the devastating hardship of prolonged or repeated illness.

We must, as a part of a revised housing and urban renewal program, give more help to those displaced by slum clearance, provide more housing for our poor and our elderly, and seek as our ultimate goal in our free enterprise system a decent home for every American family.

We must help obtain more modern mass transit within our communities as well as low-cost transportation between them.

Above all, we must release $11 billion of tax reduction into the private spending stream to create new jobs and new markets in every area of this land.

Mass. struggles to help homeless families

Mass. struggles to help homeless families

By Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

BOSTON — By now, Massachusetts wasn’t supposed to have any homeless families.

In 2008, Gov. Deval Patrick set a goal of virtually eliminating family homelessness in five years. The program was intended in part to better detect when families were on the verge of falling into homelessness — and then move in swiftly with aid and support.

Five years later, record numbers of homeless families are straining the state’s shelter system, with about 2,000 families finding temporary housing in dozens of hotels and motels across the state and approximately an equal number staying in family shelters.

For homeless advocates, shelter operators, state officials and, most acutely, the homeless themselves, the maddening persistence of the lack of affordable places to live in Massachusetts can seem intractable.

Patrick and others point to a number of reasons for the surge in homelessness, from the yearlong economic downturn to a pullback in federal aid to Massachusetts’ status as a “right to shelter” place, meaning the state is obligated to find a place to stay for all those who are homeless.

But even Patrick concedes that simply extending the state’s existing anti-homelessness strategies isn’t going to work in the long run.

“We’re going to have to think in some fresh ways rather than just try to do better what we’re already doing,” Patrick said. “I’m really worried about this. It’s not just the spike in the number. It’s what the economy has done to vulnerable people.”

The state already has an array of programs aimed at keeping families from becoming homeless — and getting them back into homes when they do.

One is the Residential Assistance for Families in Transition, or RAFT, program, which offers up to $4,000 a year to help low-income families that are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. In the 2013 fiscal year, the program helped keep more than 3,000 families from becoming homeless, according to Aaron Gornstein, Massachusetts undersecretary for housing and community development.

Another is the HomeBASE program, which provides help paying rent, utility bills and other expenses so people can stay in their homes. In 2013, that program helped keep an additional 1,000 families out of shelters, Gornstein said.

The state also has the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, a version of the federal Section 8 program, which offers rental subsidies to tenants and developments.

Yet another strategy is to develop new low-income housing while preserving the state’s existing affordable housing stock.

Since 2007, the state has created more than 4,000 deeply subsidized units, including more than 700 in 2013 alone, according to Gornstein.

The state also has been spending about $100 million each year to modernize its existing public housing units, rehabbing and bringing back into service about 400 vacant public housing apartments in the past two years. Since 2010, the state also has helped preserve 10,000 privately owned, affordable, subsidized units that were at risk of being converted into market-rate units.

Still, Gornstein said, daunting challenges remain. He pointed to the 5,400 families for whom the HomeBASE temporary rental assistance is ending this fiscal year even as the state forges ahead with its goal of getting homeless families out of hotels and shelters.
“The longer a family stays, the more difficult it is to leave,” he said.

Boston resident Altia Taylor knows the challenges firsthand. For the past five years, she has bounced from shelters to hotels.

Her current temporary housing situation is ending in January, and she hopes to land an apartment in a public housing development for herself, her 15-year-old daughter and her 8-year-old son.

“This long-term instability has me completely out of character that I’m so fed up and overwhelmed,” Taylor, 31, told a Statehouse committee recently. “If I could figure out a way to pay market rate, I would. If I could own my own home, I would. I would have done it a long time ago.”

Those on the front lines of the housing fight say they’re trying to stay upbeat.

Peter Gagliardi, president of HAPHousing, a nonprofit housing agency in Springfield, blamed the housing crisis on stagnant wages, the off-shoring of jobs and a minimum wage that hasn’t kept up with inflation. He said about 200,000 families in the state are spending more than half their income on rent.

Each time the state chips away at the number of families in hotels and shelters, he said, the problem gets worse.

“We’re actually spiraling up,” he said. “Not only do we have to go up the hill, but the hill gets higher.”

Chris Norris, executive director of the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership, pointed to a 2012 study that found that the vast majority of homeless families in Massachusetts are led by single mothers with an average income of $8,727. He said a study of homeless families in the Boston area also found that just 3 percent originally came from outside Massachusetts.

Norris warned that solving the problem of family homelessness “will be time-consuming and it will be expensive.”

The problem has already become an issue in next year’s governor’s race, with Republican candidate Charlie Baker vowing to work during his first year in office to eliminate the practice of placing homeless families in hotels and motels.

Patrick, a Democrat who isn’t seeking re-election, said he hasn’t read Baker’s plan, but he’s willing to consider any good ideas.

“If there’s enough detail to put it in place and I think it’s working, I’ll probably do it before the election,” he said.

Article link can be found here:

http://www.recorder.com/news/nation/world/10032766-95/mass-struggles-to-help-homeless-families

No room at the shelter

mag1222 essayHow failed Massachusetts housing policies are threatening the state’s neediest families.

By Dr. Alexandra Coria

December 22, 2013

Pediatricians are not supposed to have favorite patients, but I will admit that every time I see one 5-year-old boy — call him Amir — my day brightens. Amir is charming and precocious, and his mother, whom I’ll call Fatima, is attentive and loving. They are a delight.

Amir has significant intestinal issues that preclude him from eating most processed foods. Because he and his mother are homeless, they have been placed by the state in a motel room where they have only a microwave for a kitchen. Motels are the Commonwealth’s answer to the severe shortage of beds in homeless shelters — on the day after Thanksgiving, there were nine open beds in state shelters and 2,159 families in motel rooms.

Overall, more than 4,100 families are in shelters and motels in the state, an all-time high — and a number that could rise through next summer.

The motels are woefully inadequate for keeping children healthy, even children without Amir’s problems. There is often no place to play safely, no way to cook nutritious food, and a lack of nearby social supports. So, while homeless families technically have a roof over their heads, their bodies and brains are still threatened.

At our last visit, Fatima told me that she had devised a way to prepare food Amir could eat using a rice cooker — he could now have freshly made stews, she told me with relief.

“But what are you eating?” I asked.

“Oh, well.” She looked down. “I needed to lose weight anyway.”

Fatima, who recently lost her job as a housekeeper, has been eating mostly cheap canned soups, full of salt and preservatives. She can’t afford fresh food for both of them. I can send them to our food pantry, but that seems futile, because I can’t give her the means to cook or store what she would get there.

I work at Boston Medical Center, where the pediatric emergency room sees 28,000 children a year. A survey of 6,000 Boston-area families by the pediatric research center Children’s HealthWatch estimated that more than half of the children younger than 4 were housing insecure, moving frequently or otherwise living in unsafe or inappropriate housing. Such children are more likely than their housing-secure peers to get hospitalized, be hungry, and have developmental delays. As Dr. Megan Sandel, a BMC pediatrician and longtime housing advocate, often says, housing is a vaccine; it protects our children from hunger, disease, and violence, just as a shot protects them from measles.

Alarmingly, being housing insecure in Massachusetts does not necessarily qualify a family for shelter. In 2012, the eligibility requirements were sharply restricted, and as of April 2013, up to 75 percent of applicants were being denied placement, sometimes because they couldn’t prove they had slept somewhere unfit for human habitation, like a car or a bus station.

When BMC social worker Nikki Hinckley talks about these families, her voice is tense. She talks about a child with sickle cell disease, a condition where cold weather can bring on intense pain, strokes, and life-threatening lung problems. The family was sleeping in a cold church basement, which disqualified them for shelter but landed the child in the hospital. She talks about autistic children living in crowded conditions, causing them severe emotional distress, and families who come to the ER over and over, trying to find a way to get housed. “It’s just awful, sitting in front of families day after day saying we have nothing to offer them,” she says.

HomeBASE, a temporary housing subsidy program put in place in 2011, was supposed to be an answer to the combined crisis of housing insecurity and unsuitable motels. It was originally intended to provide three years of assistance to homeless families, supplementing their income so that they could afford apartments, get on their feet, and ideally start paying their own rent. It expired this summer, after the Legislature voted to shorten the program by a year.

More than half of the state’s approximately 5,000 HomeBASE families will have lost their subsidies by the end of this month, according to the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership, or MBHP. The rest will lose them by the end of July. Although new stipends from the state have helped keep many of those families off the street so far, the funds top out at $8,000, which doesn’t go far around here. “All bets are off once that assistance is gone,” says MBHP executive director Chris Norris.

According to a May 2013 report from MBHP, which administers the HomeBASE program in the Boston area, program families had an average monthly income of $845, with an average monthly housing cost of $1,283. In one of the nation’s most expensive housing markets, it was unrealistic to expect that these families could get to the point where they could afford their rent without the support. Ironically, those in motels end up costing the state roughly $2,400 a month, significantly more than paying their full rent would be.

Norris, Sandel, and others believe the answer is permanent income-adjusted housing subsidies. These would require a significant initial investment, and we would need to maintain a shelter safety net as long as it’s needed.

But we know that temporary subsidies don’t work and that the motel system is unhealthy and expensive — the rooms now cost the state $46 million a year. And data from a program for homeless adults indicate that subsidies would likely be cheaper than health care and other services currently used by housing-insecure families.

Permanent subsidies introduced without further restricting access to the shelter system would be a real, cost-effective investment in lives like Amir’s, and our legislators need to know that’s an investment we want them to make.

Dr. Alexandra Coria is a pediatric resident at Boston Medical Center and Boston Children’s Hospital. Send comments to magazine@globe.com.

Link to article can be found here: http://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2013/12/22/how-massachusetts-failing-homeless-families/9UZIwZDStVfaDvLV9fnPsL/story.html