Gone to the Birds Gala

On September 18, 2014, RCAP Solutions Celebrated its 45th Anniversary by going to the birds! Over 250 attendees, made up of artists, business professionals, RCAP Solutions supporters and Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce members participated in a birdhouse auction, hosted by Skinner Auctions. Over 100 works of art were auctioned, raising over $16,000. 100% of the proceeds will support housing and homelessness prevention programs for Worcester County families.

We thank the many generous sponsors, talented artists, and the staff and volunteers who donated their time and talents and helped to make this event a great success!

Photos by Andrea Seward, Habakkuk Media Services.

 

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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

Happy Clients, Happy 2014!

 

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Congratulations to Jeaniffer Cordeiro, Program Representative for our Client Resources Team who received this great testimonial from one of our landlords.

“Thank you for always partnering and helping me as well as countless others throughout this year. You have been professional and very responsive. At all times I was given accurate information and advised about next steps in quick fashion. You helped define the right expectations with property owners and tenants. You handled sensitive issues in an effective way.

If there was a “CLIENT RELATIONS” Service Award, Employee of the Year, or Quarterly Excellence Award you would certainly win them all!

Happy New Year to you and your family.”

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

Holiday Shutdown Information

Please be advised that both our Gardner and Worcester offices will be closed from Tuesday, December 24, 2013 through Wednesday, January 1, 2014.

Any calls received during this time will be returned on Thursday, January 2, 2014.

During the shutdown, a few extensions will be monitored for emergency calls:

  • Emergencies involving inspection issues, such as no heat, should call extension 6686.
  • Emergencies involving other issues should call extension 6696.
  • RCAP Solutions Housing Consumer Education Center (HCEC) line will be monitored for tenant emergencies such as homelessness or tenants facing loss of housing.  Routine phone calls will be returned after the shutdown.  The HCEC extension is 6770.
  • HomeBase program emergencies should call extension 6771.

All HomeBASE activities for homeless families will continue throughout the agency shutdown period.

Routine messages and questions left at these extensions will be forwarded to the appropriate staff person for response when they return to the office on Thursday January 2, 2014.

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The RCAP Solutions office phones WILL NOT be monitored during the shutdown. You must call the 800 number below to reach any of the extensions listed above:

(800) 488-1969

RCAP Solutions staff wishes you a safe, happy and healthy holiday.

KPM is RCAP’s “Exclusive Mobile Sponsor”

Girl With Mobile Smart PhoneRCAP Solutions, is pleased to announce a new partnership with Kevin P. Martin & Associates, P.C. (KPM) as “Exclusive Mobile Sponsor”.

This sponsorship allows RCAP Solutions to offer a mobile giving program, which utilizes new technology to raise funds from mobile phone users.

“KPM is thrilled to be the Exclusive Mobile Sponsor for RCAP Solutions,” stated Karen Kent, Principal at KPM. “Many nonprofit organizations are searching for new ways to increase fundraising activity and we applaud their ‘outside of the box’ thinking. I have worked with many non-profits and believe that using new technologies for fundraising shows creativity that will be appealing to a very wide audience. We are pleased to partner with RCAP Solutions, as they continue to support the community and help so many in need, especially at a time when the demand for RCAP Solutions’ services is growing.”

“Mobile technology is changing the way nonprofit organizations do business,” said Karen A. Koller, President & CEO of RCAP Solutions. “RCAP Solutions understands the importance of using resources wisely; however we believe that new technology can have a significant impact in engaging clients, volunteers and donors. Our hope is that a mobile giving campaign will attract a wider audience of donors and KPM’s sponsorship allows 100% of those donations to directly benefit RCAP Solutions programs and positively impact families in need.”

KPM is the first business to participate in “RCAP Plus” a new sponsorship program offered by RCAP Solutions.  “RCAP Plus” provides sponsorship opportunities for businesses and communities interested in supporting the many important programs provided by RCAP Solutions that assist individuals and families throughout Central Massachusetts and the rural communities across the Northeastern United States.

RCAP Solutions is primarily supported by state and federal funding sources; however with shrinking funds and required funding matches, it is becoming more difficult to provide the necessary programs to clients.  RCAP Solutions works with hundreds of families each year, providing the necessary stabilization services for those in need, in order to keep them safe, healthy and in permanent housing.  With over 2,000 families living in hotels across the Commonwealth and more families becoming homeless every day, the need for additional funds is continually growing.

Try it out now, text “RCAP” to 56512.  Every dollar of your donation will support our HOME for the Holidays Campaign.  Click here for more information.

Soaring rents are putting many families in peril

Soaring rents are putting many families in peril

Harvard study finds some in Mass., US spend half of income on housing

By Megan Woolhouse

 

Rapidly rising rents in Massachusetts and across the country are making housing unaffordable for a significant share of families and pushing many into homelessness, according to a study released Monday by Harvard University.

Massachusetts has the sixth-highest median rent in the nation as the supply of rental housing has failed to keep up with the surge in renters following the recent housing collapse and foreclosure crisis, according to the study from Harvard’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. More than one in four renters here and nationally must spend more than half their income on their housing, a level the report described as “unimaginable just a decade ago.”

“These are troubling trends,” said Eric Belsky, executive director of the Joint Center for Housing Studies. “In this kind of situation, you worry about people’s ability to get into any kind of rental housing.”

The median rent in Massachusetts has climbed to $1,000 a month, according to the study. Hawaii had the highest median rent, $1,300, followed by Washington, D.C., at just below $1,200. And while median rents nationally have risen 7 percent to $861 a month in 2012 from $802 in 2000, median renters’ incomes have fallen from $3,106 to $2,711 in the same period, the report said.

Another study of the local housing market, released in October, found that rents in Greater Boston were the third highest among the nation’s metropolitan areas. Rents in Greater Boston averaged $1,800, compared to $1,300 a decade earlier, according to the study by Northeastern University researchers.

The climbing costs of rental housing are falling most heavily on the poor. In general, housing specialists say, paying more than one-third of income in rent can lead to other financial burdens for families. But nationally, more than 70 percent of families earning less than $15,000 a year pay more than half their income in rent, according to the Harvard study, compared to less than 1 percent of households earning $75,000 a year or more.

As rising rents take bigger shares of income, federal and state governments, including Massachusetts, have cut funding for housing subsidies, such as the federal Section 8 voucher program.

The result, housing advocates say, has been rising homelessness in states with fast-rising rents. A recent Department of Housing and Urban Development report said the number of homeless people in shelters and living on streets in Massachusetts has risen 14 percent since 2010 to nearly 20,000 in January 2013, even as homelessness declined nationally.

In Massachusetts, the number of families in the state’s emergency shelter system rose to an all- time high last month, averaging more than 4,000 a night. The state spent a record $46 million last fiscal year to house families in need of emergency assistance in motels, up from about $1 million in 2008.

Angela Rascoe, 46, had to give up her Mattapan apartment in June, when she became sick, lost her job as a nanny, and could no longer afford the rent of $1,650 a month. She has since lived in emergency shelters, including a motel in Saugus, with her 18-year-old daughter, because she cannot find another apartment she can afford on her disability check.

They are now staying in a state-funded shelter in Mattapan, but the future is uncertain. She has applied for subsidized housing programs offered by the city and state, but waiting lists are years-long.

“I’ve never ever been in a situation like this where I had to go and ask for help,” she said. “It’s extremely hard.”

John Drew, executive director of Action for Boston Community Development, a nonprofit social service agency, said the situation is only likely to get harder for Rascoe and other low- and moderate-income families. As the influx of highly paid technology, biotechnology, and other professionals drive housing prices higher, he said, the apartment building boom in the city is mainly adding luxury units, rather than affordable homes.

“Everyone is sitting back and watching the market-driven economy,” Drew said. “There is no housing policy. Nothing that leads you to feel comfortable at all, to say, ‘We have a way out of here.’ ”

State officials defend their policy efforts, calling them comprehensive but constrained by funding limitations. Massachusetts is one of four states to offer state-subsidized public housing, and this year alone increased the number of units the program funds by 3,000, said Aaron Gornstein, state’s undersecretary for housing.

The state also has built or is in the process of building 4,500 affordable rental units this year, Gornstein said. Earlier this month, Governor Deval Patrick signed a $1.4 billion bonding bill to finance the rehabilitation and construction of more public and affordable housing.

“We just have to keep focusing on helping families access affordable housing with the resources we have,” Gornstein said, “and make the best use of the existing resources that the Legislature has provided to us.”

Kelly Turley, director of legislative advocacy for the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, said the state has done more than many others to address the need for affordable housing, but rising rents, wage stagnation, and stubbornly high unemployment have outstripped those efforts.

“The state has made unprecedented investments in housing and homelessness prevention and emergency services,” she said, “but at the same time, it’s not enough to match the need to address the gap between incomes and what it costs to live in Massachusetts.”

Libby Hayes, executive director of Homes for Families, a Boston advocacy group, said the state’s efforts have been to put a “Band-Aid on a big gaping wound.” Patrick, she added, has not aggressively addressed the issue as a rising tide of families fill state shelters and motels.

Megan Woolhouse can be reached at megan.woolhouse@globe.com.

Article can be accessed here: http://b.globe.com/19cxuAX

RCAP Featured in WBJ Article on Sequestration

RCAP Solutions President & CEO Karen A. Koller KollerWBJdiscusses the difficult impact that Sequestration has had on the organization and our clients in the most recent edition of the Worcester Business Journal.

Photo caption:  Karen Koller of RCAP Solutions: Sequestration cuts impact those who serve “people in need.”

Click here for full article:  Central Mass. Firms Feel Sting Of Federal Budget Cuts

Wearing Purple In Honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Gardner1October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

In honor of the victims who have lost their lives to domestic violence, the city of Worcester has named Wednesday, October 16 as “Wear Purple Day”.

Because RCAP Solutions is committed to supporting and providing resources to families who have suffered from domestic violence, RCAP Staff chose to wear purple today in recognition of this event.

Domestic violence affects all of us. Click here to learn more about the scary statistics about this issue.

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How you can help out: 

RCAP Solutions encourages you to support the YWCA Domestic Violence Programs. Visit purplepurse.com and register purse code 01144, which will automatically donate $5 to the YWCA of Central Mass from the Allstate Foundation. With this campaign, the WYCA of Central MA has the opportunity to raise $10,000 to support domestic violence programs. http://www.ywcacentralmass.org/domestic-violence

RCAP Solutions offers assistance to help families in crisis, those going off public assistance, or supportive services for those fleeing domestic violence.  This may include homelessness prevention counseling, financial literacy counseling, housing assistance and other supportive services.

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Top Photo: Staff Members from our Corporate Gardner Office showing off their purple duds.

Middle Photo: Even our property managers got involved in Purple Day!

Bottom Photo: The Worcester Office Staff Members got together to show their solidarity in wearing the royal colors.

October kicks off “A Year of Awareness” with RCAP Solutions.  Each month, we will be highlighting a different program or service that RCAP Solutions provides to the community.

Please contact our Housing Consumer Education Center Line at 800-488-1969 extension 6770 to speak to one of our Housing Counselors for more information.