New Schedule Update for HCEC & RAFT Screening

Intake Schedule for HCEC & RAFT Screening (Residential Assistance for Families in Transition)

 

Worcester:

RCAP Solutions Worcester Office: 12 East Worcester Street, 2nd Floor, Worcester 

Tuesdays & Fridays: 9:00 am – 11:00 am – Walk ins accepted – at this location only

 

Please call to schedule an Intake at other locations throughout Central Mass.

 

Fitchburg: (Beginning 8/20/18)

1st and 3rd Monday Monthly: 10:00 am-12:00 pm, Centro, 437 Main Street, Fitchburg, MA

Contact: Ali Bernardo @ 978-630-6671 or abernardo@rcapsolutions.org

 

Athol: (Beginning 9/4/18)

1st and 3rd Tuesday Monthly: 9:00 am – 11:00 am, North Quabbin Patch, 423 Main Street, Athol, MA

Contact: Ali Bernardo @ 978-630-6671 or abernardo@rcapsolutions.org

 

Whitinsville: (Beginning 8/16/18)

3rd Thursday Monthly: 10:00 am-12:00 pm, Family Continuity, 76 Church St Ste 301, Whitinsville, MA

Contact: Belmaris Roman @ 978-630-6788 or broman@rcapsolutions.org

 

Southbridge: (Beginning 8/24/18)

Every Friday: 10:00 am – 12:00 pm, Southbridge Community Connections, 346 Main St, Southbridge, MA

Contact: Belmaris Roman @ 978-630-6788 or broman@rcapsolutions.org

Housing Consumer Education Center Informational Session

Please note: This event is geared towards practitioners and other housing agencies. Not for individuals seeking housing assistance.

Meet the Housing Consumer Education Center Staff!

Learn about:

  • First Time Homebuyer Program
  • Tenancy Program
  • Financial Wellness and Coaching
  • Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT)

 

Friday, June 30, 2017. From 1 – 3PM

12 East Worcester Street, 2nd Floor, Worcester

Light refreshments will be served

Advance registration requested, please R.S.V.P. to:

Belmaris Roman, HCEC Housing Counselor

Phone: (978) 630-6788

broman@rcapsolutions.org

Action Alert – Support Homelessness Prevention

Please Contact your MA State Senator and Ask for Restored Funding for Housing Consumer Education Centers.

RCAP Solutions, along with the eight partner agencies that provide vital housing programs and services to families throughout the Commonwealth, request that funding for the Housing Consumer Education Centers (amendment 335) be restored to the FY14 level of $2.6 million. This amendment will allow HCECs to meet the continued demand for services from individuals and families at urgent risk of homelessness and serve all Massachusetts residents in need of housing supports and services.

The Commonwealth’s nine Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs) are the front line for housing crisis response across the state.  They are an essential element in the delivery system for other state-funded programs, including RAFT and HomeBASE.

HCECs have assisted more than 56,350 households through March of this fiscal year, and are on track to assist more than 75,000 households this fiscal year. Over the last ten years, this assistance has an average cost of less than $28 per household.

Crisis prevention and housing education services provided through the HCECs result in fewer evictions and foreclosures and take pressure off housing courts and other state services. However, assisting people in crisis requires time-intensive counseling by professional staff.

We ask you to contact your Massachusetts State Senator immediately and ask that they support Senator Wolf’s amendment 335.  This will restore RCAP Solutions’ ability to serve the residents of Central Massachusetts through the cost effective HCEC program, by providing $2.6 million in Fiscal Year 2016, restoring funding to the nine regional housing agencies.

Find your MA State Senator by clicking here.

For more information, please click here or contact Brian Scales, Chief Development and Governmental Affairs Officer at 978-630-6649 or bscales@rcapsolutions.org.

Thank you for your continued support.

45 Days ’till we’re Gone to the Birds!

45 days till Gala

It’s only 45 days until The Gone to the Birds Gala and Birdhouse Auction!

As we count down the days to our 45th Anniversary Celebration, we will provide you with RCAP trivia, testimonials and spotlight the artists that have contiributed to our exciting Birdhouse Auction, so please check in with us regularly…  It should be a fun-filled 45 days!

Visit www.rcapsolutions.org/gonetothebirds/ for more information about the Gala, artists, sponsors, tickets, etc.

It will be an event to remember!

 

RCAP Fact #1:

Last year, we serviced 10,210 families through rental assistance, homelessness prevention initiatives, self sufficiency programs and Housing Consumer Education Center services.

That’s almost 28 families per day!

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

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

Heat, rent subsidies in danger if shutdown lingers

From The Associated Press:

BOSTON — As winter approaches and the federal government shutdown lingers, millions of low-income Americans face potential delays in receiving help with their heating bills and monthly rent.

Among the programs that could be impacted as of Nov. 1 are the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, and a voucher program that allows poor families, seniors and the disabled live in private rental units, according to local agencies and state officials who administer the benefits.

The heating program, which last winter provided heating assistance to nearly 9 million income eligible people nationwide, is in limbo until the budget impasse is settled, said Mark Wolfe, executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association.

“We don’t have an appropriation yet. We don’t know when we are going to get it. We don’t know how much it will be,” said Wolfe. “And we are already at the beginning of the winter heating season.”

In states like Massachusetts, heating assistance benefits typically begin to go out Nov. 1, but many of the 20 nonprofit agencies that administer the program have not even started accepting applications and one has been forced to close without the federal funding, according to Joe Diamond, head of the Massachusetts Association for Community Action.

The state received $133 million in LIHEAP funding last year, with the typical seasonal benefit ranging from $675 to $1125 for individuals and families who heat their homes with oil, said Diamond.

“The shutdown really has to end,” he said, for heating assistance to beat the arrival of cold weather.

But even if President Obama and congressional Republicans were to come to terms immediately, Wolfe noted that it still could take several more weeks for funding formulas to be determined and money allocated to states.

Nationally, LIHEAP funding was just under $3.5 billion in the last fiscal year, a 30 percent decline since 2010.

Some states could take action to fill the void.

Diamond said he was hoping the Massachusetts Legislature would appropriate $20 million, both to cover emergency heating needs if the federal shutdown continues and to offset the recent funding cuts, particularly with forecasts pointing to higher heating costs this winter.

The Housing Choice Voucher Program, administered through funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, pays up to 70 percent of rent for low-income families and individuals who live in privately-owned housing but cannot afford the market rents. The funds are paid directly to landlords.

Aaron Gornstein, Massachusetts undersecretary for housing and community development, said the state was able to pay October rent for its 20,000 vouchers, but would be unable to meet November rents unless the shutdown ends and funds can be obtained from HUD.

The problem would impact both tenants and landlords, he said. Understanding the situation, many landlords might hold off until the government reopens and the payments can be made. But even if landlords chose to pursue eviction, the process would take several months.

“The tenant won’t be immediately displaced,” said Gornstein.

Important Information For RCAP Solutions Clients

As of September 20, 2013, all RCAP Solutions Housing Assistance and Client Service Program Representatives will be located in our Worcester office at: 12 East Worcester Street, Worcester, MA 01604.

With our recent headquarters expansion in the City of Worcester, RCAP Solutions is consolidating its Gardner Corporate Office to one floor.

While our Gardner office will remain open, there will no longer be any client intake or housing representatives available for counseling for walk-in assistance at this location. As this location will now house administrative staff only, we ask that all visitors please make advance plans as all guests will be seen by appointment only. We apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause.

Please note, all program representative’s email and phone numbers have not changed.  For more information and directions to our Worcester Office, please contact your Program Representative directly or visit the Contact Page on our website.

If you have a need for special accommodations, please contact your program representative directly.  There is a designated RCAP Solutions dropbox located inside the front door of the Gardner entrance for your convenience for paperwork and other communications needs.

For more information, please call 800-488-1969 or visit www.rcapsolutions.org.

 

Our HCEC Counselors Receive New Certifications

HCEC in Training

Congratulations to the members of our Housing Consumer Education Center Team on their recent certifications!

Pictured is Robert Ochoa, Housing Counselor Specialist; Madeline Cotto, HCEC Coordinator and Pam Moshier, Chief Consumer Education Officer and Director of HCEC at the NeighborWorks Training Institute in Philadelphia PA.

Robert and Maddie are now certified in Homebuyer Educaton Methods as Trainers and Pam received Certification in Homeownership Counseling for Program Managers and Executive Directors.

For more information on our Housing Consumer Education Center, please visit our HCEC Page on our website.

About NeighborWorks Center for Homeownership Education and Counseling:  NCHEC promotes sustainable homeownership by supporting the industry’s educators and counselors. Through its training programs, professional certifications and other tools and resources, NCHEC increases the number of qualified homeownership professionals who are prepared to help people realize the dream of lifelong homeownership.  Visit their website for more information.