Saturday, Sept 24th: Boston Student Health Activist Summit

14333777_863641610432695_6382319670311940394_nThe annual Student Activism Summit returns September 24th to the BU School of Medicine. Hosted by Boston Student Health Activist Community (BSHAC), students and young professionals from across Boston will gather to discuss important social justice issues that impact the health of our communities and learn ways they can integrate that work into professional and civic life.

 

 

Saturday at 11:30 AM – 5:30 PM                                                                                                                                             Boston University School of Medicine                                                                                                                             72 E Concord St, Boston, Massachusetts 02118

It is FREE and OPEN to the public. Please RSVP at:

https://docs.google.com/a/bu.edu/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfACd-nZAzsbXV0NLtbaD8be1B-WEDCdZ67I8pIvTEts0FHUA/viewform

or

https://www.facebook.com/events/1731801350414328/

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City to Homeless: Drop Dead! Demand Boston create 400 housing vouchers to help end homelessness!

imagesHomeless People with HIV are dying in the streets! This has to stop! Join with ACT UP, the Boston Homeless Solidarity Committee, The Budget For All Coalition, the Save Our Section 8/City Policy Committee, among other groups, to pressure City Council for an increase in the Mayor’s Housing budget and for the creation of a city funded voucher program for low-income renters and the homeless!

When: 11:00 am, Tuesday, June 2, 2015
Where: 5th Floor City Council Chambers

AND call your district and at large City Councilors now at 617.635.3040 and demand action!

The Save Our Section 8/City Policy Committee already successfully lobbied the City to increase the Mayor’s proposed housing budget by $1.75 million, to offset federal housing cuts. However, these funds were earmarked for senior housing programs also in need (already a problem due to gentrification and an aging population, the city is likely to face a sharp increase in elderly homelessness in upcoming years). However, $1.75 million falls drastically short of the funding needed for those now homeless who are struggling and dying in our streets – can it be because the homeless can’t readily vote so some city pols don’t care to prioritize helping them?

Recently, members of our coalition met with the Department of Neighborhood Development and testified before City Council to request an increase of city funds for housing. We also asked the City to create a city-funded Voucher program to provide permanent rental housing for low income families and individuals that would help the city’s homeless.

Since 2007, the city of Washington, DC, has funded – from the City’s budget – a Voucher Program that provides 3,248 city funded Vouchers (both Project Based and Mobile Vouchers) for low income renters. Washington, DC is also planning a five year effort to end homelessness. If DC can do it, why can’t Boston?

We are asking the Boston City Council to add at least $5 million to the City’s budget for housing, and to earmark these funds for at least a Pilot Program to provide 400 Vouchers for the City’s homeless and low income families and individuals. The Council will be deciding on its budget priorities in the next two weeks!

Contact Rob at ACT UP at 857-417-9817 to RSVP or if you have any questions.

‘Housing First’ Policy for Addressing Homelessness Hamstrung By Funding Issues

Housing first simple chartHousing First’ Policy for Addressing Homelessness Hamstrung By Funding Issues.

By RACHEL M. COHEN, Originally published in The American Prospect on January 27, 2015.

The new approach may spring from good intentions, but is
undermined by a lack of affordable housing stock

In an era of shrinking financial resources, policymakers, providers, and activists who work on homelessness prevention and care in the United States have been forced to develop new strategies. There was a time when officials at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) saw it as their responsibility to provide both housing and supportive services for homeless individuals, but now HUD now is refocusing its budget predominately on rent and housing—with the hope that other local, state, and federal agencies will play a greater role in providing supportive care. However, whether other organizations will actually be able to pick up those costs and responsibilities remains unclear.

The first major federal legislative response to homelessness was the McKinney-Vento Act of 1987, which passed both the House and Senate with large bipartisan majorities. The McKinney Act—which Bill Clinton…continue at The American Prospect .

 

 

July 19th, 20th: Healing Our Land Event

425270_10200772698813174_588889836_nACT UP is supporting Healing Our Land, Inc. in an upcoming two-day conference, walk, and rally. In 2005, a State of Emergency was declared in Boston communities of color regarding the alarming rates of HIV and the lack of state and federal resources to address this serious issue. Since then, HIV/AIDS funding has continued to dwindle and HIV incidence in communities of color has skyrocketed. We need a major grassroots movement to demand that HIV/AIDS services and care be fully funded in order to combat this outrageous racial health inequity and to end AIDS once and for all.

Join Healing Our Land on July 19th at 10am for a gathering of activists, service providers, and people of faith in order to share strategies about how to connect communities of color with the resources they need and discuss what it will take to create a grassroots, faith-based movement to address the State of Emergency in communities of color.

On July 20th, we will meet at Global Ministry Christian Church and march through Dorchester to an abandoned building at the corner of Lyndhurst and Washington St. We will have a press conference and rally at this building in order to put forth a demand that this building will be converted into a space for providing housing and services to PLWHA in the area, and we will be working with neighborhood developers such as Future Hope to make this demand a reality. There will be testing and health screenings at the rally. This is our chance to empower our communities and reclaim the resources we need in order to heal from the HIV/AIDS epidemic!You can spread the word through facebook, or for more information, contact Minister Franklin Wendell Hobbs at 617-594-9955.

Minister Franklin Wendell Hobbs
Global Ministry Christian Church,
670 Washington St.,Codman Sq.,
Dorchester, MA 02124

Sequestration: State Housing Vouchers Now Being Cut

Robert and Johannes speak at the Budget 4 All Rally.

Fight the Cuts: ACT UP’s Robert and Johannes speak at the Budget for All Rally.

 

Alarming Boston Globe report below on Sequestration and state housing cuts. Similar cuts are also occurring elsewhere (Maryland for example). Housing agencies are being forced to reduce their costs or landlords will have to accept reductions in what HUD pays in rent subsidies (the voucher payment standard). Otherwise, tenants with vouchers will have to pay a higher percentage of rent, that is if they don’t loose their vouchers because of the cuts.

ACT UP has received reports that some property management companies are being asked to accept voucher payment standard reductions from HUD of up to 10%. Those who currently pay the lowest rents may see the largest increases in what they are expected to pay to cover the HUD payment standard cuts (Read Year 1 of Sequestration: Fewer Housing Vouchers, Higher Rents, More Homeless). Many families already pay rent in excess of 40% of income. The increase will further pressure them to choose between housing, fuel, or food. This as fuel and food programs are also being cut due to sequestration. AND, sequestration 2.0 arrives in six months which means another round of (8%) budget cuts!

The Globe story also mentions the ongoing fight against Sequestration cuts by the Budget for All Coalition, of which ACT UP is a member.

Federal cuts hit housing programs for the poor

Some state residents denied voucher aid; agencies struggle to limit the damage

By Megan Woolhouse

MAY 26, 2013

Thousands of the state’s poorest residents are losing or being denied federal housing subsidies as a result of automatic, across-the-board spending cuts, forcing many to choose between food, rent, medicine — or the streets.

The cuts are pummeling the Section 8 voucher program, which offers assistance to poor individuals and families renting apartments in the open market.

The Boston Housing ­Authority, for example, has stopped ­issuing new vouchers after absorbing $10 million in Section 8 voucher cuts, and by fall it could end subsidies for more than 10 percent of the 11,000 households already receiving vouchers.

“Sequestration has been devastating,” said Lydia Agro, a spokeswoman for the BHA. “We’ve never been in this situation — we’ve never had to cut people off the program.”

Sequestration is the term for sweeping and deep federal spending cuts that were supposed to be so dire they would push lawmakers in Washington to reach a compromise on reducing the federal deficit. It didn’t happen. The cuts went into effect in March, but only in recent weeks has the impact begun to be felt across a broad range of federal programs, including decades-old housing programs designed to help the nation’s most economically vulnerable.

In Massachusetts, and across the country, groups have protested the cutbacks. Earlier this month, Budget for All, a nonprofit coalition of labor, religious, and peace groups, protested outside Government Center, urging the public to contact US senators who are already planning next year’s federal budget, which begins in October. The group advocates for reducing Pentagon spending and a 1 percent tax increase on the rich and corporations.

“Everybody says they hate sequester,” said Lee Farris, one of the rally’s organizers. “So Congress needs to find another way between now and when they pass the budget to replace it with what they should have done in the first place.”

As in Massachusetts, cuts to Section 8 funding are forcing housing programs in many states toreduce the number of vouchers they issue, freeze waiting lists, and face the possibility of having to end subsidies for people already in the program.

The program, begun in the 1970s, offers subsidies to individuals and families who earn no more than 50 percent of the median income in the area they live, though the vast majority earn just 30 percent or less of the median income. In Boston, a family of four with an income of $28,000 a year or less would qualify.

Families with vouchers pay as much as 40 percent of their income toward rent. The program provides a bridge to help many families move out of poverty in a way that helps them avoid the stigma of living in public housing.

India Cox, a single mother living in Mission Hill with her 9-year-old daughter, spent years on the Section 8 waiting list, living in cramped, rundown apartments in unsafe buildings because that was all she could afford. When she recently received a notice that she had been accepted into the Section 8 program, Cox said she felt relieved to finally be able to move and had begun looking for an apartment with a yard or near a park.

But a few weeks later, she received another letter telling her the offer was rescinded because of funding cuts.

“It was snatched away,” said Cox, 29, who works part time taking calls at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. “I’m frustrated. I just wanted to live someplace safer with my daughter.”

Housing specialists said it has never been easy to get a Section 8 voucher, which in the best of times could require years on a waiting list. Linda Wood-Boyle, executive director of HomeStart Inc., a nonprofit that helps homeless families obtain vouchers and other services, said the cuts mean more families with children, elderly, and disabled will struggle with unstable living situations, forced to move from place to place, not knowing where they will sleep some nights.

“People will just stay in shelters longer, or be homeless longer, or doubled-up and couch surfing longer,” she said. “It’s always a problem, but it will just be worse now.”

The state Department of Housing and Community Development, which allocates about 20,000 Section 8 vouchers each year, has a waiting list of about 80,000 low-income households, including about 24,000 people with disabilities.

But federal cuts of more than $12 million mean those individuals and families will stay on the waiting list indefinitely. Matthew T. Sheaff, the agency spokesman, said the state has stopped offering vouchers to new candidates as people leave the program.

Sheaff said the agency is tapping its reserves so it does not have to cut off families who are currently receiving subsidies. “It’s important to keep these people housed,” he said.

However, because of sequestration, the state agency is also facing administrative cutbacks totaling $5.7 million. State officials have not yet implemented reductions due to those cuts.

The BHA has also been told to reduce its administrative spending by $4.6 million and its public housing spending by $10.8 million, Agro said. Thirty-three staffers were recently laid off, there is a hiring freeze, and senior staffers must take five unpaid workdays.

Sue Nohl, deputy director of the Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership, the state’s largest provider of the vouchers from the state Department of Housing and Community Development, said her agency recently had to notify 43 households that had just been accepted into the program that they would not receive vouchers ­after all, due to cutbacks.

Many had been on the waiting list a decade.

The housing partnership’s program offers about 5,700 vouchers to low-income families every year. They expected to have about 120 vouchers become available this year as ­clients move out of the program as their income increases, die, or violate policies and are terminated. Because of the cuts, they anticipate that they will not be able to offer vouchers to any new clients for at least the next year.

What worries Nohl about the cutbacks is that so many of the people receiving vouchers are already living precariously close to homelessness. The families have so little income that many are forced to choose between paying rent, buying food, or receiving medical care.

“These are people who are making choices not about where to go on vacation, but should I eat today and do we have a place to stay tomorrow,” Nohl said.

Ana Bela Mendes of Dorchester, a divorced mother of three, lost her job of 12 years during the recession and became homeless. She cares for a severely disabled 20-year-old daughter and is taking courses at the University of Phoenix so she can eventually become a nurse. She recently learned that a state subsidy, separate from Section 8, that helped her pay the rent for the past two years will end in the fall.

She said she can’t afford her apartment’s market rate rent of $1,600; her monthly income is $1,100 in child support and disability payments. She had hoped she would get a Section 8 voucher to help her pay for a new place to live, but not anymore.

She said she’ll be lucky to find an affordable one-bedroom, and may have to consider moving out of the city and farther away from her daughter’s doctors.

“I have to scramble and figure out what’s next,” Mendes said. “And I still need to finish school.”

Year 1 of Sequestration: Fewer Housing Vouchers, Higher Rents, More Homeless.

Year 1: Sequestor cuts: Fewer vouchers, higher rents

The details of this years sequestration cuts are at last becoming known. The cuts in housing programs are alarming according to a report released by the highly reliable Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). Federal housing programs help millions afford rental housing. Many who rent are seniors or people with disabilities including people with HIV. Most of the rest are families with children. On average, these households have incomes of about $12,500, well below the poverty line.

According to the CBPP report, sequestration will cut more than $2 billion in 2013 from housing related programs. These cuts mean the following:

Housing agencies may freeze waiting lists.

Up to 140,000 people waiting for vouchers not able to get them–including many homeless people in shelters who will have to wait longer for a home. This will only increase the level of homelessness.

Increased rents for Families on Vouchers.

Housing agencies will be forced to reduce costs. Agencies may do this by reducing what HUD pays landlords in rent subsidies (the voucher payment standard). Unless the landlord is willing to accept reduced rent this will force those with vouchers to pay a higher percentage of rent. This years sequestration cuts to housing are around 6%. Because of the way the payment standard is set those who currently pay the lowest rents may see the largest increases in what they are expected to pay. Many of these families already pay rent in excess of 40% of income. The increase will further pressure them to choose between housing, fuel, or food. This as fuel and food programs are also being cut due to sequestration.

The maximum amount of rent covered by vouchers could be lowered.

The maximum amount of rent covered by vouchers could be lowered. Lowering this sort of coverage could lead to massive displacement of those with vouchers. This happened in London a few years back after similar housing cuts were made; Tenants were forced to move to housing where rents were low enough to meet lower levels of coverage. For those with serious disabilities or the elderly, just finding suitable housing near needed services and transportation can be a herculean task, never mind the actual challenge of moving.

Property inspections will be cut further causing problems. 

The law requires property inspections of vouchered housing units. Due to sequestration, housing agencies could lay off or furlough housing inspectors. With fewer inspectors landlords and tenants will not be forced to maintain property safety standards. Fewer inspectors will also make it more difficult for new or displaced voucher tenants to move into housing.

Landlords will be further discouraged from accepting vouchers.

Underfunded, unreliable voucher programs deter landlords from accepting housing vouchers. Although against the law, it will likely happen and further limiting housing options available to the elderly and disabled.

Additional cuts to other programs will worsen homelessness.

Funding for homeless programs and shelters are also being cut by $96 million. As a result, many may be turned away from underfunded, inundated homeless shelters.

Freezing waiting lists and reducing agency administration costs might be enough to avoid worse cuts to existing tenants in some cities. However, it’s possible that a combination of all the above won’t be enough to meet all the requirements of sequestration. Current tenants might have their vouchers terminated and then be forced out on the street.

These unprecedented funding cuts come at a time of long waiting lists for housing assistance. In Boston, even before the cuts go into effect, there are an estimated 7000 who are homeless; around 1600 of them may have HIV. Once the cuts are implemented these numbers will surely increase. And what about next years sequestration cuts? If Washington can’t come up with a reasonable alternative sequestration 2.0 kicks in next year.

In the meantime, budget negotiations will continue through the Summer. Obama and the Democrats must be pressured to not cave into Republican demands for even more damaging cuts. The House-passed Ryan Budget cuts another 20% below sequestration, cancels the sequester for the Pentagon, and puts those cuts entirely onto non-defense programs. Most of these aid the poor and disabled. The Paul Broun TEA party budget would be even more devastating to housing programs for the elderly, people with disabilities, and poor families with children.

What to do? Pressure the administration and the Democrats NOW to hold the line, particularly if Republicans hold the country hostage for more massive cuts over raising the debt ceiling later this Summer. Join ACT-UP, along with the Budget For ALL Coalition, to demonstrate and fight against sequestration and all its damaging effects!