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Closing the homelessness gap in Massachusetts

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Massachusetts has done a good job in producing legislation to protect the most vulnerable residents in our communities; those without a place to live. One of the key pieces of legislation recently passed is the Housing Bond Bill : An Act financing the production and preservation of housing for low and moderate income residents. The bill provides $1.4 billion for the production and preservation of housing over the next 5 year and was signed into law on November 14, 2013.

A proposal to increase funding by $60 million for the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program ( MRVP) helps address the gaps that exist for many seniors, disabled , veterans and working poor who are faced with rental rates that are 50% or more of their income.

Perhaps a new approach that emulates a very successful program in Utah called Housing First should be considered. It boldly strikes at the heart of the problem and that is to directly provide housing to very low or non income producing individuals coupled with transitional services geared to help them become self sufficient.

Reporter Jenny Shank of National Swell reported in a recent article that in 8 years Utah's homeless population has been reduced by 78% . Furthermore, the costs for the state to directly rent units slated at $11,000 per year is less than the estimated $16,670 for emergency room visits, jail stays and a myriad of emergency -transitional services.

Massachusetts legislators should consider this approach to direct vital resources to those in need with a comprehensive and humane approach that holds great promise in eradicating one of our society's most persistent problem.

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