There are many reasons families become homeless in the Metrowest area, but the most common root cause is an inability to find affordable housing, particularly for minimum wage earners. We have all seen the cost of housing increase drastically over the past few decades and while the minimum wage has increased, average earnings have not kept up with rising costs.
Family Homelessness in Massachusetts
From 2007 to 2020, the number of people experiencing homelessness in families with children increased in four states and the district of Columbia. Massachusetts had the largest percentage increase, with 72 percent more people in families with children experiencing homelessness. During the state fiscal year of 2019, 4,297 families were assisted in Massachusetts with emergency shelter and/or Homebase diversion assistance out of the 6,699 families who completed applications.
If ineligible for state assistance, Family Promise Metrowest is one of the first agencies in the Metrowest area where families are referred for shelter. Fifty percent of people in families that experienced homelessness in the U.S. in 2020 were in Massachusetts, New York, or California.
Skyrocketing Housing Costs
The 2021 Fair Market Rent (FMR) for a two-bedroom apartment in the Boston area is $2,336/month. To afford this level of rent plus utilities, a household must make $93,440/year or $44.92/hour. This is known as the "housing wage," and Massachusetts overall has the 3rd highest housing wage in the country. Massachusetts is also the 9th lowest in the nation for housing production, resulting in a shortage that is driving up housing prices.
The current minimum wage in Massachusetts is $13.50/hour and approximately one-third of our MA workforce earns the minimum wage. In 2021, a full-time minimum wage worker will earn $28,080, pre-tax. At this rate, you would have to work 133 hours per week to afford the Boston FMR: more than three full-time jobs. A minimum wage worker with only one full-time job can only afford $702/month in rent.
If, by contrast, the minimum wage in 1968 had grown in line with national productivity, our lowest wage workers would be earning over $19 an hour, or roughly $39,500 per year.
While there is a direct relation between education and earning potential, people seeking to increase their skills have seen a 300% increase in tuition at public institutions of higher education over the past 20 years.
Students and Homelessness
During the 2018-2019 academic year, 24,777 students experienced homelessness in public schools across Massachusetts.
Who Does Family Promise Metrowest Serve?
Family Promise Metrowest is one of the first referrals Metrowest families are given when denied emergency state shelter. To understand who our families are, knowing why they are denied state assistance is important. The 2021 eligibility criteria for emergency state shelter are as follows:
|Family Size||Monthly income eligibility standard||Annual Income|
|2||$ 1,670||$ 20,040|
|3||$ 2,105||$ 25,260|
|4||$ 2,540||$ 30,480|
|5||$ 2,975||$ 35,700|
|6||$ 3,410||$ 40,920|
Accepted Reasons for Homelessness:
- No-fault fire, flood, natural disaster, condemnation, foreclosure, or no-fault eviction.
- Fleeing domestic violence (current or within past 12 months).
- Child(ren) exposed to substantial health or safety risks.
Eligibility & Criteria for State Assistance:
- Be a resident of Massachusetts
- Have children under the age of 21 or be pregnant.
- Meet the gross income standards
Families denied state shelter are typically:
- Employed and over “income standards,” yet not earning enough to afford housing in the metrowest or Boston area.
- Unemployed due to a layoff or inability to afford child care.
- Doubled up with family or friends, which is not considered “a substantial health and safety risk” even though it is temporary.
- Evicted due to a change in their income from divorce, lay-off, or separation, which is not considered “no-fault.”
- Evicted due to an inability to pay rent that was increased.
Sources: MA Coalition for the Homeless; National Low Income Housing Coalition; U.S. Census Bureau; MA Dept. of Housing and Community Development; US Dept. of HUD; Rentdata.org.