Back to top

City of Boston, state, partners, team up to house homeless elders

November 18, 2016

Fair Housing

Published by:

Fair Housing and Equity

Housing surge focused on housing elders while helping them obtain support services and health care

BOSTON - The City of Boston, in partnership with the State of Massachusetts' Executive Office of Elder Affairs, yesterday hosted a housing surge designed to connect chronically homeless seniors with housing and services. The event, held at the Labouré Center in South Boston, integrated the process of helping chronically homeless elders obtain health care and stabilization supports along with housing, in the form of either units in Boston Housing Authority (BHA) developments or housing vouchers. In total, 41 elders received either units of housing or vouchers.

"The fact that so many people walked into our event homeless and walked out with an address is incredibly moving," said Mayor Walsh.  "I believe that we can end chronic homelessness in Boston, and housing surges will be one way we can accomplish our goal. We are looking at solving homelessness in innovative ways, with strong partners. Boston is a city that takes care of its people, and I'm proud of our values and our mission to ensure all Bostonians have a place to live."

Housing a Changing City: Boston 2030

The housing surge also successfully built upon the recent partnership forged between the City and the State, designed to end chronic homelessness in senior populations across Massachusetts.  

"This administration made ending homelessness a goal and we will continue to work with our partners in the City of Boston and neighboring communities by participating in events like today's surge," said Secretary of the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, Marylou Sudders. "Chronic homelessness is not solved with housing alone - it requires a mix of housing and services to support individuals and help them remain in a stable housing situation."

"Today builds on the success of the first surge held last July which was coordinated by the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, MassHealth, the City of Boston and our partners. These efforts demonstrate that effective collaboration among government agencies and community partners results in collective impact that can change lives. We can reduce elder homelessness and intend to continue these and other efforts throughout the Commonwealth," said Secretary of the Executive Office of Elder Affairs, Alice Bonner.

At yesterday's surge, the Boston Housing Authority was able to connect 31 homeless seniors with units of permanent supportive housing. As part of an agreement signed with the City of Boston, the BHA offers a super-priority process for chronically homeless elders once they have supportive services in place.  This is only the second time that guests at a housing surge have been offered specific units of housing, rather than vouchers.

"The BHA has long made a commitment to housing homeless individuals and families," said Bill McGonagle, Administrator of the Boston Housing Authority.  "By participating in this effort we have been able to use our scarce resources to house the most vulnerable with services that ensure they remain successfully housed."  

Yesterday's surge was staffed by 35 different agencies.  Seniors attending the event were given "passports" and were assigned volunteer ambassadors to guide them from table to table where they were able to determine their eligibility for various types of support services.

Boston is a city that takes care of its people, and I'm proud of our values and our mission to ensure all Bostonians have a place to live

Mayor Walsh

Seniors were able to meet with representatives from state programs including MassHealth, Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE); Senior Care Options (SCO); Pay for Success and Community Supports for Persons Experiencing Chronic Homelessness (CSPECH) to determine their eligibility and interest in these programs.  In addition, representatives from the Social Services Administration and Department of Transitional Assistance were on hand to help seniors qualify for additional benefits.

In preparation for the event, City, State, and non-profit partners worked together to create a list of chronically homeless older adults, and undertook significant outreach at shelters and throughout the city to spread awareness of this opportunity.

The chronically homeless seniors who attended the surge were identified as likely eligible for state benefits including long-term services, supports, and integrated care.  The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines chronically homeless individuals as adults with a disability who have been either living in an emergency shelter or in a place not meant for human habitation continuously for 12 months or more, or who have had four occasions of homelessness in the past three years that total 12 months or more.

Those individuals in need of translation services were identified in advance, and translators were on hand to assist with language barriers. In addition, individuals with accessibility issues had also been identified ahead of time, with accommodations made in advance for their specific issues. Individuals also received breakfast and coffee, provided and served by volunteers from the BostonHome Interfaith Collaborative. BostonHome Interfaith Collaborative faith community partners also donated gift cards for attendees.

This is the seventh in a series of housing surges hosted by the City of Boston. The first three surges focused on homeless veterans; the last two focused on all chronically homeless individuals. The previous events have in total served over 200 homeless individuals, during which 164 received permanent housing vouchers on the spot, along with enrollment in housing search, while others received rapid rehousing assistance, applied for housing and obtained documentation that will help them secure permanent housing.

Partners for yesterday's surge included (alphabetical):

Boston Department of Neighborhood Development

Boston Public Health Commission

Boston Housing Authority

City of Boston Disabilities Commission

City of Boston Elderly Commission

MA Department of Mental Health

MA Executive Office of Elder Affairs

MA Executive Office of Health and Human Services


Social Security Administration

United States Interagency Council on Homelessness



Eliot Human Services

Pine Street Inn

Catholic Charities

Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership

St. Francis House

BostonHome Interfaith Collaborative

Massachusetts Shelter and Housing Alliance



Boston Health Care for the Homeless

Boston Senior Home Care

Commonwealth Care Alliance - One Care and Senior Care Options Programs

Tufts - One Care and Senior Care Options Programs

BMC Healthnet


Senior Whole Health


Uphams Corner Elder Service Plan

Elder Service Plan of Cambridge

Harbor Health

Elder Service Plan of East Boston

Boston Center for Independent Living

For more information on the City of Boston's plan to end chronic and veteran homelessness, please visit Boston's Way Home website or Twitter, @BostonsWayHome.