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Mayor Walsh Announces Details and Members of Task Force on Individual Homelessness

December 18, 2014

Mayor's Office

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Mayor's Office

On Thanksgiving, Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced the formation of the Mayor's Task Force on Individual Homelessness, a group charged with examining Boston’s current shelter system and available support services, and outlining a strategy that will put homeless individuals on a path to permanent housing. Today, Mayor Walsh shared the details of this task force, as well as a list of participating members.

“Homelessness is a complex issue, rooted in many causes, from addiction to mental illness to unemployment, and compounded by the competitive housing market in our city,” Mayor  Walsh said.  “The closure of the Long Island Bridge is an opportunity for us to take a hard look at what we’re doing here about the broader issue. When an individual walks into the front door of one of Boston’s homeless shelters, we need to do a better job finding them the services and resources they need to find a place to call home. To help us do that, today I am charging this group of diverse professionals and individuals to recommend bold, innovative solutions to help us end street, veterans, and chronic homelessness in the city of Boston.”

The Task Force will include providers, the business community, foundations and philanthropic organizations, experts in innovation and analytics, subject matter experts from City staff, and clients of the city’s homeless services. The group will be tasked with analyzing the City’s resources and delivery systems, and providing concrete ideas for structural and systems improvements. Within the first 90 days, the Task Force will make recommendations and propose an accompanying budget and action plan to accomplish eight targeted goals:

  • Provide appropriate relocation for and service improvements to the Long Island Shelter, and implement improved communication during this transition period;
    Reduce and work towards eliminating the number of individuals who live in shelter for longer than 180 days;
  • Undertake a statewide response and align City policies to reduce the number of homeless individuals arriving from outside of Boston seeking housing and services
  • Reduce the number of individuals living on the street;
    Improve discharge planning, outlining necessary proposed changes to ensure that discharges of individuals leaving state and other systems of care do not disproportionately impact Boston;
  • Develop an Unaccompanied Youth and Young Adult engagement and diversion plan. Improve the way shelter, housing, and service needs of homeless women are addressed across the system; and
  • Propose resources and potential sources needed to obtain improvements and recommended goals.

The City of Boston is taking the closure of Long Island as an opportunity to evaluate operations and identify ways to better serve some of Boston’s most vulnerable residents. In partnership with private shelter providers throughout the city, the City has established a temporary system to maintain access to emergency shelter, training, counseling, and support services to those individuals formerly receiving services on Long Island.

In addition, Boston is currently executing “Bringing Boston Home,” an action plan to house Boston’s homeless. Since the plan’s implementation, 121 individuals who had been previously living in shelter for one year or longer have been permanently housed. In addition, 42 vulnerable individuals who had been chronically homeless have been permanently housed, and 411 formerly homeless veterans have been permanently housed.

The task force will be co-chaired by Sheila Dillon, Chief of Housing, and Felix Arroyo, Chief of Health & Human Services. Other city representatives will include individuals from the Mayor’s cabinet, the Boston Public Health Commission, Boston Police Department, Boston Housing Authority, and the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics. Members of the Task Force on Individual Homelessness include:

  • Lyndia Downey, Pine Street Inn
  • Andy McCawley, New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans
  • Pamela Ogletree, Children Services of Roxbury
  • Elizabeth Jackson, Bridge Over Troubled Waters
  • Barry Bock, Boston Health Care for the Homeless
  • Karen LaFrazia, St. Francis House
  • Michael Weekes, The Provider Council
  • Jack Connors, Camp Harborview
  • John Rosenthal, Friends of Boston's Homeless
  • Sachin Jain, Harvard Medical School
  • Karen Kaplan, Hill Holliday
  • Stephen Fox, South End Forum
  • Luis Rosario, consumer
  • Tonya Williams, consumer
  • Bob Pulster, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness
  • Rose Evans, Division of Housing Stabilization, Division of Housing Stabilization
  • Department of Housing and Community Development
  • Michael Durkin, United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley
  • Melinda Marble, Pilot House Associates
  • Rebecca Koepnick, The Boston Foundation
  • Father Joe White, Our Lady of Good Voyage
  • Ryan Moser and Sarah Gallagher, Corporation for Supportive Housing