State’s budget for homeless services leaves local shelter facing shortfall

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP)– Governor Charlie Baker has now signed the 2016 fiscal year budget, which includes $44.8 million specifically for individual homeless services throughout the state. That is a nearly $2 million increase from last year’s budget.

The language of the line item for individual homeless services specifies how much guaranteed money will go to certain homeless shelters and services including $125,000 to a program set up in cooperation with United Way of Pioneer Valley.

Homeless services in Amherst, Berkshire County, and several in eastern Massachusetts were also set aside guaranteed funds. But despite years of requests, Springfield’s Friends of the Homeless was left off that list.

“This year, we didn’t get the earmark that we were anticipating, that our senators asked for, and it’s causing a significant shortfall,” Bill Miller, director Friends of the Homeless told 22News.

Miller said they currently get the minimum state funding for a 12-hour shelter, but provide 24-hour services.

Senator Eric Lesser (D-Longmeadow) told 22News that local legislators will be working to ensure there is help for the Friends of the Homeless.

“We are going to be attaching amendments to future legislation potentially if supplemental budgets come up in the coming weeks and months we are going to continue to bring that up,” Lesser said.

The Longmeadow Democrat said he believes this issue goes back to historic inequities between the eastern and western half of the state.

Right now, western Massachusetts has 13% of the state’s homeless population and receives 7% of the homeless funding. Greater Boston has 38% of the state’s homeless population and receives 65% of the funding.

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