CRUCIAL FUNDING: State legislature overrides veto on youth homelessness funding

Spare Change News– August 27, 2015

Gov. Charlie Baker’s veto of funding to combat youth homelessness has been overridden by both the Massachusetts Senate and the House of Representatives unanimously. The $2 million in new funding had been recommended by the Massachusetts Conference Committee and was the result of a multi-year effort by several organizations to increase funding specifically for the issue of young adult homelessness in Massachusetts.

On July 17, however, Gov. Baker vetoed the provision, along with several others. At the time, Baker wrote, “I am vetoing this item because it is not consistent with my House 1 recommendation,” but he stated that he was open to reconsidering the measure.

Organizations like Y2Y Harvard Square and Bridge Over Troubled Waters asked supporters to contact legislators in order to gather support for an override; a two-thirds majority in both the Senate and the House was necessary to undo the veto.

In a statement released at the time by the Y2Y shelter, Co-Executive Director Sam Greenberg criticized Baker’s decision, stating that the action had been taken “without sufficient comment or explanation.”

In an interview with Spare Change News, Greenberg elaborates, “It’s frustrating. It’s a matter of priorities certainly. He obviously funded some other housing programs significantly. For whatever reason, he felt that this one wasn’t necessarily worth funding.”

On July 31, the House and Senate overrode the governor’s veto and restored the funding. Now, organizations will have the opportunity to write proposals; the funding will support initiatives to provide a wide range of services, not just shelters.

As for the Y2Y, Greenberg and fellow Co-Executive Director Sarah Rosenkrantz say that the shelter does not rely on the funding to open, but that in the future it may play a “crucial” role in sustaining programming. However, the co-executive directors also see it as a declaration that youth homelessness matters.

“I think the fact that there has never before been discrete funding for this age range in Massachusetts is indicative of how we think about our young people,” says Greenberg. “The notion that we, as the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, don’t fund shelters for our young people is a big deal. For us, as a statement it’s really important.”

When asked about the overrides at a press briefing, Gov. Baker replies, “The budget is a combo platter: it’s a combination of decisions that get made by us, by the Senate, and by the House. And obviously, when [the House and Senate] finish their work we’ll take a look at it, add it up, and figure out what we need to do to make sure the budget is balanced and that we live within our means.”

When asked why there hasn’t been more funding for youth homelessness, Rosenkrantz responds, “A lot of the time it takes numbers and research to move the needle on funding, and that’s not the case yet for youth homelessness. It’s going to be a long process, and this $2 million will push it forward.”

Both Rosenkrantz and Greenberg also stressed that providing more funding for youth homelessness doesn’t mean reducing funding to combat other types of homelessness. “It’s dangerous when we think about it as either [chronic homelessness] or [youth homelessness]. Homelessness is a huge issue,” says Rosenkrantz.

“We have the money as a state to address homelessness [as a whole] in a better way,” Greenberg concludes.