To the editor:

As Massachusetts grapples with housing instability, unemployment, structural racism and health inequality, now is the time to invest in Residential Assistance for Families in Transition, a program of the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development.

RAFT is a key tool to help those at risk avoid or exit homelessness, providing funds to low-income households for needs such as rent, back utility payments and transportation costs.

Of the $28 million invested in RAFT, $5 million has been transferred to create a COVID-19 response fund. Looking ahead, when existing moratoria on evictions and utility shut-offs expire, more funding will be needed.

Census.gov reports 13.2% of Haverhill’s population live in poverty. Nearly 8,500 people are at risk of homelessness, illness and hunger on an average day - let alone during a pandemic.

Since COVID-19 began, hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts households have fallen behind on rent, utilities and other needs after job losses and reduced work hours. Both COVID-19 and housing instability also impact black and brown communities disproportionately.

RAFT is a key part of stemming the tide of homelessness, addressing racial inequities and keeping our communities whole.

With the uncertainty of COVID-19, it’s time for an immediate call to action.

Join with the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless in advocating with Legislature to appropriate $50 million for RAFT to address ongoing housing instability needs.

I hope your readers will reach out to their state representatives and senators to ask them to take action to prevent homelessness in the commonwealth by making critical investments in RAFT.

Melissa Rousselle

Haverhill

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