Boston wins federal grant to reduce unsheltered homelessness

A tent encampment on Atkinson Street, near "Mass. and Cass" in January, 2022 (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A tent encampment on Atkinson Street, near "Mass. and Cass" in January, 2022 (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Boston has won a $16.5 million federal grant to help reduce unsheltered homelessness.

The city had to apply and compete for the money from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

It'll help more than 350 individuals and families either get housed or remain in housing by funding new units of permanent housing, housing vouchers and support programs, according to city officials.

"We're prioritizing connecting people to long-term and permanent housing and providing wraparound services to keep residents housed, with services like professional resources and job training, mental and physical health care, to ensure that people don't just have safe places to sleep, but everything they need to thrive once they've moved in," said Mayor Michelle Wu.

The funds will be divided between several nonprofits working to house and support people who've been homeless, and the Boston Housing Authority.

Eliot Community Human Services, which runs street outreach initiatives and other programs to house and support people who've been homeless, will receive about $6.3 million over three years. The organization will use the funds to house more than 100 people who've been living on the streets near Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard — an area known as "Mass. and Cass" — or in other settings deemed to be high-risk.

"We are in a shared, pivotal moment in addressing unsheltered homelessness in Boston," said Keith Wales, director of homeless and outreach services for Eliot. "This opportunity before us builds upon Boston's rich history of solving complex problems."

Eliot will apply the funding toward creating a new model of supportive housing that addresses tenants' behavioral health and medical concerns "at a new level," Wales said.

More than 60 communities around the country won grants totaling $486 million to address homelessness, said Richard Cho, senior advisor for housing and services at HUD.

In announcing the grant, Cho described Boston as a city that "believes homelessness should not exist."

Cho applauded the city for joining a HUD initiative called House America. According to Cho, Boston moved more than 1,000 people who were homeless into housing over a 15-month period and added to the city's pipeline more than 700 units of housing dedicated to people coming out of homelessness.

The effort is funded through the American Rescue Plan Act.

In the city's 2022 homeless census — the most recent count for which data is available — there were 4,439 people found to be homeless in Boston. About one-third of them were unaccompanied adults, and 119 were staying on the streets as opposed to in shelters. There's been a significant increase in homelessness among families in recent months, with more migrant families arriving in Boston.

The city conducted its most recent homeless census in January, but hasn't yet released the corresponding report.


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Lynn Jolicoeur Producer/Reporter
Lynn Jolicoeur is the field producer for WBUR's All Things Considered. She also reports for the station's various local news broadcasts.



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