Cape loses RAFT: Program supports those in danger of becoming homeless

John Basile

A program that is helping to keep more than 450 Cape Cod families in their homes has lost its funding.

The Massachusetts House, in the closing hours before adjournment, de-funded the Rental Assistance to Families in Transition program (RAFT) in order to put more money into another program that supports shelters for the homeless.

Virginia Ryan of the Housing Assistance Corporation said the RAFT program has been valuable because it assists families hit by loss of employment, illness or other catastrophes by helping with rent payments.

“It’s a short-term payment that allows them to stay in their homes,” Ryan said, noting that the typical payment is about $2,000.

The RAFT program is in use in every Cape Cod town.

The Lower Cape Outreach Council and the Community Action Committee are among the agencies that also access RAFT funding for their clients in danger of losing their homes.

Ryan said the cost of placing a family in a shelter runs about $4,600 a month. She said there is also an intangible cost of family homelessness as well, as children are displaced from their neighborhoods and schools.

Ryan said the loss of RAFT money, coupled with cuts in other programs that assist low-income people means that there will be greater reliance on private donations and other public sources to help those in danger of becoming homeless.

The Cape has at times had access to about $1 million a year in funds to help the homeless. With all the cuts, the amount is now about $100,000, according to Ryan.

State Rep. Matthew Patrick, D-Falmouth, said he attempted to attach an amendment to the bill that removed the RAFT funding, but was not allowed to speak on it.

Patrick said he expects to have a meeting with Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo about restoring RAFT funds. Patrick said DeLeo understands the need for the RAFT program.