A Family’s Guide
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless
300 Congress St. 5th Floor, Boston, MA 02210
617-423-9162 or 1-866-205-1700
Updated August 2003
What is Emergency Assistance?
If you are homeless and have nowhere to go-
Then you may be eligible for Emergency Assistance, Massachusetts’ emergency family
shelter program. The Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA), the state’s welfare
office, runs the Emergency Assistance program.
To receive Emergency Assistance, you must meet these criteria:
You have one or more children under the age of 21, or you are pregnant; and
You are a citizen, qualified immigrant, or refugee or at least one member of your
household is a citizen, qualified immigrant, or refugee.
The Emergency Assistance program can:
Help you find new housing
Provide you with shelter until you find permanent housing
If you need shelter and you are eligible, DTA will make placements
The other parent of a child who is going into shelter with you
Note: DTA has the right to make separate placements if there is more than one
adult in the family. This means that if you are part of a two-parent family, the
other parent may not be placed with you and your child(ren).
In certain cases, DTA may allow your extended family members (such as your
niece, grandson, or aunt) to stay in shelter with you.
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless 300 Congress Street Boston, MA 02210 Toll Free 866-205-1700 1
Are You Eligible For Shelter?
In order to receive shelter through the Emergency Assistance program, your family must
be homeless with no other feasible shelter options and you must meet the eligibility
requirements described below.
To be eligible for shelter, you must meet income requirements. Below is a list of the
maximum amount of money you can earn per month before taxes based on the number
of people in your family. Your family includes all the people who are applying for shelter.
Family How much you can earn monthly
Size and still get into shelter
* TAFDC, SSI, and EAEDC payments are counted in these amounts. DTA does not count income from food stamps,
training stipends (up to $130/month), college grants and loans (including work study), money earned by family
members under the age of 14, and up to six months of earnings of full-time students over the age of 14.
DTA also will deny shelter to you if an adult in your family has quit a job or reduced
income, without “good cause”, within 90 days of applying for shelter. “Good cause” may
apply to you if you cannot meet program requirements because you do not have
suitable childcare, you are dealing with certain health conditions, or you have a family
emergency. Good cause also covers certain job situations: you are receiving
substandard wages, you are experiencing discrimination, there are health and safety
violations, or your job only is available because there is a strike or lockout.
Your family also must undergo an asset test. In order to qualify for shelter, your family
cannot have more than $2,500 in countable assets. This includes funds that you have in
cash and in bank accounts that you can access.
Your car also may be counted towards your asset limit. Any amount over $5,000 in
equity value or $10,000 in fair market value will be counted.
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless 300 Congress Street Boston, MA 02210 Toll Free 866-205-1700 2
DTA can deny shelter to your family if you transfer any property in the year before
applying for EA with the intention of making yourself eligible for EA.
Your Previous Housing Situation
You are not eligible for shelter if:
You were in EA shelter at any point during the past year, unless you left shelter for
permanent housing that turned out to be unsafe or unaffordable, or you left for
temporary shelter that was approved by DTA.
You were evicted for not paying your rent in a Section 8 apartment or another type of
government subsidized housing.
You were evicted from any apartment because of criminal activity—unless you lost
your housing because of the criminal activity of a domestic violence batterer who is
not applying for shelter along with your family.
You were evicted from any apartment because you or another family member
damaged the property.
You lost your housing and the eviction proceedings were brought on because of one
of the above reasons.
You were asked to leave three Teen Living Programs (TLP) for rule violations or
behavior-related issues, or you refused an available TLP placement. If you are a
teen parent over the age of 18 who is not required to participate in a TLP, DTA
should place you in EA shelter if you meet the eligibility requirements.
REMEMBER: If you think that you are being denied shelter unfairly, contact your
local legal services office. These numbers are available at the end of your manual.
MAKE SURE YOU HAVE YOUR SHELTER DENIAL IN WRITING.
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless 300 Congress Street Boston, MA 02210 Toll Free 866-205-1700 3
How Do You Apply For Shelter?
You are homeless and have nowhere to go. You have children or you
are pregnant, and you meet the eligibility criteria. What next?
If you are on TAFDC (cash assistance) or food stamps, tell your caseworker that you
are homeless. Your caseworker will help you apply for Emergency Assistance or will
give you a referral to the person in the welfare office that can help you.
If you are not on welfare, look at the list of Department of Transitional Assistance
(DTA) offices at the end of this manual. You should go to the office that serves your
city or town.
To apply for shelter, you will need the following documents:
Social security cards of adults in the family who are applying for shelter
Your children’s birth certificates
If you are working, your most recent pay stubs
If you were evicted from a house or apartment in the last year, all of your court
If you are pregnant and have no other children, a doctor’s letter stating that you are
If you currently are staying with a family member or friend but you cannot stay any
longer, a letter from that person stating that you and/or your children must leave their
Any documents about your assets, such as a car, a savings account, or trust fund
Note: If you have nowhere else to go, but do not have all these documents, DTA
still has to place you in shelter right away. You will have 30 days to provide the
rest of the documents.
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless 300 Congress Street Boston, MA 02210 Toll Free 866-205-1700 4
What Happens If You Are Approved For Shelter?
Where will you be placed?
DTA will try to place your family as close as possible to your home community.
Unfortunately, due to the emergency nature of placements, the closest available
placement may be far from your children’s schools, your work, your family’s health
providers, and your supports.
If you are placed far away from your home community, DTA should transfer you to a
shelter near your community as soon as a space becomes available.
What happens if you refuse a shelter placement?
You should tell your caseworker about particular medical needs or other conditions
that would make it difficult for you to be far from your neighborhood.
However, you could lose your shelter benefits if you refuse a placement. In
addition, you will not be able to get back into shelter for one year. If this happens to
you, contact your local legal services office.
When will you get into a shelter if you are currently in a motel?
The amount of time you spend in a motel depends upon openings in shelters near
your home community and the makeup of your family. DTA will refer you to a shelter
for an interview whenever a space becomes available that looks right for your family.
This process could take anywhere from a few days to a few months. If you have
teenage boys or an adult male in your family, it might take a little longer for you to
get into shelter because many shelters only accept males up to the age of 11.
If you really need to be closer to your home neighborhood, check in regularly with
your caseworker to see if a space has become available.
What if you can’t pay for a cab or public transportation to reach
the motel where you have been placed?
Tell your caseworker that you do not have the money to get to your placement. Your
caseworker will work with you to find transportation options.
If you accept a placement, but then are unable to find transportation to get there, you
should not lose your benefits. You should let your worker know what happened, so
that DTA can make a placement for you the next day. Contact your local legal
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless 300 Congress Street Boston, MA 02210 Toll Free 866-205-1700 5
services office if DTA denies your family shelter because you were unable to get to a
What if you don’t have food or food stamps?
The DTA should give you emergency food stamps within seven days if you are
homeless and have no money for food. Some offices will give you emergency food
stamps within two days.
Some DTA offices may give you food if they have it available. Ask your caseworker
about getting food if you have no food stamps or money.
You also should call Project Bread at 800-645-8333 to find out about food pantries
near your motel or shelter placement.
How long can you stay in shelter?
Currently, there is no time limit for shelter.
You may be terminated from shelter for not fulfilling various requirements, but your
length of stay in shelter is not a reason for termination.
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless 300 Congress Street Boston, MA 02210 Toll Free 866-205-1700 6
Can You Be Terminated From Shelter?
Are there reasons for which you can lose shelter?
DTA can terminate you from shelter if you do not follow all of the shelter/motel rules, or
if you do not meet shelter requirements. The first time you do not fulfill one of the
requirements listed below, you will be given a noncompliance. The second time you do
not meet the requirements, you will be given a second noncompliance and you will be
terminated from shelter. Below is a list of some of the reasons a shelter resident could
be given a noncompliance.
You did not fulfill your housing search requirements.
You did not comply with your self-sufficiency plan.
You left shelter without telling DTA.
If you are involved in criminal activity at a motel or shelter, you will be
REMEMBER: If you are asked to leave a shelter because your family violated a
shelter rule (such as your kids were noisy or you missed a shelter meeting), DTA
must find you another placement at a motel or shelter. DTA can terminate your
family if you break DTA’s rules.
What should you do if you are terminated from shelter?
If you are terminated from the DTA shelter program, you should file an appeal. DTA will
send you a notice stating that you are terminated. Contact your local legal services
immediately after receiving the notice to get help with the appeal process. If you
do not receive the notice until after your appeal deadline, contact legal services.
How long will it be before you can get into shelter again?
If you lose an appeal, you may not be able to use shelter for a year from the time that
you left shelter. However, you may be eligible sooner. Contact your local legal services
for more information.
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless 300 Congress Street Boston, MA 02210 Toll Free 866-205-1700 7
What Is A Self-Sufficiency Plan?
About the self-sufficiency plan
A self-sufficiency plan identifies your goals while you are in shelter. These goals are
related to finding housing, saving money, and working.
You create the plan along with your housing search worker, shelter worker, and DTA
The plan is supposed to help you, so the goals listed should be activities that you
feel are useful to you and your future.
You only should sign the plan after you feel that it is right for you.
What if you don’t agree with everything in your plan?
You should work with your housing search worker to develop a plan that reflects
If you feel that your housing search worker, shelter worker, or caseworker are
forcing you to sign the plan even though you disagree with parts of it, call your local
legal services office.
What will happen if you don’t do what is in the plan?
After you sign your plan, your housing search worker, shelter worker, and DTA
caseworker will meet with you regularly to monitor how the plan is going.
You should tell your caseworker if you feel the plan is not working out because of
medical, work, or certain other reasons.
If your workers feel that you are not following your plan, they may give you a
noncompliance. If you receive two noncompliances, you could be terminated from
Contact your local legal services office if you are terminated from shelter because
you did not follow your self-sufficiency plan.
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless 300 Congress Street Boston, MA 02210 Toll Free 866-205-1700 8
Are You Required To Work While In Shelter?
About the Work Requirement
If you are on TAFDC (cash assistance) and have a work requirement, you are
required to work as soon as you enter shelter.
Your welfare caseworker will tell you if you are required to work. Currently, you
should not be required to work if you have a child under age 2 who is on TAFDC
(or could be qualified for TAFDC) or a child less than 3 months not on TAFDC. If
you receive SSI or Social Security for disability, you should not be required to work.
You cannot be forced to work if you do not have access to childcare or
transportation. Contact legal services if you are on TAFDC and required to work
even though childcare and/or transportation are not available to you.
What if your job is far away?
If you are currently working and your job is far away, you should request your
Emergency Assistance caseworker to assign you a closer placement as soon as
one becomes available.
DTA cannot require you to work or search for a job if you have no transportation.
Will you lose your TAFDC benefits?
If you are in shelter and subject to the work requirements, you could lose your TAFDC
benefits if you do not work or engage in job search. You should call legal services
immediately if you lose your TAFDC benefits for not working while in shelter.
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless 300 Congress Street Boston, MA 02210 Toll Free 866-205-1700 9
What If You Are Not Eligible For Shelter
Or You Are Terminated From Shelter?
If you are not eligible for shelter, there are several actions you can take.
If DTA denies you shelter or terminates you from shelter, you can appeal their
decision. Contact legal services to find out if you have a chance of winning your
denial on an appeal. Your denial must be in writing. You should contact Legal
Services before you schedule your appeal. You can fax or mail your appeal
Division of Hearings, Department of Transitional Assistance
529 Main Street, Charlestown, MA 02129
Phone: (617) 241-2500
Fax: (617) 241-2535
Contact an advocate. There are many people who might be able to help you find
options. There are a limited number of non-DTA shelter spaces (“community
rooms”) that may be available. Below are some numbers of agencies that might be
able to help you.
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless (617) 423-9162 or
(866) 205-1700 x104
Travelers Aid (617) 542-7286
United Way First Call for Help (800) 231-4377
For Boston Families Only:
Mayor’s Hotline (after 5 pm) (617) 635-4500
If you have nowhere else to turn, go to your local police station or emergency room
for assistance and/or a safe place to stay.
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless 300 Congress Street Boston, MA 02210 Toll Free 866-205-1700 10
Legal Services Offices
If you are having trouble getting Emergency Assistance or you have been
terminated from shelter, contact the legal services office closest to you.
Cambridge & Somerville Legal Services (617) 494-1800 or (617) 603-2700
Greater Boston Legal Services (617) 371-1234 or (617) 742-9179
Legal Assistance Corporation of Central Massachusetts
Worcester (508) 752-3718
Legal Services for Cape Cod & Islands
Hyannis (508) 775-7020 or (800) 742-4107
Plymouth (508) 746-2777 or (800) 585-4933
Mass Justice Project
Holyoke (413) 533-2660 or (800) 639-1209
Worcester (508) 831-9888
Merrimack Valley Legal Services
Lawrence (978) 687-1177 or (800) 427-2521
Lowell (978) 458-1465 or (800) 525-0989
Neighborhood Legal Services
Lawrence (978) 686-6900
Lynn (781) 599-7730 or (800) 747-5056
New Center for Legal Advocacy
New Bedford (508) 979-7160 or (800) 244-9023
South Middlesex Legal Services
Framingham (508) 620-1830 or (800) 244-9023
Southeastern Massachusetts Legal Assistance Corporation
Brockton (508) 586-2110 or (800) 244-8393
Fall River (508) 676-6265 or (800) 287-3777
New Bedford (508) 979-7150 or (800) 929-9721
Western Massachusetts Legal Services
Northampton (413) 584-4034
Pittsfield (413) 499-1950 or (800) 639-1509
Springfield (413) 781-7814
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless 300 Congress Street Boston, MA 02210 Toll Free 866-205-1700 11
Department of Transitional Assistance
Apply for Emergency Assistance at your local Department of Transitional Assistance.
For Boston families: Apply for Emergency Assistance at Boston Family Housing. If you
are on TAFDC, you first need a referral from your caseworker.
Office Address Telephone/Fax
OFFICE CLOSED 2002
Boston Family 90 Washington St. (617) 989-6100
Housing Dorchester, MA 02121 (617) 989-6005 fax
Brockton 75 Commercial Street (508) 895-7000
Brockton, MA 02302 (617) 727-3569 fax
Davis Square 1 Davis Square (617) 629-1400
Somerville, MA 02144 (617) 727-7697 fax
Dorchester 90 Washington Street (617) 989-6000
Dorchester, MA 02121 (617) 727-4722 fax
Fall River 1567 North Main Street (800) 570-4792
Fall River, MA 02720 (508) 675-3441 fax
Falmouth 155 Katharine Lee Bates Rd. (508) 495-1400
Falmouth, MA 02540 (508) 540-6756 fax
Fitchburg 473 Main Street (978) 665-8700
Fitchburg, MA 01420 (978) 345-0935 fax
Framingham 110 Mt. Wayte Ave. (508) 661-6600
Framingham, MA 01702 (508) 727-4718 fax
Greenfield 1 Arch Place, Suite 2A (413) 722-3400
Greenfield, MA 01301 (413) 774-5266 fax
Haverhill 755 Main Street (978) 469-7100
Haverhill, MA 01830 (978) 378-8941 fax
72-100 Front Street
Holyoke P.O. Box 1370 (413) 552-5400
Holyoke, MA 01041 (413) 784-1050 fax
Hyannis 77 High School Rd. Ext. (508) 862-6600
Hyannis, MA 02601 (508) 790-4685 fax
Lawrence 15 Union Street (978) 725-7100
Lawrence, MA 01840 (978) 681-6216 fax
Lowell 131 Davidson St. (978) 446-2400
Lowell, MA 01852 (978) 458-7563 fax
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless 300 Congress Street Boston, MA 02210 Toll Free 866-205-1700 12
Office Address Telephone/Fax
Malden 200 Pleasant Street (781) 388-7300
Malden, MA 02148 (617) 727-7493 fax
Milford 25 Birch Street (508) 634-7100
Milford, MA 01757 (508) 792-7267 fax
New Bedford 160 W. Rodney French Blvd. (508) 961-2000
New Bedford, MA 02744 (508) 961-2100 fax
New Market 1010 Massachusetts Avenue (617) 989-2200
Square Boston, MA 02118 (617) 427-9214 fax
North Adams 37 Main Street (413) 663-1100
North Adams, MA 02147 (413) 664-9274 fax
Northampton OFFICE CLOSED 2002
North Shore 35 Congress Street (978) 825-7300
Salem, MA 01970 (978) 741-4869 fax
Oak Bluffs OFFICE CLOSED 2002
Orleans OFFICE CLOSED 2002
Pittsfield 75 South Church St., 4 floor (413) 236-2000
Pittsfield, MA 01201 (413) 448-2466 fax
Plymouth 61 Industrial Park Rd. (508) 732-3100
Plymouth, MA 02360 (508) 830-9433 fax
Quincy 1Cliveden Street (800) 421-8560
Quincy, MA 02169 (617) 727-7660 fax
Revere 300 Ocean Avenue (800) 522-4454
Revere, MA 02151 (781) 853-0524 fax
Roslindale 970-980 American Legion (800) 590-4820
Hwy. (617) 727-7677 fax
Roslindale, MA 02131
Southbridge 79 North Street (508) 765-2400
Southbridge, MA 01550 (508) 765-0740 fax
Springfield State 310 State Street (800) 441-4750
Springfield, MA 01105 (413) 784-1049 fax
Springfield Liberty 95 Liberty Street (413) 858-1000
Springfield, MA 01103 (413) 784-1044 fax
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless 300 Congress Street Boston, MA 02210 Toll Free 866-205-1700 13
Taunton 21 Spring Street (508) 823-2571
Taunton, MA 02780 (508) 880-5384 fax
Wareham P.O. Box 335 (508) 291-4500
Onset, MA 02558 (508) 291-7327 fax
Westfield 125 North Elm Street (413) 564-5100
Westfield, MA 01085 (413) 784-1047 fax
Worcester (508) 767-3100
9 Walnut Street (800) 715-5494
Worcester, MA 01608 (508) 792-7259 fax
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless 300 Congress Street Boston, MA 02210 Toll Free 866-205-1700 14