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Children’s Services of Roxbury’s Testimony in Support of the Affordable Housing Bond Bill

Testimony in Support of the Affordable Housing Bond Bill from CSR’s President & CEO Sandra M.McCroom

January 2024

My name is Sandra McCroom. I am President and CEO of Children’s Services of Roxbury, one of Massachusetts’ largest Black-run nonprofits. We serve thousands of the state’s most vulnerable children and families across the Commonwealth, from Boston to Worcester to Springfield and beyond. Each year, we house over 1,000 homeless children and parents, supporting them to transition to permanent, stable housing. We work with over 200 migrant parents and children living in hotels. We run a drop-in center for young adults who are homeless or couch-surfing and coping with a lifetime of trauma. As the Commonwealth’s only Black-specialized provider of children’s mental health services, we work with Boston Public Schools students and their families, so many of whom are facing housing instability, risk of eviction, and homelessness.

Every day, Children’s Services of Roxbury witnesses up close the harrowing, sustained toll of homelessness and housing instability on children and families, especially in communities of color. For all these reasons, I am here to offer Children’s Services of Roxbury’s enthusiastic support for the Affordable Homes Act. We support every part of this act, including the creation of over 40,000 homes and the preservation of 27,000 existing units. We operate several buildings that house very vulnerable people who are in urgent need of investment to preserve the affordability of these units. We have purchased a large site adjacent to our headquarters where we plan to create new housing for very low-income youth and families.

Given our experience, I want to focus on the sections of the bill that invest in housing for our most vulnerable families. The Black and Brown families we see in our shelters, and all the families being turned away from shelters for lack of capacity, are not earning 80% or 100% of AMI. They are struggling in low-wage jobs. They cannot find housing that they can afford anywhere. They cannot fit in two-bedroom units. We need affordable housing for very low-wage families. The homeless young adults flowing into our drop-in center, many of whom have aged out of foster care or other systems, need affordable supportive housing so that we can prevent the next generation of Mass and Cass.

For this reason, I am especially enthusiastic about the $200,000 for the Housing Innovations Fund and the Supportive Housing Pool Fund to bring in support services for families. I also support the funding for community-based housing for people with mental health needs and other disabilities. Lastly, I want to enthusiastically support the section of the bill focused on homeownership opportunities, especially in communities of color. Black and Latinx homeownership rates are half those of White communities. We all know that wealth-building through homeownership is an essential step to ending the cycle of trauma perpetuated by poverty and homelessness. I wholeheartedly support the Commonwealth’s investment in affordable homeownership opportunities.

To Governor Healey, I say thank you for your leadership and your deep commitment to addressing the housing crisis in Massachusetts. To all our hardworking legislators, I am grateful for your support and for your time. Thank you for your good work