The Cambridge Housing Assistance Fund (CHAF) is a broad-based community coalition of Realtors, local banks, civic and business leaders and universities, united by the common goal of ending homelessness in Cambridge. Operated by Cambridge Realtors in a public/private partnership with the Cambridge banking community, HomeStart, Inc. and the Cambridge Multi-Service Center for the Homeless. CHAF provides a bridge to housing for homeless and near homeless families and individuals in two ways. First, by assisting with the initial costs of renting an apartment (first, last, security deposits, moving costs, etc.) and by providing one-time assistance grants to households at risk of becoming homeless. CHAF acts as a crucial life raft to those that need it most. Recently, CHAF has expanded its initiative, by adding CHAF-funded services, and placing a CHAF advocate in the Cambridge office of HomeStart, Inc. This expansion added capacity to serve those on the brink of homelessness. And, should a household need assistance getting off the streets or out of a shelter and into permanent housing, they can access the vital support they need to make this happen by meeting with a specialized advocate at HomeStart. Advocates provide a variety of services, such as housing search, coordination with landlords and movers, homelessness prevention, eviction intervention, and stabilization and budget help once the client is housed. This helps break the cycle of homelessness permanently.
Since its inception in 1999, CHAF has raised more than $2.2 million – enough to open doors for more than 1,900 households. And, with follow up services from CHAF partner HomeStart, 96% of clients remained housed one year later and beyond. Once homeless, it costs the state approximately $30,000 per year to house a family in emergency shelter. For a $930 assistance grant, CHAF can prevent that same family from losing their home. Prevention works!