How CHAF Works

kendrickbillycostaFounded by the Cambridge Community of Realtors in 1999 as a response to the city’s growing numbers of homeless and the desire to maintain diversity in Cambridge, CHAF has grown from a fledgling group of concerned citizens into a citywide coalition including the Cambridge banking community, universities, Realtors, city officials, individuals and other businesses committed to ending and preventing homelessness.

By supplementing rental startup costs, the Cambridge Housing Assistance Fund has helped more than 2,000 households who were either homeless or on the verge of homelessness transition into a stable home from life in a shelter or on the street.

Frequently Asked Questions
Who is the fund for?

The Cambridge Housing Assistance Fund was established to provide financial assistance to homeless and near homeless clients of two Cambridge organizations – HomeStart and the Cambridge Mult Service Center for the Homeless. CHAF funds pay for expenses related to rental housing startup costs such as first and last month’s rent, security deposit and rental fees. The Fund is intended to help individuals and families overcome the financial obstacles facing lower income households in obtaining affordable housing.

Who is involved?

Founded by the Cambridge Council of Realtors, CHAF is a public/private partnership with HomeStart and the Cambridge Multi Service Center for the Homeless.

What do HomeStart and the Cambridge Multi-Service Center for the Homeless do?

HomeStart and the Cambridge Multi-Service Center provide housing search and support services to homeless and near-homeless families and individuals. Support services offered include information and referral to affordable housing programs; housing search support groups; access to telephone, voice mail and transportation resources; assistance negotiating with property owners and managers and case management services supporting access to healthcare, community service agencies, education and employment programs and home-based services.

In addition, staff provide stabilization services following a family’s move to their new home. These stabilization services increase the long term stability of the tenant and the likelihood that they will fulfill all the terms of their lease.

What is needed for the fund?

Saving the funds necessary to obtain an apartment can often seem and, in fact, be insurmountable for low-income families. If someone does find a suitable apartment, the required first and last month’s rent and security deposit can total well over $4,000.

The Cambridge Multi-Service Center reports that 10-15 families a month (or more) are in danger of losing access to an affordable apartment due to their inability to save enough for the required start up costs. Many families who are in possession of a rental subsidy to pay for their rent, lose the subsidy because they are unable to secure an apartment. This dilemma affects individuals as well and will only continue given economic trends and recent public funding cuts.

How does the fund work?

An approval committee, comprised of staff from HomeStart, Inc. and the Cambridge Multi-Service Center, disperses grants based on need and expected housing retention. The approval committee grants monies based on criteria agreed upon by the Cambridge Community of Realtors.

What about administrative costs?

HomeStart covers the costs of administering the fund. Donations to the fund are tax-deductible to the fullest extent of the law .

Distributing the Funds
The Cambridge Housing Assistance Fund works diligently to ensure that every donation reaches the individuals and families most in need in our community. That’s why CHAF partners with two local organizations deeply involved in the Cambridge community to distribute funds raised by CHAF.

HomeStart and the Cambridge Multi-Service Center for the Homeless are key CHAF allies in the fight to end homelessness.

Because these organizations work so closely with the homeless and near homeless, they are the organizations best equipped to identify the individuals and families who are struggling to maintain a roof over their heads.

An approval committee comprised of staff from HomeStart, Inc. disperses grants based on need and expected housing retention. The approval committee grants monies based on criteria agreed upon by the Cambridge community of realtors.

The organizations then distribute funds to individuals and families in need – forever altering the course of their lives. This is how your donation makes a difference in our community.

Housing Services

HomeStart and the Cambridge Multi-Service Center also provide housing search and support services. Support services offered include information and referral to affordable housing programs; housing search support groups; access to telephone, voice mail and transportation resources; assistance negotiating with property owners and managers and case management services supporting access to healthcare, other community service agencies, education and employment programs and home-based services.

Additionally, staff provide stabilization services following a family’s move to their new home. These stabilization services increase the long term stability of the tenant and the likelihood that they will fulfill all the terms of their lease.

What One Gift Can Do
How Your Gift Helps
Average Amount to Help One Family: $1,250

Estimated amount paid by state to shelter a homeless family for one year: $30,000

Percentage of CHAF/HomeStart clients still housed one year later: 96%

Number of households helped in 2016: 71

Total Raised in 2016: $186,140

Total Raised since 1999: Over $2,400,000

CHAF’s 2017 Fundraising Goal: $150,000

Affordable Housing in Massachusetts: Did You Know?
Affordable Housing in Massachusetts: Did You Know?

1. The number of individuals experiencing homelessness has doubled since 1990.

2. The average age of a homeless person in Massachusetts is 8 years old.

3. On any given night in Massachusetts, the approximately 3,000 night shelter beds for individuals are usually full.

4. Last year in the dead of winter the City of Cambridge counted 464 homeless people outside.

5. In order to afford the Fair Market Rent of $1,251 for a 2-bedroom apartment in Massachusetts, a minimum wage earner must work 120 hours per week, 52 weeks per year.

(Sources: 1-3—Basic Facts on Homelessness in Massachusetts and Across the Country, Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless; 4—2013 Cambridge Homeless Census Results, Cambridgema.gov; 5—”Out of Reach 2013: Massachusetts,” National Low Income Housing Coalition.)

Success Stories
Click here to view some real life CHAF success stories.