Way Finders Reports Large Increase in Those Seeking Services
Springfield, MA, April 28, 2020— Way Finders, Inc. has been experiencing a significant increase in the number of families and individuals who are seeking services as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and crisis. Since launching an online assessment portal for Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) funding in late March, the organization has received over 1,200 inquiries, averaging 50-100 new inquiries every day, and is responding with new means of service delivery.
Way Finders has transitioned many of its services to be provided remotely and has continued essential, on-site support for homeless families living in shelter, landlords and clients in its rental assistance program, and residents living in properties managed by the organization throughout the region. Way Finders is the largest nonprofit housing provider in Western Massachusetts.
In a related development, the administration of Governor Charlie Baker added $5 million in funding for the RAFT program statewide, with $455,297 allocated to Way Finders for constituents in Hampden and Hampshire counties in need of housing assistance.
“We applaud the Baker Administration for taking the first steps to protect Massachusetts residents facing housing insecurity due to COVID-19,” Peter A. Gagliardi, President and CEO of Way Finders, said. “The additional RAFT funding and the corresponding lifting of eligibility barriers implemented by the administration offers an important first step in meeting the surge of new clients that Regional Administering Agencies are seeing as a result of unexpected job loss and expenses related to this health crisis.”
To keep people in their homes, Way Finders and other nonprofits across the state are advocating for an additional $50 million in RAFT funding, in addition to the FY2021 normal appropriation of $23 million. Gagliardi said, “The legislature passed, and the governor signed, important eviction moratorium legislation. It is important to think about what happens when a moratorium lifts in a few months. Thousands of individuals and families in Massachusetts may owe months in back rent, mortgage, and utility payments.”
Way Finders has retained all of its staff during the COVID-19 shutdown and has made significant investments in technology to transition program teams serving thousands of clients remotely. The organization had planned to open the doors at their new Housing Center, located at 1780 Main Street, in April. Construction on that building has continued during the shutdown. Way Finders will announce plans to transition back to providing in-person services in consultation with state and local officials, keeping the health and safety of its clients and staff as the highest priority. Until that time, Way Finders encourages residents to visit www.wayfindersma.org/covid-19 for information on how to obtain services and reach staff throughout various program areas.