November 22, 2017
 
Three Boston Nonprofits Are the Winners in First IF Challenge

September 22, 2016 — Three Boston nonprofits have won prizes valued at $55,000 in an inaugural competition aimed at finding innovative solutions to Greater Boston’s most pressing social problems, earning recognition for their proposals to end family homelessness.

Boston-based United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley and the Boston College School of Social Work sponsored the IF (Innovating with Families) Challenge Prize, open to all 501(c)(3) organizations in Massachusetts, which drew 16 applicants.

The winners, announced yesterday, offered diverse solutions that embrace taking an existing and successful eviction prevention program to scale, developing an app to connect families to housing resources, and building a campaign to leverage the highly successful Earned Income Tax Credit program to help low-income working families pay for the cost of housing, as follows:
  • Children’s HealthWatch: $15,000 to research and lead a campaign for a tailored Earned Income Tax Credit, adjusted for the regional cost of housing, to help low- and lower-middle income families pay for housing in Massachusetts.

  • HomeStart: $20,000 to expand a successful eviction prevention program that is currently run in partnership with the Boston Housing Authority (BHA). Funds will be used to create a Homelessness Prevention Toolkit that HomeStart will use to replicate its eviction prevention program with private property development owners, potentially preventing thousands of families per year from experiencing homelessness.

  • Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership: $20,000 in a mix of funding, hardware, and technological consulting to develop a housing app to assess families’ eligibility for programs and connect them to affordable housing resources, including.
United Way funded the prizes, and the Boston College School of Social Work will provide the organizations with technology build-out and support, assistance with project evaluation, and three sessions with its Center for Social Innovation to implement their proposals.

“Our goal with the IF Challenge was to surface innovative, research-backed and feasible ideas that can be taken to a larger scale,” said United Way President Michael K. Durkin. “Homelessness does not always begin, or look, the way most people think it does; it is often caused by a combination of complex factors. Tackling it is not something that a single organization can do alone. We’re proud to partner with Boston College and the winning organizations...to help change the landscape of family homelessness in Massachusetts.”

Stephanie Berzin, associate professor at Boston College and co-director of the Center for Social Innovation, said, “These projects have the potential to fundamentally shift how we respond to this critical issue and we look forward to working collaboratively with these organizations.”

Winning solutions were evaluated by a panel of six judges chosen by United Way and BCSSW, along with experts from the two organizations: Shanta Pandey, professor, Boston College School of Social Work; Tom Byrne, professor, Boston University; Jere Doyle, entrepreneur & director, Shea Center for Entrepreneurship, Carroll School of Management at Boston College; Jan Cooper, retired partner, Deloitte and United Way Board member; Amanda Andere, CEO, Funders Together to End Homelessness; and Scott Bailey, CEO, MassChallenge.

In Massachusetts, more than 3,800 homeless families live in shelters or motels, according to the Department of Housing and Community Development. Homelessness has particularly adverse effects on children and youth including hunger, poor physical and mental health, and missed educational opportunities. For example, 97% of homeless children move at least once on an annual basis, leading to disruptions in school that can have a negative impact on academic achievement. Homeless children are twice as likely to have a learning disability, repeat a grade, or to be suspended from school.

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