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Shelter, Housing and Utilities

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed April, 2021

Transition to Independent Living Program and Transition to Home Programs

Domestic violence programs may be able to help you get money to help pay:

  • back rent,
  • back utility bills,
  • security deposit and first month’s rent for a new place, or
  • relocation expenses. 

The programs make payments for survivors of domestic violence who try to live apart from the person who abused them.

Apply with your local domestic violence organization.

Free shelter: Emergency Assistance

The Emergency Assistance (EA) Program gives free emergency shelter to certain Massachusetts:

  • Homeless families with children under 21 and
  • pregnant people.

During the COVID-19 State of Emergency, apply by calling the Department of Housing and Community Development Emergency Assistance line at (866) 584-0653.

Learn more about the Emergency Assistance (EA) Program in the Income and Benefits section of MassLegalHelp.

Learn more about Emergency Assistance see the Housing section of MassLegalHelp.

Find the DTA office near you where you can apply with a DHCD worker. Call before you go in-person.

Residential Assistance for Programs

Use one application at your regional Housing Consumer Education Center.

to apply for:

Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP)

ERAP can pay your back rent, future rent or moving costs if:

  • You lost income or had more costs because of COVID-19 or it affected you in some other way, And,
  • You earn less than 80% of Area Median Income.

Back rent

ERAP can pay up to 12 months of your back rent going back to March 13, 2020.

Future rent

ERAP will pay 3 months at a time through December 31, 2021.

  • ERAP will not pay future rent for subsidized tenants.

Moving costs

ERAP can pay for things like:

  • moving costs,
  • first month’s rent,
  • last month’s rent,
  • security deposit, and
  • up to $1,500.00 of overdue utility bills.

Apply for ERAP funds at your regional Housing Consumer Education Center.

ERAP funds are paid directly to your landlord.

Note to immigrants

Your immigration status does not matter. Anyone can apply for ERAP.

Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) and Emergency Rental and Mortgage Assistance (ERMA)

RAFT and ERMA can pay up to $10,000 in back rent or mortgage payments, utility bills, future rent, mortgage payments or moving costs if:

  • You are homeless or about to become homeless, and
  • Your income is less than 80% of Area Median Income.

RAFT and ERMA send payments to your landlord or mortgage company.

Apply for RAFT and ERMA funds through Regional Housing Consumer Education Centers.

See the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD)'s webpage.

Note to immigrants

Your immigration status does not matter. Anyone can apply for RAFT and ERMA.

Fuel Assistance

Fuel Assistance pays part of your heating costs in winter. You may be able to get help to pay for fuel even if your heat is included in your rent. Apply for Fuel Assistance at your local Community Action Program.

Download a Fuel Assistance brochure from the State's website

utility discounts and protections from shut-off

utility discounts

All of the large utility companies have discounts for people with low incomes. Contacting your electricity, gas, and local phone service company to apply for the discount.

Learn more about utility discounts in the Income and Benefits section of MassLegalHelp.

protections from shut-offs

Sometimes a utility company may not be allowed to shut off your service.

Learn more about these protections in Help with Utilities for Survivors of Domestic Violence.

Public Housing and Rental Vouchers

You may be able to get an apartment that costs less than the fair market rent amount. Many towns have public housing and rental vouchers for people with low incomes. Unfortunately, the waiting lists are long. Victims of domestic violence, especially if they are homeless because of abuse, sometimes get a higher priority and can get in quickly.

Learn more about Finding Housing in the Housing section of MassLegalHelp.

To apply, find housing authorities in Massachusetts at the Department of Housing and Community Development's web page.

Look at Help with Rent for Survivors of Domestic Violence if you are worried about paying your rent.

Private Programs

Some towns have private funds to help people in their towns who have a low income. Ask at your local churches or town hall. You may be able to get some help from the Red Cross or the Salvation Army.

The Massachusetts Division of Energy Resources has a consumer tip sheet with contact information for some of these organizations.

Who to call for help

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

Ask a Law Librarian

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