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Shelter, Housing and Utilities

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed February, 2019

Transition to Independent Living Program and Transition to Home Programs

You may be able to get a one-time rental, utility, and/or relocation expense paid for you.  These programs make payments for survivors of domestic violence who are trying to live apart from their abusers. You may be able to get money to cover back rent, security deposit and first month"s rent, and/or back utility bills. The money comes from the Department of Social Services (DSS), but you get the money by applying to certain domestic violence and housing organizations around the state.

Talk to your local domestic violence organization to find out how to apply.

Emergency Assistance

The Emergency Assistance (EA) Program gives homeless families with children under 21 and pregnant women free emergency shelter. You can apply for shelter at any DTA office.  If the DTA office near you cannot help, the office will connect you to a DHCD worker by phone.

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

See Applying to DTA for information about applying for Emergency Assistance.

And to learn even more about Emergency Assistance see the Housing section of MassLegalHelp.

Find the DTA office near you.

Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT)

RAFT helps with housing costs for people who are homeless or about to become homeless.

To get RAFT, you must:

  • Have a low income.
  • You also must have children living with you or
  • Have a disability.

RAFT can help with back- rent, utilities, security deposit, and first month's rent. The most you can get from the program is $4,000 in 12 months.

You can apply for RAFT funds at your regional Housing Consumer Education Center.

Learn more on the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD)'s web page.

Fuel Assistance

Fuel Assistance is a program that pays part of your heating costs each winter. You may be able to get help paying for fuel even if your heat is included in your rent. You can apply for Fuel Assistance at your local Community Action Program.

Download a brochure Fuel Assistance 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 the Income and Benefits section of MassLegalHelp.

Protections from Shut-offs

In certain situations the 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 being evicted because you can't pay 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.

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