When can your Emergency Shelter benefits be terminated?

Produced by Massachusetts Law Reform Institute
Reviewed December 2019

DHCD can terminate your family's EA shelter benefits if:

  • a family member engages in criminal activity that threatens the health, safety and security of themselves, other family members, other shelter residents, or shelter staff;
  • your family refuses a shelter placement or transfer or fails to appear at a designated placement without good cause (good cause for this purpose includes lack of transportation, lack of state-licensed child care, and a family crisis, emergency or other compelling situation that requires a family member's attention);
  • your family abandons shelter ("abandonment" means you were absent from shelter for at least 2 nights in a row or you had "repeated absences" without permission from authorized shelter staff or DHCD and without good cause);
  • your family now has feasible alternative housing;
  • your family's gross monthly income goes over the EA income limit for 90 consecutive days (although you can remain in shelter for six months to look for housing, unless you are terminated for another reason). See What is the EA income limit?;
  • a family member quits a job, refuses additional work, or reduces earnings from employment, unless you have good cause (good cause for this purpose includes lack of child care, a family crisis or emergency or other extraordinary circumstances); or
  • your family rejects an offer of safe, permanent housing without good cause (good cause for this purpose includes, but is not limited to, that the housing would require the parent to leave a job that is part of his or her Re-housing Plan; the housing would interfere with access to critical medical needs of household members, including access to specialty medical providers; the housing would interfere with the special education needs of a child; or the housing is in an area in proximity to a domestic abuser, or in an area the household was forced to leave because of safety concerns directed at any member of the household).

DHCD can also terminate your family's shelter benefits if a family has three noncompliances that were either not appealed or that were upheld after appeal. Any of the following could lead to issuance of a noncompliance:

  • a family member poses a threat to the health, safety or security of herself, other family members in shelter, other shelter residents, or shelter staff;
  • a family member misses a family shelter interview without good cause. (good cause for this purpose may be limited to a death in your immediate family, a personal injury or illness, or another sudden and serious emergency as determined by DHCD);
  • a family member does not cooperate in developing a Rehousing Plan, which may impose obligations such as work, housing search, debt-reduction, savings, or other requirements intended to improve your ability to get and keep permanent housing;
  • a family member does not comply with the Rehousing Plan without good reasons;
  • a family member or a guest violates the Uniform Shelter Program Rules one time.

760 CMR 67.06(5) and (6).

Advocacy Tips

  • The Uniform Shelter Program Rules were revised on January 2, 2015 to provide more “good cause” exceptions to certain rules, to excuse some minor (de minimis) violations of so me rules, to require 24-hours' notice of non-emergency room inspections, to allow families in motels to get permission for another resident to babysit their children, and to create new forms to allow requests for babysitting and overnights away from the shelter. See Uniform Shelter Program Rules and the new Uniform Shelter Program Rules in several languages. You may be entitled to have a noncompliance or termination notice rescinded if you could not understand the rules because you did not receive them in your preferred language. The Rules changes were the result of a lawsuit brought by MLRI called Hayes v. DHCD. Be sure you have a copy of the Rules and understand them since three rules violations can lead to termination.
  • A noncompliance for failing to create or follow a rehousing plan or for violating a shelter rule without good cause will be deemed rescinded if there are no further violations within the following six months. 760 CMR 67.06(5)(e).
  • To avoid a finding that you “abandoned” shelter, ask your shelter provider to help you request permission for any nights away from the shelter using an Overnight Request Form.
  • For absences of more than 4 nights in a month, ask your DHCD worker to give you written permission to be absent from shelter on a Temporary Emergency Shelter Interruption (TESI) form, and get the written approval before you leave the shelter. A TESI allows families to leave shelter and then return to the shelter system within 30 days, without having to re-prove their eligibility or be blocked by the 12-month rule. TESIs last a maximum of 30 days, but families may ask for one extension for a total of 60 days. Families who become categorically ineligible because DCF has temporarily removed all children from the household are eligible for a TESI. See Housing Stabilization Notice 2016-02.
  • Families who must take a TESI because of DCF removal, but for whom reunification takes longer than 60 days, can ask for a waiver from the 12-month bar when DCF is ready to reunify. Waiver requests should be sent to Associate Director Ita Mullarkey, [email protected] and Legal Counsel, Adrian Walleigh, [email protected].
  • Decisions on shelter noncompliances and terminations based on alleged rules violations are made by the DHCD Central Office in Boston. Before the shelter asks DHCD to issue the notice it is supposed to give you 24 hours to write up your side of the story for DHCD to consider. As a result of the Hayes lawsuit, families in motels also now have a right to respond before a noncompliance is issued. See Housing stabilization Notice 2015-02.
  • Consult an advocate and/or file an appeal right away if your shelter benefits are terminated or you get a noncompliance notice for any reason you think may be wrong. See EA and HomeBASE Appeals.
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) may make it unlawful for DHCD to terminate your shelter or cite you for noncompliance if the reason for the termination or noncompliance is related to a disability (for example, you violated a rule because of your disability or you left a placement because the shelter did not accommodate your disability). See Disability Accommodations or ask an advocate for more information about the ADA.
  • The DHCD’s regulation saying that an individual is not eligible for shelter if an outstanding warrant is not resolved in 30 days may violate a statute that says the warrant rule applies only to “non-shelter” EA benefits. M.G.L. c. 23B, § 30(C), as amended by St. 2009, c. 27, § 15. If you receive a termination notice from DHCD for not resolving a warrant in 30 days, appeal the termination and consult an advocate. If the termination is appealed within 10 days, the family can stay in shelter during the appeal process.

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