Emergency Assistance (EA) Shelter: The Top Ten Things for Advocates to Know

Ruth Bourquin, MLRI

Top ten things advocates should know about Emergency Assistance (Shelter)

1. Provided by the Division of Housing Stabilization (DHS) of the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) at local offices of the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA).

2. For families with children under 21 and pregnant women without children.

3. Eligibility is based on financial need:

  • income of no more than 115% of the poverty level; and
  • countable assets of no more than $2,500.

4. Families must be homeless. That means that they either:

  • Have no place to stay; or
  • The place where they are staying is not safe or healthy, or is otherwise not feasible

5. Even if they are homeless, families can be denied shelter if they:

  • Made themselves homeless in order to get EA or subsidized housing;
  • Are homeless because they refused to cooperate with housing search prior to becoming homeless;
  • Are homeless because of certain kinds of evictions;
  • Received EA shelter within the past 12 months (with some exceptions)
  •  Did not become homeless due to domestic violence, a natural disaster or fire, or very limited kinds of evictions for nonpayment or are not "doubled up" with others in very unsafe housing or are not staying in a place not meant for human habitation.

6. Families who appear eligible based on statements by the family and other records DHCD has should be placed in shelter for up to 30 days while they gather needed verifications of things like age and relationship of children, income and assets, and their need for shelter.

7. Families are supposed to be sheltered within 20 miles of their home communities if space is available. However, since all of the EA shelters are almost always full, the family can be placed in a shelter anywhere in the state.

8. Families placed in shelter must cooperate with housing search, and must take safe, affordable, permanent housing if it is offered to them

9. Families can be terminated from EA shelter if they:

  • Go over the income level 9but they can stay for 6 months to look for housing;
  • Refuse to accept a shelter placement abandon a shelter placement or refuse an offer of housing;
  • Repeatedly fail to cooperate with housing search or their self-sufficiency plan;
  • Repeatedly violate shelter or program rules;
  • Are asked to leave a shelter for creating a health or safety threat.

10. For more details on the complicated rules, review the EA Advocacy Guide. Or contact your local legal services office for help.