Advocacy

Our two main branches of advocacy are external/legislative and internal. Our external advocacy centers legislation surrounding our three priorities: housing, health, and economic security for women, children, and families. We offer testimony, act as a member of multiple coalitions, and plan & partner for events and educational outreach. Our internal advocacy centers on resident well-being and agency, as we are the city of Cambridge’s largest residential provider of low-income housing for women and homeless families, with a ten-unit family shelter and a 103-unit SRO residence.

We are grateful to The Cummings Foundation and Amgen Foundation for funding the Racial and Social Justice Advocacy Department.

We are engaged in racial justice work through legislative advocacy as well as holding an annual Stand Against Racism initiative. SAR works to create a space for connection between those who work for racial justice and to have conversations about the negative impact of institutional and structural racism. Over the past year and a half, we have held multiple events centering on anti-racist and racial justice education for the Cambridge community and beyond.

Housing

YWCA Cambridge is the city’s largest residential provider of housing for women and families through our family shelter and single room occupancy rental units. Legislation that directly impacts our residents is core to our mission, and we support legislation that supports people experiencing homelessness or housing instability, who are disproportionately people of color and LGBT folks.

An Act promoting housing stability and homelessness prevention in Massachusetts (H.1436, S.874) would establish a statewide right to counsel (full legal representation) program for evictions to promote housing stability and prevent homelessness. This would include free pre-court eviction help, proactive education and outreach, and housing stabilization. Read our testimony here. 

An Act Providing Upstream Homelessness Prevention Assistance to Families, Youth, and Adults (H.1385) would strengthen residential assistance for families in transition homelessness prevention. Households at risk of eviction, homelessness, foreclosure, or utility shut off within the following 12 months would be eligible for cash benefits and other services. This bill would also set a minimum of 50% of funds to households with incomes less than 30% of area median income, targeting those in deeper poverty.

An Act Relative to Homes for All (H.1799, S.866) would establish no criminal background checks for renters.

  • An Act promoting housing opportunity and mobility through eviction sealing (H.1808, S.921) would seal all eviction records after three years, all without proven allegations, and prevent landlords from using or reporting sealed records.
  • YWCA Cambridge has submitted written testimony in support of this bill.
  • An Act to prevent COVID-19 evictions and foreclosures and promote an equitable housing recovery (H.1434, S.891) would extend the eviction moratorium until the end of 2022, as well as simplify application processes for state rent and mortgage assistance and increase landlord involvement with assistance programs.
  • YWCA Cambridge has signed on to the Homes For All Letter in support of this bill.

Health

At YWCA Cambridge, we support legislation and advocacy that increases access and affordability of services as well as that which expands preventative care, harm reduction/prevention programs, and community based emergency responses, especially for folks from marginalized communities who often have strained relationships with the healthcare system. Healthcare is a human right!

  • An Act Relative to Out-of-Hospital Birth Access and Safety (H.2341, S.1519) would improve access to midwives and let pregnant people be more agentic in their birthing choices. This bill recognizes the importance of midwifery services and champions the right of pregnant people to have a safe and supportive non-hospital birth.
  • An Act Relative to Medicaid Coverage for Doula Services (H.2372, S.1475) would provide Medicaid coverage for doula services, making doula care more accessible and affordable for low-income pregnant people, foster parents, and adoptive parents.

An Act Relative to Healthy Youth (H.673, S.2495) would ensure comprehensive (not abstinence-only) and medically accurate health curricula are taught in public schools choosing to offer sex education.

An Act Relative to HIV Prevention Access for Young Adults (H. 2349, S.1404) would expand Massachusetts’ current consent laws around STI testing and treatment to include HIV preventative care such as PrEP, to increase youth access and agency around sexual health.

 

  • An Act to Create Alternatives for Community Emergency Services (H.2519, S.1512) would improve public health and reduce police violence by investing in community-based response options rather than solely law enforcement.
  • We support and have submitted written testimony in support of the Cambridge HEART Proposal, which creates an alternative community-based crisis response team in our city.
  • An Act Relative to Increase Access to Disposable Menstrual Products in Prisons, Homeless Shelters, and Public Schools (H.2354, S.1445) would provide access to free menstrual products to all menstruating individuals in schools, shelters, and prisons. This would greatly impact the lives of folks experiencing homelessness.
  • YWCA Cambridge has submitted written testimony on behalf of the bill.

Economic Security

YWCA Cambridge supports legislation and advocacy that increases federal and state financial assistance to those experiencing poverty, strengthens access for low-income families to early learning, increases access to living wages, and supports low income workers’ rights.

  • The Common Start legislation (An Act Providing Affordable and Accessible High Quality Early Education and Care to Promote Child Development and Well-Being and Support the Economy in the Commonwealth; H.605, S.362) would dramatically increase the affordability and quality of early education and childcare for Massachusetts families. This includes education and care for children from infancy through age 5, as well as after-school and out-of-school programming for children ages 5-12, prioritizing the lowest-income highest-need families.
  • YWCA Cambridge is a member of the Common Start Coalition.
  • An Act to Lift Kids Out of Deep Poverty (H.199, S.96) would set a floor for TAFDC (Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children) benefits at 50% of the federal poverty level, or the “Deep Poverty” line. Currently, financial assistance for families in deep poverty is insufficient to meet children’s basic needs, and this act would allow families to better care for their children.
  • YWCA Cambridge is a member of the Lift Our Kids Coalition and has submitted written testimony in support  of this bill.

An Act to streamline access to critical public health and safety-net programs through common applications (H.1290, S.761) would create a common application portal for state-administered needs-based benefits and services, such as SNAP, DTA cash benefits, and MassHealth.

  • An Act Relative to Transparency in the Workplace (H.2020, S.1196) would require employers to act on their commitment to pay equity by publicly reporting their wage data, providing information such as demographics of their 10 top earners.
  • YWCA Cambridge has submitted written testimony in support of this bill.
  • An Act relative to the scheduling of employees (H.1546, S.412), The Massachusetts Fair Workweek Bill, mandates predictable, stable hours. This allows workers in restaurants, retail establishments, and the hospitality industry the chance to build stable lives for themselves and their families, because for many, erratic work schedules make stability almost impossible.