Faith Into Action Together

This profile was last updated in 2014

History and Issue

Faith Into Action Together (F.I.A.T.) was formed in 1996 as a program of the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless, a statewide non-profit agency that addresses the broad economic and social factors that lead to homelessness. F.I.A.T. believes that homelessness is a moral issue and seeks to educate and mobilize faith communities by explaining issues that cause homelessness and providing advocacy training and opportunities for citizens to advocate for long-term solutions to eradicate homelessness. Some of the issues that F.I.A.T. focuses on are: homelessness prevention, safeguarding critical safety-net programs, accessing needed services such as emergency shelter, and creating and preserving affordable housing for very low-income households.

Activities

F.I.A.T. reaches out in a variety of ways to educate and mobilize faith communities: the group publishes articles in faith-based newspapers, gives presentations at regional homelessness meetings, and frequently accepts speaking invitations from local faith communities. Whenever possible, the F.I.A.T. coordinator brings men and women who have been personally affected by poverty or homelessness to public presentations as a testament to the organization’s belief in the power and importance of giving a voice to people experiencing homelessness or those formerly homeless who were unheard in their struggles for justice. Every February, the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless holds Legislative Action Day at the State House, the first of the group’s two major annual events. Here, faith communities join other advocates and people experiencing homelessness to listen as speakers discuss particular issues and policies that are to be voted on in the upcoming state budget deliberations. Attendees listen to speeches from a keynote speaker, the poor and/or homeless, and presenters, and are then encouraged to visit their state representative or senator and serve as an advocate for the homeless. Additionally, F.I.A.T. holds an annual interfaith memorial service every December for persons who have died while homeless. At this service, the names of all known persons who died homeless within the past year are read to the audience; in 2006, 163 names were read. Guests at St. Francis House, a local shelter, also make tombstones that represent people who have died on the streets or in the shelters. The memorial service was first held in May of 1990 as a service in the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Paul, and later moved from the cathedral to Boston Common to become a more public event. Working with the Home Coalition, F.I.A.T. later added a march to the state house following the service. In 2005, F.I.A.T. moved the memorial service from its traditional May date to December 21st in order to coincide with National Homeless Persons Memorial Day. F.I.A.T. also organizes regional forums with legislators, as well as an occasional conference for faith communities to discuss issues related to ending homelessness. One such conference, entitled, “Faith Communities Acting Together to End Homelessness,” was held on October 18, 2003, at Plymouth Church (United Church of Christ) in Framingham. This program developed a two-year advocacy campaign at the local, state and federal level, encouraging government officials to dedicate more resources to affordable housing. The conference resulted in the inclusion of a new homelessness-prevention program for low-income families (known as Residential Assistance for Families in Transition, or RAFT) in the state budget, as well as an increase in funding for the state’s rental assistance program, Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP).

Leadership

F.I.A.T. is run by a coordinator who works closely with faith groups and non-profits, such as: the Task Force to End Homelessness of the Massachusetts Conference United Church of Christ, the Peace & Justice Committee of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts, the Greater Lynn Council of Churches, the Social Policy Committee of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference of Bishops, and Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance.