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Imagine trying to find an apartment in the Boston area - but consider doing it without a current address or phone number, without a computer or internet access, with no credit history, no ability to use a broker, and a limit to areas accessible by public transportation, because you don't own a car.   

The Process

HomeStart advocates work with individuals and families living within homeless shelters in the Greater Boston area, assisting them through the process of finding and moving into safe, permanent housing.  Using a “Housing First” approach, HomeStart makes finding an apartment possible. 

HomeStart advocates meet with clients to learn what barriers they face to finding housing

HomeStart clients 

often have to limit their search to areas accessible by public transportation

Other barriers include: poor or no credit history, a lack of a mailing address or phone number

HomeStart advocates work to determine what resources are available to assist clients

Resource examples include: financial support for moving costs, security deposits,  and access to furniture banks

HomeStart's long history and  experience helps clients find permanent housing

Housing Search Teams



Advocates work closely with each client to develop an action plan that promotes self-sufficiency and provides the best possible chance at obtaining and sustaining permanent housing.


This team works quickly to identify families and individuals who may have recently lost their housing, and just need a boost to help them get back on their feet by assisting with housing search and negotiating with landlords through the lease-up process.


HomeStart partners with shelters and other organizations to meet clients where they are.  Sometimes the biggest issue they face is not knowing where to access the available resources.


over 250

families and individuals transition out of homelessness each year with the help of HomeStart's Housing Search program

17 Shelters

throughout Cambridge and Boston rely on HomeStart advocates to provide Housing Search services to their guests. These include Pine Street Inn, Rosie's Place, Boston Rescue Mission/Kingston House, Harvard Square Homeless Shelter, Salvation Army Shelter, St. Francis House, and others.

over 15,000

clients assisted out of homelessness and into permanent housing over the past 27 years



Michael was a successful kitchen supervisor at Emmanuel College, until the degenerative effects of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and the death of his mother changed his entire life. He had been working and living with her when he was diagnosed with MS in 2006. Four months after she passed away, he found himself homeless and then became physically handicapped soon after.

“I didn’t want to live with family or friends,” Michael said. “I had to leave work and a lot changed, but I’m stubborn in a good way. I don’t give up.” He then entered into the shelter system. “The shelters were hard. I had to deal with people with different issues,” he recalled.

After reaching out to HomeStart, he worked with advocates until one of them was able to place him into his present, spacious, one-bedroom apartment in East Cambridge. He also reclaimed some of his mother’s furniture from storage, and HomeStart was able to draw on funds provided by the Community Housing Assistance Fund (CHAF) to help with up-front costs.

Permanent housing has made it easier for Michael to deal with the issues surrounding his MS. It has given him the space to do the exercises that will help him to keep mobile. “To me, East Cambridge is a nice place because it is diverse,” he said. “I am greatly appreciative of HomeStart. Without HomeStart, I don’t know where I would be right now.”


Ann, 63, had been living in her single room occupancy unit for over five years. During that time, she was laid off from the private company she was working for and due to an unemployment insurance technicality, Ann found herself turning to HomeStart for rental assistance. She soon discovered that her new advocate, could provide her with so much more than that.

HomeStart advocates assisted with the arrangement and worked out a plan to help Ann deal with her decreased income, basically putting her on a budget. However, the work did not stop there. Since Ann has some physical and cognitive disabilities due to a brain injury at birth, her advocate was able to help her out with her Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) applications as well as other issues.

Prior to working with HomeStart, Ann had been working on several issues but doing so with numerous different advocates. As a result, some elements were overlooked, including a chance for Ann to receive Section Eight housing.

“It was confusion before HomeStart.” Ann said, “Things fell through the cracks due to too many advocates. The consolidation of all these efforts actually brought things together so they actually work correctly.” Ann added, “Working with HomeStart has helped an awful lot, my life was falling apart, and they put it back together.”

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