Welcome to the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute

The Massachusetts Law Reform Institute (MLRI) is a statewide nonprofit poverty law and policy center.  Its mission is to advance economic, racial and social justice through legal action, policy advocacy, coalition building, and community outreach.  MLRI specializes in large-scale legal initiatives and systemic reforms that address the root causes of poverty, remove barriers to opportunity, promote economic stability and create a path to self-sufficiency for low-income individuals and families.  For 45 years, MLRI has been the backbone of the Massachusetts civil legal aid system and is considered one of the premier statewide impact advocacy and poverty law support centers in the country.


MLRI, Medical and Education Leaders Fight to Protect Homeless Children

This fiscal year, over 400 children and their families had to sleep in bus stations, cars, emergency rooms, and other "places not meant for human habitation" before they could be approved for emergency shelter (EA). The New England Public News Service draws attention to the crisis. The FY 15 House Ways and Means budget proposal was released on Wednesday April 9th. Despite a letter directed to House and Senate leadership, signed by 75 medical and educational institutions and providers, asking that children and their families be placed in shelter before having to resort to sleeping in unsafe places, the budget proposal included no additional protections. Representative Marjorie Decker filed an amendment on Friday, April 11th proposing to protect children before they endure the trauma of sleeping on the streets. There is widespread agreement that a substantial investment in permanent affordable housing, such as the Mass. Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) is needed to address the broader family homelessness crisis in the Commonwealth. 

MLRI Releases Preliminary Analysis of House Ways and Means Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Proposal

On April 9, 2014, the House Committee on Ways and Means released its budget proposal for fiscal year 2015. MLRI offers this preliminary analysis of selected budget topics impacting low-income residents of the Commonwealth, including cash and nutrition assistance, child care, child welfare, health care, homelessness services and housing items.

pdf icon Download MLRI's Preliminary Analysis of House Ways and Means Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Proposal

pdf icon Download MLRI's summary of the Governor's Proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2015

Rap-ups of a Retired Reformer

Hot off the Press! New book describes how legal services advocates transformed laws for poor people in Massachusetts

For 42 years, from 1969 to his retirement in 2010, Allan Rodgers served as the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute.  He led and participated in a legal revolution for poor people--a revolution that was led by poor people and by their legal services advocates and allies.  In his newly-released book, "RAP-UPs of a Retired Reformer: Stories About how Legal Services Advocates Transformed the Laws for Poor People in Massachusetts," Allan provides a fascinating insight on how MLRI and its allies succeeded in making significant and long lasting changes in laws, policies and practices that affected low income people, families and communities.  Written from a legal services leader who was on the frontlines and in the trenches in the War on Poverty, the stories in this book describe the legal and policy strategies, tactics, players and campaigns that improved the lives of millions of people in the Commonwealth. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in poverty law and policy.  

Download the  PDF file or get the eBook for your Kindle, Android, or i-device.

Find out how.

 Rap-ups of a Retired Reformer epub for Android or i-devices

 Rap-ups of a Retired Reformer for Kindle

MLRI Report on Family Homelessness Crisis

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In September 2012, Massachusetts imposed new restrictions on eligibility to emergency shelter for homeless families with children. On April 9, 2013 MLRI released a report, "Out in the Cold: Homeless Children in Crisis in Massachusetts." This report highlights the adverse impacts of these new regulations—including, e.g., forcing homeless children to stay in places not meant for human habitation, shifting cost burdens to the Commonwealth’s health care system, and forcing vulnerable families to resort to unsafe and destabilizing irregular housing practices—and makes recommendations to fix the most urgent problems. Download and read the report:

MLRI's Rebuttal to Press Reports of SNAP/Food Stamp Waste

Recent news reports suggest ongoing waste of taxpayer dollars and mismanagement by DTA of the SNAP (food stamps) program, including a $27M overpayment of federal funds. There was NO fraud and NO fault on the part of SNAP recipients involved. All of the Massachusetts SNAP households played by the rules. They timely reported changes in advance of their next recertification period. USDA have found NO fault on the part of Massachusetts SNAP recipients in determining this overpayment. Here's what you need to know.

MLRI, its Legal Services Partners and Community Allies Fight to Protect Homeless Families

Effective August 6, 2012, the Massachusetts Department of Housing & Community Development (DHCD) implemented new regulations that deny the vast majority of homeless families with children access to emergency shelter through the Emergency Assistance program. Public hearings on the new regulations were held by DHCD in October 2012. Homeless families, legislators, legal services advocates from programs across the state, medical doctors and nurses, domestic violence advocates, social workers, and many others provided compelling and powerful testimony that focused on the need to preserve the emergency shelter safety net to protect homeless families and children.  In addition, seventy organizations around the Commonwealth signed a letter urging Governor Patrick, Senate and House leadership to modify the new regulations and restore access to emergency shelter for vulnerable children at "imminent risk of staying in places not meant for human habitation."  

Thanks to advocacy by MLRI and its partners in 2012 and 2013, many important changes were made to the initial DHCD regulations.  But one year after the new regulations were implemented, too many homeless families and children are still falling through the cracks, left with no safe place to stay.

Watch this video that explains the problem.

MLRI Awarded HomeCorps Grant for Homelessness Prevention Program

 Massachusetts Law Reform Institute received a Crisis Response Innovation Grant from the Attorney General's office to create an innovative Homelessness Prevention Program for the purpose of preventing evictions and maintaining possession for tenants at high risk for homelessness.  MLRI will work with the Massachusetts Justice Project, Community Legal Aid, MetroWest Legal Services and a special advisory panel. The program's overall goal is to defend against unnecessary evictions and provide other legal assistance that will help low income clients avoid homelessness. Lawyers in the field will represent targeted households in eviction proceedings with the goal of preserving tenancies and obtaining necessary repairs and damages, or leveraging sufficient resources to allow tenants to move and find other suitable housing.  This project will build on the success achieved by two pilot projects of the Boston Bar Association's Task Force on the Civil Right to Counsel that used a "targeted representation" model to identify a special subset of low income tenants who were at risk of losing their apartments through eviction despite their legal rights. For more information, view the Attorney General's press release.

MLRI Highlighted in ABA Magazine  

MLRI was featured in Dialogue, the national magazine of the American Bar Association's Division for Legal Services. The piece, "Tough Advocacy for Tough Times," highlights MLRI's multi-forum advocacy and strategies for systemic reform, using as an example its work to preserve affordable housing units in two high-profile cases. 

2013 Annual Fund

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Ernest "Tony" Winsor Fund for Justice Brochure

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