Eight Massachusetts cities and towns are joining forces to combat housing insecurity, homelessness and domestic violence through a new program slated to begin in April.

Leaders in Malden, Arlington, Chelsea, Everett, Medford, Melrose, Revere and Winthrop plan to split $1.8 million in federal American Rescue Plan funds among new — and existing — support programs offering case management, housing assistance and outreach services.

Chelsea City Manager Fidel Maltez said the thrust of the new joint program is getting people involved in services that are already serving residents.

“We're going to connect our residents with professionals who can actually walk ... through the different options and programs that they can apply for, they can qualify for,” Maltez told GBH News Wednesday.

Alex Pratt, Malden’s director of housing and community development, says that will mean both proactively reaching out to residents and being contacted by people looking for support.

“Meeting people on the street who are homeless, or presenting as homeless, [and] providing resources like: food, blankets, or something to help keep them alive,” Pratt said. “If they reach out to a connected provider ... [in] any of the eight cities and towns, and then we will connect them to the program. The program will then provide case management services, and other assistance in helping them either stay housed — if they are at risk of losing their housing — or help them find a safe place to live.”

The program is slated to begin in April and run over the next four years, officials said.

“It's not a short-term fix,” Maltez said. “We're trying to create long-term mechanisms and solutions to these problems.”

Leaders have been gathering information and working to create the program for over a year, according to Pratt.

“We've been experiencing a housing crisis for a long time. It existed in Massachusetts even before the pandemic, and that continues to create a homelessness crisis,” Pratt said. “Long before the state of emergency around the shelter crisis, we knew we were in a homelessness crisis and we felt that we needed to work together to respond.”

Last August, Gov. Maura Healey declared a state of emergency in response to “rapidly rising number of migrant families” arriving in the state and “a severe lack of shelter availability.”

Massachusetts is the only state in the nation with a right-to-shelter law that guarantees families a roof over their heads. With an influx of newly arrived migrants seeking safe haven, the state’s emergency shelter system exceeded its newly implemented cap of 7,500 families last year. As of last month, state officials said more than 700 families are now on a waiting list for shelter.

The eight cities and towns north of Boston have faced an increase in homelessness and housing insecurity that has been exacerbated in recent months and require collaboration to accommodate the rising need, Pratt said.

“We can't individually stand up these types of programs and run them, we just don't have the finances or the capacity to do that in these smaller organizations on our own. Coming together allows us to tackle the bigger problems together,” he said. “It's not about relieving Boston. It's about relieving the cities and towns that we are serving and actually actually adding capacity to the cities and towns that we serve.”

Last year, 19,141 people in Massachusetts were experiencing homelessness, according to one count from the national Office of Housing and Urban Development. That number includes 6,051 families experiencing homelessness across the state.

“Chelsea is in the forefront of all of this crisis, in my opinion,” Maltez said. “However, I think what is driving this crisis is the rapid increase in rents. What we are seeing in our community in particular is that it's really hard for a low-income family to afford a market rate apartment in Chelsea. ... We have a lot of residents who are experiencing a lot of housing insecurity.”

Carolyn Chou, director of Homes for All Massachusetts, says these issues need to be addressed universally across the state.

“Boston gets a lot of attention, but when we talk to our partners in Springfield right in Lynn and other places, they are also seeing this compounded crisis,” she said. “They have seen folks continue to experience homelessness and are seeing more new arrivals as well. It is a statewide crisis and we need to treat it that way.”