EA Sub-Committee and Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 2/12/13

EA Reform Sub-Committee Meeting Minutes
February 12, 2013

In attendance:  Bonnie Caldwell, HAP, Charity Day, FCRHRA, Steve Huntley, VOC, Wendy Kane, Community Legal Aid, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield Office of Housing, Jim Reis, HAP, Pamela Schwartz, network coordinator

HAP emergency housing update:  Served a total of 36 families.  To date moved 10 families into primary units; 15 families placed have been found EA eligible; 11 families have “unknown” outcome (e.g, may be RAFT eligible but did not complete documentation or families did not reapply for EA after emergency housing).  2 families in motel right now.  Spent $15,054 so far.

Franklin County update: has 2 families using HAP emergency assistance.

Meeting at Greenfield DTA office with DTA staff,  DHCD staff, Charity Day of FCRHRA and Wendy Kane of Community Legal Aid. Productive meeting and new steps taken, e.g., EA applications, RAFT info available at Greenfield DTA office; information about FCRHRA;  list of verifications that families need; dedicated phone line at DTA office; 2 faxes at the Holyoke DTA office for receiving documents; access to a scan line at the DTA office in Greenfield.  Good progress!

ESG funding update:  internal misunderstanding among DHCD staff regarding scope of services and eligible families for these funds.  Waiting to hear back from Ita Mullarkey on appropriate terms.

Current HAP numbers suggest need to revisit regulation requiring families to live in places “unfit for human habitation” prior to qualifying for EA.  Will discuss more at Family Services meeting (see below).

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
February 12, 2013

In attendance:  Shannon Barry, Springfield Public Schools, Jane Banks, Center for Human Development, Alvina Brevard, DHCD, Bonnie Caldwell, HAPHousing, Charity Day, Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Ken Demers, NEFWC, Oonagh Doherty, Mass Justice Project, Toni Hochstadt, Community Action, Steve Huntley, Valley Opportunity Council, Faith Lafayette, DPH FOR Families, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet/Greenfield Family Inn, Jane Lindfors, DTA Domestic Violence unit, Ashley McGurn, DPH FOR Families, Lynn Minella, WomanShelter, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield Office of Housing, Enrique Pacheco, Community Action, Stephen Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Jim Reis, HAPHousing, Pamela Schwartz, network coordinator, Kate Shapiro, Tenancy Preservation Committee, Chantal St. Fleur, Community Legal Aid

Discussion of the Network’s legislative priorities for family homelessness:

Background:
as of 2/7:  226 families applied for EA statewide.  68 families were found eligible for EA.

EA regulation re: qualifying if at imminent risk of staying in place not fit for human habitation (currently regulation requires family to stay in such a place in order to qualify for EA)

Oonagh Doherty:  wants to add amendment to protect families in imminent danger of homelessness.  The right thing to do in view of the families she is seeing and the situations they have to suffer.  Knows families who are heating basements with space heaters.  A very dangerous situation.

Jim Reis:  Clearly there are holes in this system.  Need to have some emergency system for dealing with families who are falling through the cracks.  Consider possible private/public combination.  See CT model, private system, very bare-bones congregation shelter.  We need a place where people are not sleeping out in the cold.

Network should go on record that there are holes in the safety net.  Based on our experience, there are some holes that can be addressed.

Jane Banks:  cash assistance and TAFDC has not increased since 1978, cap on additional assistance with additional children; that has had a significant impact on mothers/heads of household being able to afford housing.

Alvina Brevard:  important to look at what is working with EA reform.  While we all want to protect against holes in the safety net, the community at large has some responsibility as well.  Focus on developing alternative programs – thinking outside the box – eg. HAP/VOC’s emergency housing assistance.  Encourage innovative ideas, look at what other states are doing.  Bring other state agencies around the table.

Steve Huntley:  not comfortable with unqualified recommendation to make “imminent risk of staying in place unfit for human habitation” the standard for eligibility.  Needs to be more nuanced.

Proposal, which was unanimously approved:  There are holes in the safety net and the legislature needs to address them to ensure families stay safe, whether that be through a change in the regulations to allow families to qualify for EA when faced with  “imminent risk” or other equally effective measures.  We are happy to work with the legislature to continue to brainstorm appropriate responses to this crisis situation.

Consider look at the proposed housing trust fund and if/how that can be utilized in these situations.

HAP and the regional housing network are also working on recommendations to the legislature and will relay them to the Network when complete.

Other issues to raise with the legislators:

HomeBASE subsidy cliff:  HB subsidies will expire beginning in August, 2013, and the legislature must address this or be faced with additional homelessness.  Loss of this subsidy alone is not sufficient to qualify families for EA eligibility.  Also not RAFT eligible until a year has passed.  A crisis waiting to happen.  Legislature must address this!

32 week limit to use HomeBASE:  the first deadline was reached yesterday.  Now those families have absolutely no access to any resource to exit shelter.  This is counter-productive to the end goal of housing these families  HAP is strongly opposed to this limit, and this committee went on record as opposing it, too.

Network position on the Governor’s investment and tax proposal:  Pamela shared the Leadership Council’s vote to support the Governor’s investment and tax proposal as consistent with the Network’s primary goals to expand early childhood education and public transportation.  Committee supportive.  Pamela encouraged members to share the Network statement (click here for statement) with their agency directors and board members.

Toni Hochstadt:  raised issue of staffing needs.  In order to retain high quality staff with a living wage, we can’t keep asking them to do more for less.  Stress this to legislature.

Jim Reis:  Teen and young parents need to go to teen programs, run by DTA.  They don’t belong in shelter system.  There needs to be an increase in the number of slots.

Alvina Brevard:  if there are families in the shelter system that are under the age of 20, send Alvina an email – she will help facilitate their placement and ensure they are on a waiting list, at minimum  Alvina’s email:  Alvina.Brevard@state.ma.us.

Fireman Foundation Grant Update:

Pamela advised all of the upcoming press conference on Tuesday, March 5, 10 am at Holyoke Community College, Frost Building, Room 309.  Good turn-out of local and state officials; promises to be an exciting event.  RSVP to Pamela if you plan to attend – pschwartz77@gmail.com.

Ken Demers of NEFWC/CPM reported that the program is underway.  HomeBASE agencies are connected with a referral process and referrals are happening.

Other updates:
Bonnie Caldwell of HAP provided updated RAFT info.  Contact Bonnie at bcaldwell@haphousing.org for more information.
DHCD no longer accepting RAFT waivers for families with incomes over 30%.

In December, HAP assisted roughly 40 families with $118,000 of RAFT funding; in January, 48 families with $135,000.

Motel update:

102 were at the Quality Inn and most have been moved into housing and only a few families remain there.
Days Inn in Holyoke has roughly 20 families remaining now and is targeted to close asap.

Western Mass. doing a fantastic job (comparative to other parts of the state as well) in moving out families.  GREAT JOB, Western Mass.!

Decrease will slow down now that MRVPs are gone and 32 week limit is hit.

Motel task force met with Springfield College School of Social Work. New intern starting in August.  Will continue with workshops in Econo-Lodge in Chicopee.

FOR Families in conversation with DHCD about which hotels to focus on.

Next meeting date:
Tuesday, 3/12
1:30 EA sub-committee
2:00 – 3:30 pm family services

Northampton Senior Center