Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes –

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes
March 24, 2017

In attendance: Beth Barbra, Veterans Inc., Dan Boyea, Hampden County Sheriff’s Dept.,Steve Connor, Hampshire County Veterans Services, Lillian Gray, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Mike Hagmaier, Soldier On, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS Homeless Services, Chris Lizotte, West Springfield Veterans Services, Jim Mahoney, Holyoke Veterans Services, Melissa Mateus, Springfield Partners, Gerry McCafferty, Hampden County CoC/City of Springfield,  Katherine Person, Veterans Inc., Sarah Polidore, SoldierOn, Farah Rodriguez, HAPHousing, Stephanie Tonelli, Friends of the Homeless, France Wolfe, HAPHousing, Susan White, VAMC, Sabrina Willard, Soldier On 

Point in Time Count Update:
Gerry reported that HUD’s definition of “veteran” for purpose of the count is defined as “at least one day of service” in the military (“service” only begins post training and being on active duty). This clarification requires revisiting those counted since that was not the definition used. She knows that at least 5 of the 19 counted on 1/25 would not qualify as veteran and they are still in the process of determining the status of several others. These individuals would still be counted in the individual homeless count, but not as veterans.

Discussion of VHA vs. non-VHA eligible veterans:
We revisited the discussion from our last meeting on gaining a better understanding of the number of veterans who are not VHA eligible (and therefore not eligible for HUD-VASH vouchers). Gerry reported that the number of non-VHA eligible veterans is significant (among the recent count of homeless veterans it was unusual for any to be VHA eligible). At the same time, having a pool of HUD-VASH vouchers at the ready (currently there are 37 in the region) is important since the engagement process with eligible veterans is ongoing and can take time and it is hard to predict when they will become “ready” to accept a voucher (i.e., housing).

The prospect of converting vouchers to non-VHA eligible is made complicated by the fact that with that conversion comes the loss of the HUD-VASH aspect, i.e., they become traditional Section 8 vouchers without case management services (which everyone agrees is extremely important). It is theoretically possible for a housing provider to attach its support services to these vouchers (with other funding) but that takes resources!

It was also noted that last year DHCD made available Mass Rental Vouchers for veterans, requiring case management services in conjunction with them. It was difficult then to ascertain need but now with the by-name list in use, there is greater potential to utilize this resource.

Mike noted that Soldier On’s veteran housing in Agawam will be ready in early August. There will be 51 units, 49 for low-income, 21 for market rate (providing housing for 100% service connected veterans).

Sue White agreed to return to the next meeting with a breakdown of VHA eligible and non-eligible veterans.

Update on Veterans NOFA application:
Mike Hagmaier provided an extensive summary of Soldier On’s Veteran funding application and their proposed allocation of beds per the VA’s new guidelines around Grant Per Diem (GPD) beds:

  • Bridge housing (32 beds) – provided in conjunction with SSVF, must offer veterans housing and have housing in place
  • Clinical treatment (57 beds) – for veterans with mental health or substance use diagnosis who want to receive treatment, provides life skills program
  • Transitional housing (116 beds) – these are typical GPD beds, providing service intensive transitional beds with a housing path on a maximum 2 year timeline
  • Hospital to Housing (8 beds) – VHA eligible veterans, in collaboration with VA hospital (and other local hospitals)

The new rules also allow 15% variance to increase or decrease beds in each category, depending on demand. The application is due on 4/4, with program to start on 10/1.

The total beds will be 28 fewer GPD beds at Soldier On than currently exist (from 241 to 213).

Update on Hampden County Sheriff outreach with veterans:
Dan Boyea updated the group about the progress being made on using SQUARES data system to check on veteran status for every offender. It’s happening now for men and will be happening next week for women. In early April, there is a Sheriff Dept/provider meeting to map out collaboration around identifying veterans, linking them with services and coordinating re-housing effort upon release. Dan especially thanked Steve Connor for the assistance in obtaining the letter in support of this effort from the DVS Commissioner.

Announcements:
Jim Mahoney announced that the funeral events for CPL Jules Haunterman Jr. (fought in the Korean War, being returned to his home now) is taking place 3/29-3/31. Calling hours are Thurs 3/30, 4-6 pm at Barry Farrell’s Funeral Home, 2049 Northampton St., Holyoke. Friday, 3/31, 8:45-9:15 are final respects at Funeral Home; 10:00 Mass at Blessed Sacrament Church 1945 Northampton St. Burial at approx.. 11 am at St. Jerome Cemetery, 1666 Northampton Street.

Springfield Partners: 3rd annual Wellness to Work – Veterans Health and Career Fair, Tuesday, 4/25, 10:30 am – 2:30 pm, Christ Church Cathedral, 35 Chestnut Street, Springfield, MA

Recommended podcast (thanks Mike Hagmaier) – a novel approach to using Medicaid funds to pay for housing for chronically homeless people :

http://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2017/03/09/hawaii-homelessness-medical

Next meeting: Friday, 4/28, 9:00-10:30 Northampton Senior Center