Family Services Meeting Minutes – 9/12/17

Family Services Meeting MInutes
September 12, 2017

In attendance: Christina Aliengena, NEFWC, Yoshi Bird, YWCA, Ellen Broadhurst, West Springfield Public Schools, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Holly Florek, CHD, Lindsay Hunt, Pittsfield Community Connection, Jenise Katalina, Square One, Faith Lafayette, NEFWC, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Luis Martinez CHD, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Jenni Pothier, Tenancy Preservation Project, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Sarah Slautterback, DESE, Janna Tetrault, Community Action,  Janette Vigo, Way Finders, Lauren Voyer, Way Finders

DHCD and Data Announcements:

  • Jane Banks, new Associate Director of Housing Stabilization, sends her regards and regrets at not being able to make today’s meeting but is looking forward to seeing us in October.  She reported that all is well.  Pamela will relay our regards back!
  • In view of the high level DHCD staff transition and summer schedules, there has not been the usual monthly DHCD phone call with providers where statewide and regional data is shared.  This will likely happen again at the end of this month.
  • Donna Nadeau reminded all providers that Boston Housing Authority is distributing Leading the Way Home vouchers to all families who have any ties to Boston (i.e., living out here but originally from there or worked there, etc.).  This is a fantastic opportunity for a maximally mobile voucher so be sure to review status of families to determine whether a Boston connection exists.
  • Sara Slautterback reported that there are now only 41 families living in hotels, split between Waltham and Malden.
  • Sara also reported that schools reported over 21,000 homeless students in the system last year.  While this number is similar to years past, there is a large increase in doubled up families.  There were especially significant increases in New Bedford (near Amazon’s new offices) and Lowell (home of UMass Lowell).
  • CHD reported that its “front door team” diverted over 30 families into housing this past month.
  • Ellen Broadhurst of West Springfield Public Schools reported that she has seen a number of families being forced to pay for hotels themselves to avoid homelessness.

We will look forward to a more complete DHCD data update at our October meeting.

Domestic Violence/EA Work Group Report:

Yoshi Bird of the YWCA reported on behalf of the work group, which has met twice since our family services committee last met.  It includes DV providers from across all four counties as well as DTA/DV representation.  The goal is to create a workplan that will result in improved coordination between the systems (specifically integrating the work into the coordinated entry systems of each sub-region) and improved outcomes.  This requires establishing baseline measurements and creating indicators for progress, strategies for getting there and outcome measures. For example, one measure is to increase the number of families experiencing DV who access HomeBASE; another is to improve access and quality of data around families in our region who are experiencing DV.  We know we need to do better at identifying when DV is the originating reason for homelessness (and accessing EA).  We also know we need to do better at improving communication between the systems so families are not inadvertently placed near their abusers.

Jenni of TPP noted that they are working on the prevention side to collect data on their intake to track DV experience in relation to housing instability.  They are finding a very high correlation. Yoshi will follow-up to learn more about their data collection.

Yoshi and Gerry McCafferty are working together to produce a draft work plan for the working group, which is meeting again on 10/3.  We will bring a draft for this committee’s review to our next meeting on 10/10.

Override Update

The group discussed that the Legislature is taking up override votes on the Governor’s vetoes in the next couple of days.  The HCEC funding cut is especially concerning for families as is the cut to Horizons Play Spaces  which provides play spaces and child care for children in shelters. Pamela will send out a targeted email following this email with information on the override votes and how to contact your legislator.

Announcements: 

  • Holly Florek of CHD announced that she has taken Jane Banks’ place and Luis Martinez has taken Yoshi’s place (she was formerly at CHD).  They are getting up to speed!
  • Yoshi Bird announced that Kristin Peterson of the YWCA has left and Yoshi should now be the contact for the committee for any Y related inquiries.
  • Lauren Voyer of Way Finders announced that RAFT funds are being distributed through the HCECs.  The demand is very high. If anyone needs transportation help from Northampton to their Holyoke or Springfield offices for HCEC assessments, they should reach out to Luz Alvarado – ldalvarado@wayfindersma.org. Way Finders got its ESG funding renewed for its rapid re-housing program and for its Holyoke supportive housing program. Also, note that Way Finders has a new website: http://wayfindersma.org 
  • Sarah Slautterback announced that she has drafted a new RFP for school districts to encourage partnerships with housing providers. It will be released as a planning grant this Fall (to launch in Jan/Feb) as a 3 year continuation grant for roughly $75-100K per year.  School districts are eligible to apply if more than 5% of the student population is homeless. While schools must be the lead contractor, they can sub-contract with providers.
  • Janna Tatreault of Community Action reminded all that for their service area (Franklin, Hampshire, North Quabbin) their Community Resources program offers small financial assistance for utility and rent arrears, in addition to information and referrals.
  • Jenise Katalina of Square One reported on a very successful workshop for families with facilitators from Way Finders where parents were provided parenting education, housing search assistance, support in applying for SNAP and other benefits and more.  Hoping to do it again.
  • Lindsay Hunt of Pittsfield Community Connection offered a snapshot of her program: offers support services to young adults ages 17-24 years who are proven risks by virtue of being either victims or perpetrators of violent crimes or formerly incarcerated or suffering family disruption and hardship in other ways.  They are part of Berkshire Children and Families. They suffered a one-third budget cut in this last budget cycle so they had to move offices from downtown and they may lose staff.  They have 96 young people on their list and roughly 20 who are active.  She sees a lot of homelessness among the young people she serves and is glad to be connected (and the committee is glad, too).

Next meetings:

Tuesday, October 10, 1-2:30 pm, CHD

Tuesday, November 14, 9:30 am – 11:00 am, Northampton Senior Center

Tuesday, December 12, 1-2:30 pm, CHD