Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Meeting – 12/14/18

In attendance:  Peter Cofoni, DCF, Emily English, Gandara
Center, Rosemary Fiedler, HCC, Lisa Goldsmith, DIAL/SELF, Ann Lentini, Domus,
Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Mena Regan, CHD, Denise Rivera-Nuiez,
FOH/CSO, Jean Rogers, CHD, Rebecca Muller, Grant Works/Gandara

Implementation of EOHHS youth grants:There was a statewide meeting of all grantees recently. Good toconnect and discuss data issues among other aspects of implementation. This initiative is being guided by Linn Torto of the MA Interagency Council on Homelessness. Contracts have been sent to all regions at this point.

Hampden County: The contract is all but final. Now doing sub-recipient contracts with Gandara and CHD.  CHD is hiring a staffperson to do outreach, prevention and diversion.  Gandara will have several staff to do the same plus run the winter shelter and the administrationof the flex funds.   Winter shelter plans are well underway, deciding on hours with youth input (6 pm – 8 am); will open first in an available church space while looking for more permanent space in a home. 

Three County: still waiting on contract from the state but should be any day now. 

Data collection issues: This program is requiring the reporting of some data points that are not already in HMIS. Because the intention is for this program to be extended up to 8 years, it is worthwhile to address the data needs in a more systematic way. Gerry is convening a meeting of Green River, the consultants that developed the data warehouse (along with other tools) that is being utilized by Hampden and Three County CoCs.  Green River’s system also supports coordinated entry by doing automatic matches between individuals (based on their assessments) and housing units that become available. This system offers tremendous potential for streamlining housing efforts! The hope is to expand the data system to capture the youth experiencing homelessness – both to refer into the system and to refer out, tracking theresources provided and the outcomes.  The meeting with Green River and 3 county and Hampden County providers will take place sometime in January. 

Youth aging out of foster care: Our next meeting in January will include Elorie Stevens, a regional supervisor at DCF, where wewill have a discussion about how to build connections between DCF and coordinated entry to prevent homelessness and maintain housing. 

Gerry reported on a research project out of NY focusing on
interventions that prevent homelessness among aging out foster care youth. She
referred them to folks on our committee so please stay tuned.

Point in time count: We confirmed that two counts will take placethis year: Jan. 30 as part of the yearly HUD count and sometime in May as partof the statewide youth count. Community colleges and providers will support theJan. 30 count with some outreach efforts (acknowledging the challenge with just returning from winter break). 

Family shelter system re-procurement: We discussed the need to address youth parenting in the family re-procurement process that is underway.  It was noted that young parents need to be treated differently in the system based on their developmental needs and that in general the shelter system needs to look at assessment across the board.  It was also noted that the procurement should address the gap for “off  hours” assistance in general (after 5 pm and weekends).  Pamela will coordinate a conference call with Libby, Emily, Gerry, Lisa (and late-breaking thought by Pamela, Jane Banks).

Next meeting date: Jan. 9, 9 am – 10:30 am, HCC, Frost Building
309




Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – 12/13/18

VIn attendance: Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Craig Deraway,Soldier On, Justin Maynard, VA,  Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield,Pamela Schwartz, Network, Kate Sweetster-Owens, VA, Stephanie Tonelli, FOH/CSO,Allie Wilson-Pierce, VA

Hampden County Update: 19 veterans currently on the by-name list.
Housing is identified for half. Will be using Chapin Mansion (through VOC) that
has 8 vacancies and has changed its policies to low barrier (no longer sober
housing).  It will prioritize housing veterans. 

The non-VA eligible HUD-VASH vouchers have been all but approved
(awaiting final final approval after some minor changes to the
agreement).  There will be 11 vouchers to be used across the region. This
will make a huge impact for hardest to house veterans.

A few veterans have returned to the area and are repeat voucher recipients.  This raised the larger challenge, i.e., how to better serve veterans who need more support than VASH currently gives (due to case load andveterans’ needs).  The veterans involved here have thought disorders thatmake stability especially difficult.  We will further research best practices on this challenge (Gerry will see what Built for Zero folks have tooffer).  We also discussed the value of Critical Time Intervention (CTI) as a model that has proven success. We agreed that to train on this model wouldrequire regional and organizational buy-in (from top down to bottom up) and this is something the CoCs could encourage/require in their grant funding application process. We will discuss further.

Three county Update:

We discussed 3 County’s by-name list.  It does not include veterans living at Soldier On, just unsheltered veterans outside of Soldier On. We discussed the fact that because veterans in transitional housing at Soldier On are considered homeless and must be rehoused that it could be helpful in our regional work to have them on the by-name list; it would also allow for better tracking as veterans move in and out of Soldier On, and up and down 91, and providers would have a better chance of understanding history and needs when they enter the system again.  

We also noted that Soldier On’s permanent housing is allocatedbased on traditional fair housing criteria (first come first serve), and is notintegrated into coordinated entry where vulnerability and chronic homelessnessare the deciding factors.  This creates a disconnect between VA requirements for allocating HUD-VASH (prioritization based on acuity of need).  This issue has been discussed previously and we agreed it would beuseful to get an update on where conversations are at with the VA and HUD.  Pamela will reach out to Jim Seney to get an update.

We agreed it would be useful to meet across the CoC’s to brainstormhow to build better collaboration and possibly one by-name list.  We agreed Pamela would reach out to:

3  County CoC – Brad and Lisa, co-chairs, and CommunityAction as the incoming lead
VA – Jim Kate, Allie, Solider On – Craig, Mike
Hampden County CoC – Gerry
ServiceNet – Erin Forbush
Hilltown CDC – Nikki Riello, Dave C

 Our goal is to identify the barriers to unified coordinatedentry – what are local and what are national – and determine together nextsteps.

Next quarterly meeting date: Thurs., March 14, 9:30-11 am, Frost Building, Room 309




Family Services Meeting Minutes – 12/11/18

In attendance: Ashley Brehm, Way Finders, Ellen Broadhurst, West Springfield Schools, Joel Cox, NEFWC, Hillary Cronin, VA, Anthia Elliott, BHN, Waleska Estrada, NEFWC, Rosemary Fiedler, HCC, Lisa Goldsmith, DIAL/SELF, Libby Hayes, Homes for Families, Steve Huntley, VOC, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Jane Lindfors, DTA/DV, Andrea Marion, VOC, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Rebecca Muller, Gandara, Theresa Nicholson, CHD, Lizzy Ortiz, Mercy Medical, Aisha Pizarro, YWCA, Jenni Pothier, TPP, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Janna Tetrault, Community Action, Janette Vigo, Way Finders, Lauren Voyer, Way Finders, Melissa White, VOC, Erica Zayas, VOC

Discussion of Shelter Re-Procurement with guest Libby Hayes, Executive Director, Homes for Families

Libby summarized the main discussion points thus far based on DHCD’s listening sessions and ongoing discussions with providers statewide (click here for summary of procurement discussions and here for a summary of the Listening Sessions).

Feedback included:

  • When considering extending HomeBASE, look at criteria forextension
  • Better integrate domestic violence services to families 
  • Provide more clinical treatment for mental health and substanceuse issues
  • Address staff professional development needs and recruitmentchallenges
  • Increase systematic and coordinated stabilization to bestconnect to other supports, e.g., WIC and Head Start
  • Integrate workforce development
  • Align DHCD and DTA income and asset guidelines eligibility is consistent

Break-out groups to address stabilization question in more depth(seeRFI Discussion Q here.  Feedback included:

  • Critical Time Intervention needs more than 3-6 months to be
    effective
  • Intensive case management should be available as needed but a
    “transition worker” could be seen as intrusive to families (make
    available only when families are receptive)
  • Extending HomeBASE should not be based on criteria because of
    complexity of assessment and determinations (and potentially uneven
    application)
  • Should we be talking about extending HomeBASE or taking the
    dollars such an extension would require and allocate them to increased MRVP
    vouchers to actually create more permanent housing
  • Extending HomeBASE would be make landlords more amenable to
    accepting the resource
  • We need DATA on OUTCOMES on HomeBASE and stabilization to better
    determine the program’s effectiveness – right now DHCD’s EA and HB data systems
    are separate and do not talk to each other – efforts are being made to fix that
    but this is a huge gap in quantitative evaluation (beyond case notes)
  • Accountability is an important element in any program design
  • Stabilization services are coordinated in many instances; we
    just need to do a better job of capturing that coordination
  • Caseloads are too high and by definition preclude meaningful
    stabilization – must reduce!
  • Permanent supportive housing is a model that works – it’s
    happening in Hampden County for families and needs to be expanded – let’s make
    sure to feature our successes in our responses to DHCD

Next steps:

  • We will establish a flow of communication with Homes for
    Families and within the Network so that ideally providers statewide are
    responding to the RFI with coordinated goals and strategies.
  • The Request for Information (RFI) is due out by the end of this
    week.  We will exchange on it by email and meet again to discuss at our
    next regularly scheduled meeting on Jan. 8.

Announcement: Per our previous meeting discussion, the
committee is hosting a training by Community Legal Aid to learn more
about the resources and representation available for families facing legal
challenges.  The training will take place on Wed., Jan. 23, 2:30-4:00 pm,
Holyoke Public Library Community Room, 250 Chestnut Street, Holyoke

Next regularly scheduled meeting date:
Tuesday, Jan. 8
11:00 am – 12:30 pm
Kittredge Center, Room 303
Holyoke Community College




Individual Services Meeting Minutes – 12/10/18

In attendance: Charlyn Arnell, Eliot CHS – Homeless Services, Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Eleanor Dodson, ServiceNet, Erin Forbush, ServiceNet, Lisa Goldsmith, DIAL/SELF, Peg Keller, City of Northampton, Katie Miernecki, ServiceNet, Patty McDonnell, SMOC, Nikki Riello, Hilltown CDC, Brendan Plante, Eliot CHS-Homeless Services, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Mike Trembley, ServiceNet, Josh Wren, ServiceNet

Coordinated Entry Update: Few housing matches being made due to limited openings (Pittsfield location is the one exception). Awaiting new HUD funding cycle to pick up ServiceNet’s PSH units (people are being re-housed as needed and about 30 of their units will eventually continue to be PSH units at below-market rents without subsidy).

Lumber Yard affordable housing in Northampton: They are taking applications, deadline is Jan. 17 with lottery happening in February. Most apartments are 2 BRs (more family friendly).

SMOC housing update:

Three County CoC Update: Community Action Pioneer Valley was voted to be the new lead agency for the Three County CoC. Very exciting development for the region. Hilltown CDC was thanked for their 6 years of leadership. Lisa Goldsmith and Brad Gordon as CoC co-chairs were also thanked for shepherding this transition process.

Report out on Regional Homelessness event of 11/16: Pamela provided an update on the regional event at GCC on Nov. 16 that included state legislators, mayors, housing authorities, sheriff departments, hospitals, career centers and dozens of Network partners across every sector. Gerry McCafferty produced an excellent report on homelessness in the region which can be found here. There was engaged discussion on concrete strategies to enlist to reduce homelessness, including encouraging housing authorities to apply for about-to-be-released Section 811 Mainstream vouchers that could house chronically homeless individuals and families. Pamela and other Network partners will continue to follow-up on this and other strategies to encourage continued collaboration.

Network training updates: The Network just hosted a successful training on 12/6 for 75 people on EA/HomeBASE programs. DHCD trainers Alvina Brevard and Amy Mullen did an excellent job and powerpoint presentations are available here. Upcoming trainings include “how to think like a system” on Dec. 17; “how to run an awesome shelter” on Dec. 18, and “trauma informed care” and “progressive engagement and diversion,” both half days on Jan. 31. There are a few spots available for the shelter training and you can SIGN UP HERE. Pamela will send out a separate notice reminding folks to register for the 1/31 trainings.

Northampton Housing First meeting: Peg Keller announced that she will be hosting a meeting on Jan. 29, 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm, to focus on how the City creates true “housing first” housing, that is low barrier housing. It will also focus on how to meet the demand for women’s shelter.

Next meeting date: 1/14, 1 pm, 296 Nonotuck St.




New Data on Affordability and Homelessness; NYC Right to Counsel Report

Two reports for your information:

Zillow-sponsored research on the size and root causes of the nation’s homelessness challenge: Homelessness Rises More Quickly Where Rent Exceeds One-Third of Income

New York City was the first U.S. city to pass right-to-counsel for low-income tenants in housing court. A new report shows that in the first year, nearly 22,000 residents (7,800 households) threatened with eviction were able to remain in their homes after securing legal representation.




EA and HomeBASE Powerpoint Presentations Available

On December 6, the Western MA Network to End Homelessness hosted a training on the Emergency Assistance shelter system and the HomeBASE program.  Our trainers, Alvina Brevard, Director of Field Operations for the MA Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), and Amy Mullen, HomeBASE and RAFT Contract Compliance Coordinator, led a group of over 70 Network partners in a morning of learning.  They produced two excellent PowerPoint presentations that provide a comprehensive overview of the programs: Emergency Assistance and HomeBASE and have generously volunteered them to our larger blog audience.

A huge thanks to Alvina and Amy for such an excellent training and thanks to our Network partners for their commitment to help families avoid and end homelessness.




ACT by Dec. 10 to weigh in on federal “public charge” rule

On October 10, the Trump administration announced a proposed regulation that would dramatically broaden the “public charge” test, forcing immigrant families to choose between permanent legal status and their ability to access basic needs like safe housing, healthy food, and health care. Please see these Frequently Asked Questions to learn more.

The Western MA Network to End Homelessness has taken a position to oppose this rule change due to the devastating impact it will have on immigrants’ access to federal housing programs and related needs. We are encouraging all partners and members to take action  by clicking here and submitting your public comment on or before December 10.

The Administration is required to review every single comment. A coalition of partners under the umbrella Protect Immigrant Families urges us to join in this action to create the pressure necessary to stop this rule from being enacted. Our few minutes will make a difference.  Please forward and spread the word.




Media on Ending Homelessness Event – 11/16/18

At our regional gathering on Friday, November 16, the Network released a report on Homelessness in Western Massachusetts : The Numbers, The Solutions, The Partnerships.  

Over 150 leaders attended, including our incoming and current state legislators, where we shared concrete to-do actions on both a community and statewide level.  To-do actions are outlined in the report and in more detail for legislators in our Budget and Policy Recommendations.

We are so pleased that the public was able to “enter the room” though extensive and front page media coverage across each county, including:

Springfield Republican 
Berkshire Eagle (Spotlight Investigation) and “by the numbers” breakdown here
Daily Hampshire Gazette and Greenfield Recorder (same article shared in each publication)
WAMC interview
Channel 22

We look forward to continuing the work together!