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Author Archives: Pamela Schwartz

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – 5/16/19

In attendance:  Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Craig Deraway, Soldier On, Bryan Dixon, Veterans, Inc., Mike Hagmaier, Soldier On, Phyllis Lutsky, VA, Justin Maynard, VA, Gerry McCafferty, Springfield-Hampden CoC, Jesus Pereira, Holyoke Veterans Services, Katherine Person, Veterans Inc., Pamela Schwartz, Network, Stephanie Shaw, Chicopee Veterans Services

State Senate Budget Update:The Senate Ways and Means Committee released its proposed budget next week.  This week is the week for filing amendments and next week the Senate debate will begin. To connect to Network advocacy on our priority amendments, please go to our blog post here

Network Housing/Homelessness Resource Fair – June 10:The Network’s Fair currently has over 60 providers signed up to share information (and about 130 registered attendees).  We also have roughly 15 legislators planning to attend from 9:30-10:00 am for a Network welcome.  HCC President Christina Royal will also welcome, as well as DHCD Assistant Undersecretary Jane Banks.  If you have not yet registered but plan to attend, please register  here(but don’t further spread the word – we are essentially at room capacity!).

Three County CoC Update:We discussed the transition that is underway in 3 County CoC administration.  Community Action recently hired a new CoC Program Coordinator Keleigh (pronounced “Kelly”) Pereira.  We look forward to welcoming her at our next meeting.  And Community Action is also currently hiring for their HMIS data analyst. This will be key to bringing the veterans by-name list meetings back on line for the 3 county region. 

Coordinated Entry update re: Soldier On/VA: Mike and Phyllis reported good progress on creating a work flow between Soldier On and the VA to ensure prioritization based on vulnerability assessments.  There was a good first meeting and a subsequent one scheduled for 5/20. Mike reported Soldier On is creating a google form to track applications and vulnerability scores.  Gerry suggested this could be incorporated into the Green River data warehouse system.  Gerry will follow-up to bring Mike and Green River together for a meeting to discuss further.


Built for Zero Update for Springfield-Hampden CoC: The by-name list has roughly 14-16 veterans on it at this point with a housing plan in place for most of them; several who were not thought to be VHA eligible are in fact eligible (a special shout-out to Jesus Pereira for his knowledge and expertise with the DPRIS data system that makes verification more readily available – see https://www.dpris.dod.mil/#!?side=accessinfo for more information). 
The HUD-VASH vouchers that we have been waiting on for non-VHA eligible veterans are once again very close to being authorized for use – latest word from US ICH is “imminent.”


Community Solutions expert Eddie Turner visiting Western MA on 5/21: Eddie Turner, a leader at Community Solutions, the parent organization for the Built for Zero campaign, is making a special visit to Western MA next Tuesday and Gerry is hosting a special veterans meeting with him from 10 am – 11:30 am at Union Station in Springfield.  We discussed the topics to address, e.g., how to build access to programs that have been harder to reach; how to fill units quickly and ensure good outcomes; how to make our outreach more effective so we connect with every single veteran who is unsheltered. Steve will invite all VSO’s to Tuesday’s meeting.


Next meeting date:
Thursday, July 18, 9:30 am – 11:00 am, Frost Building, Room 309, HCC.

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 5/14/19

In attendance:  Isatu Barrie, NEFWC, Asia Bradford, YWCA, Theresa Cooper-Gordon, NEFWC, Evelyn Garrafo, NEFWC, Radame Jusino, NEFWC, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Jane Lindfors, DTA DV Unit, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Lizzy Ortiz, Mercy Medical, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Sabrina Swinton, NEFWC, Janna Tetreault, Community Action,  Norayma Vazquez, Janette Vigo, Way Finders, Erica Zayas, VOC


State Budget Update: Senate Budget Advocacy WeekPamela reported out on the Senate Ways and Means Committee budget which was released last week.  There are several significant advances, including increased funding for unaccompanied homeless youth, Secure Jobs and Alternative Housing Voucher Program. There is also more work to do through the budget amendment process, to increase funding for RAFT, HCECs and more.  Please see this Network blog post that summarizes the Network’s priority amendments and how to request Senate co-sponsorships.  Your agency or personal contact of your senator this week will make a big difference. 

Training debriefsWe checked in on the recent child care voucher/Head Start training that was held at HCC a April 30.  People who attended felt it was well-done and worthwhile.  It was noted that the lack of Head Start or any equivalent over the summer months is a huge challenge for families. 

We also checked in on the racial equity training – we completed the second in a three part series on April 25.  The consensus is that the trainer, Marc Dones, is excellent and the content is extremely important.  We also agreed that this kind of work never stops; and that there is interest in continuing it after the last session on June 6.  We agreed that the next step must include organizational buy-in from the highest level.  And it was also suggested we needed to bring this work to the young adult population as well. 

Training possibilities for next yearWe had a preliminary brainstorm on trainings for next year, including:

  • Immigration training (how to best assist undocumented people experiencing homelessness and other issues related to immigration status
  • Coordinated Entry – what is it, how does it work (coordinate with CoCs)
  • Racial equity (continuing the work)
  • EA training (repeat)
  • Tenant screening barriers (repeat)

Pamela will compile a list of all trainings offered this year and provide a brief analysis as a foundation for a more deliberate discussion at our next meeting. 

Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project (YHDP): Both the Springfield-Hampden and Three County CoCs are preparing to submit their HUD funded YHDP applications (due May 15) that would provide a significant influx of resources if awarded.  The Three County CoC is applying as a rural region for Franklin County only.  This is their first application.  For Springfield-Hampden, it is their 3rd application and much progress and learning has occurred through the process. This effort is very relevant to our family work because a large number of homeless youth ages 18-24 are pregnant/parenting and in the family shelter system. 

Additionally, there are a number of unaccompanied homeless youth who have left their family while the family is in the shelter system, and finally, with this additional support, we may want to flag homeless families in shelter with older teenagers to help identify the supports they need or help connect them to young adult services outside the family. Awards will be announced in August. 

Three County CoC Update:
Community Action has hired its CoC Program Coordinator, Keleigh (pronounced “Kelly”) Pereira.  She started a week ago and will be connecting to our meetings in the near future. 

Family cap repealed!  We had a moment of celebration around this very significant policy change that ended the penalty for having additional children while on TAFDC.  DTA is now working extremely hard to adjust cash assistance levels based on a complete count of children in the family.  Thanks to everyone involved in the hard work to make this change happen.

Network Housing/Homelessness Resource Fair: June 10.  We have 60 providers from across every sector and every county signed up to share information and roughly 130 people planning to attend.  Approximately 15 Western MA state legislators will be present from 9:30-10:00 am to be publicly thanked.  Stay tuned for more logistical information.

Next meeting date: Tuesday, June 11, 11 am – 12:30 pm, Frost Building, Room 309

3 County Individual Services Meeting Minutes – 5/13/19

n attendance: Elizabeth Bienz, ServiceNet, Kerry Brock, Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Sara Cummings, Community Action, 3 County CoC; Erin Forbush, ServiceNet, Chris Hughes, ServiceNet, Peg Keller, City of Northampton, Jay Levy, Eliot Services, Patty McDonnell, Joe Mygan, Starlight, SMOC, Theresa Nicholson, CHD, Aidan Novo, Craig’s Doors, Keleigh Pereira, Community Action/3 County CoC, Brendan Plante, Eliot Services, Thomas Poplawski, DMH, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Hayley Wood, Easthampton Council on Aging, Josh Wren, ServiceNet

Three County CoC update:Community Action hired the new CoC program coordinator: Keleigh Pereira (pronounced “Kelly”).  She just started a week ago and we look forward to helping her make the transition to this new job as smooth as possible. Welcome Keleigh!
Community Action is also interviewing for the HMIS data position now.

Coordinated Entry (CE) continues to be “paused” as work continues to obtain the necessary data system  (as opposed to CE being manually managed through excel which has been the case thus far). It’s an expensive system to acquire so they Community Action needs to put out bids (looking closely at ETO Enterprise as that is the system the Hampden CoC uses) , and it could take as long as 3 months to get it up and running.
It is understood that in view of the transition to CHD’s management of the PSH units – and the openings to fill them – that stop-gap management of CE will be utilized (continuing with excel presumably). 

Permanent Supportive Housing update: Theresa Nicholson of Center for Human Development (CHD) provided an update on their takeover of ServiceNet’s PSH contract.  The official start date is 7/1 but they are in conversation with HUD around using some of the unspent funds for a “start-up budget” prior to 7/1.  HUD is treating this transition as a straightforward shift in contract management from ServiceNet to CHD. 
CHD is working on hiring staff and identifying units. There are 48 units in total:15 in Berkshire County – 13 are currently filled; 2 vacant; 24 new in Franklin County; 9 in Hampshire, 6 are filled, 3 are vacant 

The geographical allocation of units can shift depending on where the people who need them reside.  These determinations will be made within the coordinated entry system.

Shelter Plus Care Update:ccJay reported out on the meetings with DMH, ServiceNet ACCS (shelter plus care staff sub-contracted through DMH) and ServiceNet shelter director (Erin) and CHD and the Network to discuss how to increase access to the shelter plus care vouchers through accommodations around DMH eligibility requirements and to increase chances of success through greater collaboration via Coordinated Entry. Staff of respective programs are meeting on 6/7 to discuss further.

Right now there are 22 shelter plus care vouchers across Franklin and Hampshire Counties and 21 are being utilized. Work continues to find the right match for the last unused voucher.

Safe Havens: This is another HUD funded program that now works only with DMH support dollars but is a “low-demand, high expectation” model that takes the individual wherever they are at and offers support services 24/7. Peg noted that Northampton needs Safe Haven housing.  Peg and DMH staff are meeting bi-weekly to discuss how to address the housing/support needs of this population. 

Presentation on Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic (CCBHC), CSO, Inc.  Special thanks to Lisa Pineo of CSO for sharing this information with us.  This is a 3 year SAMHSA funded initiative that provides mental and physical health care as well as an extremely broad range of services to all people of all ages regardless of ability to pay. Walk-in access Monday-Thursday, 10 am – 4 pm and Friday 10 am – 2 pm at locations across Western MA.  Click here to get a summary of services and find out how to access them.

State Budget Update:The Senate will be debating its budget next week.  This week is the time to ask our senators to co-sponsor amendments.  Click here for the Network blog post that details how to contact your senator and what to ask for. 

Next meeting date:Because our next regularly scheduled meeting would take place on June 10, the same day as the Housing/Homelessness Resource Fair, the group agreed to not meet in the month of June and instead meet at its next regularly scheduled time of Monday, July 8, 1 pm, at ServiceNet, 296 Nonotuck Street, Northampton. 

Action Alert: Senate Budget Advocacy This Week!

This week, until Friday 12 noon, is the time to contact our senators to request their co-sponsorship of Senate budget amendments.  Your call or email as an agency and your call as a constituent matter greatly.
A sample email or calling script is below for your convenience. 

Find your State Senator’s contact information.

Western MA Network to End Homelessness’ Priority Senate Budget Amendments:

#715 – Mass. Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), filed by Senator Brendan Crighton with Senator Jim Welchto fund MRVP at $130 million
#797 – RAFT, filed by Senator Patricia Jehlen with Senator Jim Welch to increase funding to $27 million to create a rent arrearage pilot program to prevent evictions
#860 – Homeless Individuals Assistance, filed by Senator Joseph Boncore to fund individual emergency shelters at $53.35 million, especially critical to keep Western MA shelters sufficiently funded
#831 – Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs), filed by Senator Brendan Crighton to fund HCECs at $4 million
#1136 – Regional Transit Authorities, filed by Senator Harriet Chandler with Senator Jim Welch to provide $90.5 million in base funding, the level recommended in the RTA Task Force Report 
#840  – Mass Hire One Stop Career Centers, filed by Senator Donald Humason to fund Career Centers at $6.5 million
#464 – Mass ID Access, filed by Senator Harriet Chandler with Senator Jim Welch to allow people experiencing homelessness to obtain a Mass ID through provider verification and without a fee
#815 – Berkshire Winter Overflow Shelter, filed bySenator Adam Hinds to provide $150,000 in emergency winter shelter funds for Berkshire County  
#731- Western MA Network to End Homelessness, filed by Senator Jo Comerford with Senators Gobi, Humason, Lesser and Welch, to fund the Network at $75,000

Sample email/call scriptDear Senator [insert name] [if calling: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m calling from ___ (city/town) from the Senator’s district – talking to whoever answers the phone is fine!]
First, thank you for your support to prevent and end homelessness in Western MA.  Your support is greatly appreciated!
I am writing now to ask you to co-sponsor the following amendments to the Senate budget [copy and insert the Amendment list above or read over the phone].

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please note if you are writing one of the Senators already supportive of the amendment, e.g., Senator Jim Welch from Springfield who has already signed on to many amendments, ideally you would adapt your email to say “thanks so much for your support of so many of these Amendments.”  Note also where Senator Humason supports Career Centers and almost all our Senators support the Network funding amendment.  Just add a quick note of thanks to the relevant amendments, depending on who you are writing or calling.

Legislator contact makes a HUGE difference.  Please take 5 minutes to make our collective Network voices heard.

To learn more about other important statewide advocacy efforts, please see:
CHAPA update
Mass Coalition for the Homeless Update

The Senate will begin debate on its budget early the week of May 20. Please contact your senator this week and we’ll be in touch next week.

Thanks for your partnership!

Network Priorities and the Senate Ways and Means Budget

There is a lot of good news in the Senate Ways and Means Committee’s proposed budget that was released this week. Click here for a breakdown of the budget in relation to Network priorities.

The good news:
* Unaccompanied homeless youth was funded at the requested $5 million, an increase of $1.7 million from last year as well as the Governor’s and House budgets.
* Secure Jobs Initiative received $2 million, doubling its funding relative to last year and the Governor’s and House budgets.
*Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP) was funded at $8 million, an almost $2 million increase, from FY19 (this program is key for housing chronically homeless individuals), higher than the Governor’s and House budgets.
* Mass Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) was funded at $110 million, same as the House budget and up from level funding by the Governor (although we are seeking $130 million so an Amendment to come), and language was also added to adjust rent levels to be consistent with the Fair Market Rent (BIG progress!).
* Adult Basic Education/ESOL was funded at the Network (and Statewide ABE Coalition’s) request of $38.1 million, up from $33.35 million in FY19, more or less consistent with the House’s FY20 budget and up from the Governor’s FY20 budget of $37.6 million.

The not good news (for now):
* Homeless Individuals Assistance line-item (funds emergency shelters) received $5 million less than the House budget, down to $48.3 million from $53.3 million, and just barely over the FY19 level.
* Regional Transit Authorities, while funded at $90.5 million – the requested amount – would have $4 million of that total be performance-based and awarded at the discretion of the MassDOT. As the funding allocation currently stands, the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority would suffer a $1 million deficit in FY20.
*MassHire Career Centers were funded at $3.96 million, a decrease from FY19’s level of $4.06 million, up against significant federal cuts (the FY20 state request was at $6 million).

Regional earmarks:
* An amendment will be filed by Senator Adam Hinds to fund the Berkshire Regional Winter Overflow Shelter at $150,000.
* An amendment will be filed by Senator Jo Comerford to fund the Western MA Network to End Homelessness at $75,000.
* An amendment will be filed by Senator Jo Comerford to explicitly attach Craig’s Doors shelter to funding that is likely to be maintained in the budget (already explicitly included in the Governor’s budget).

Amendments must be filed by noon today, May 10, and co-sponsors can sign-on in support of Amendments up until Senate debate begins the week of May 20.

Please stay tuned for further advocacy updates early next week.

Senate Ways and Means Budget Released Yesterday

Thanks to CHAPA for this preliminary update below regarding many of the Network priorities. Stay tuned for more detail tomorrow!

The Senate Ways and Means (SWM) Committee’s proposed budget provided increased funding for MRVP, AHVP, Public Housing, and housing and services for Unaccompanied Homeless Youth. The budget also increased fair market rent levels for mobile MRVP vouchers to current FMRs. Most other housing programs were level funded.

For more information on the SWM budget, click here.

For an analysis of language changes in the SWM budget, click here.

Accessing Child Care Vouchers/Head Start: Read On!

On Tuesday, April 30, the Network sponsored a training for over 60 famly shelter and other case managers at Holyoke Community College to learn about recent policy changes impacting (and improving) families’ access to MA child care vouchers. Special thanks to Sara Garvin of New England Farm Workers Council and Dawn DiStefano of Square One for their expertise. You can see the Powerpoint presentation that details the state child care system; the “Quick sheet” for initial intake questions and contact names and numbers; and the actual Wait List Initial Intake Form.

We also heard from Head Start leaders Nicole Blais and June Lynds about how to best access Head Start. Their contact information is here:

Holyoke/Chicopee Head Start Contacts
Maggie Sexton, Enrollment Coordinator,
413-536-363, MargaretS@headstart.org;
Audra Dias, Enrollment Supervisor
413-417-7779, AudraD@headstart.org
Website: www.hcsheadstart.org
Head Start Locator/Resources website: https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/ 

Head Start Community Action Pioneer Valley
For enrolling at CAPV Head Start & Early Learning Programs in Western Hampden (including West Springfield, Agawam and Westfield), Hampshire and Franklin Counties: 413-387-1250 or www.communityaction.us (Families can apply online or programs can download our referral form under the Head Start heading.

And finally, we heard from Rebecca Burgos and Christine Zaskey-Cullen of Coordinated Family Care and Engagement (CFCE) programs, detailing the support available in each community through this programs. You can find the CFCE contact person in your community by going here.

Opioid Training in the Berkshires – 5/17, Berkshire Community College

Strategies for Hope: Addressing the Opioid Crisis in Rural Communities

Friday May 17, 2019
Berkshire Community College
Robert Boland Theatre
Presented By Berkshire AHEC with educational grants from 
Berkshire Bank, Berkshire Health Systems, Lee Bank, MountainOne

Evidence-based approaches for:
Assessment and treatment interventions
Safe prescribing
Alternative therapies
Stigma
Patient and family education
Patient engagement

Keynote
Changing the Conversation
Removing Stigma, Instilling Strength, Opening Hearts, and InspiringChange: Jeffrey Foote, PhD

Morning Breakouts
Opioid Crisis in the Workplace: Saving Lives, Saving Jobs
Moderator: Richard Alcombright
Panelists: Mark Kenyon, LMFT, LADC-I, CEAP, Arthur Milano, MBA,
Edward Ostolski, JD

Caring for Families Affected by Opioid Use Disorder
Moderator: Ruth Jacobson-Hardy , MA, LADC I
Panelists: Katherine Callahan, MD, Christine Haley, LICSW, Debbie Flynn-Gonzalez, M.Ed.

Lunch and Learn: Naloxone Training
Sarah DeJesus, CMA and Amalio (A.J.) Jusino, NRP-T

Afternoon Breakouts

Alternative Therapies for Pain Management
Moderator: Daniel Mullin, PsyD, MPH
Panelists: Kent Higgins, PhD, Renae Gorman, PT, DPT, OCS,
Paula Gardiner, MD, MPH

Pathways to Recovery
Moderator: Jennifer Kimball
Panelists: Jennifer Michaels, MD, Sarah DeJesus, CMA,
Joseph Buyse, CARC, Jacelyn Howlett Farmerie, CARN

Registration Fees 
Continental Breakfast and Lunch Included in Registration Fee

Healthcare professionals
continuing education fee included
$75

General Public
$25

For more information and status of continuing education credits
visit
berkshireahec.org
or call
413-236-4500