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Author Archives: Pamela Schwartz

150 Leaders Gathered to Combat Homelessness in Western Massachusetts

Over 150 leaders from across the four Western Massachusetts counties came together today to combat homelessness in the region and to learn from a newly released report by the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness.

In a packed room at GreenfieldCommunity College, a dozen state legislators, including the five just elected from the Upper Pioneer Valley, two sheriffs, 7 mayors, 2 town administrators, 8housing authorities, state agency leaders, every community college, career center and major hospital in each county, and over 100 others across every sector showed up to find out what it will take to prevent and end homelessness inWestern Massachusetts.

“Today our region made an extraordinary demonstration of its commitment to end homelessness,” said Pamela Schwartz, Director of the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness. “And today our Network shared some vital tools that will bring us all closer to making thatgoal a reality.”

The report found that since 2012 in Western Massachusetts:

  • Chronic homelessness declined 38 per cent
  • Veteran homelessness declined 24 per cent
  • Family homelessness remained level

Read more in the report here. 

Today was a big step forward to help us do even better tomorrow. See here for “What you can do next.”

Three County CoC seeking new lead agency – RFI due by Nov. 30

Hilltown Community Development Corporation has acted as the Collaborative Applicant for the Three County CoC serving Berkshire, Franklin and Hampshire Counties for the last 6 years. Due to a number of factors, Hilltown will discontinue its role as the CoC’s Collaborative Applicant as of June 30, 2019.

This Request for Information (RFI) seeks to gather information and qualifications of any party or entity interested in taking over the role of the Three County CoC, with planning and coordination for said transition beginning in mid-January 2019.   We ask for responses to the RFI to be submitted by the end of November.

In addition, our Annual Meeting on Dec 5th at 10am at the Hilltown CDC offices will serve as a forum for provider and community input on the transition process.

Please feel free to circulate both the RFI and the meeting notice to those working to end homelessness in our region.

Please email your Responses or any questions to Kate Bavelock at kateb@hilltowncdc.org.

 

Hampden County Individual Services Committee Meeting Minutes

Hampden County Individual Services Committee Meeting Minutes
October 23, 2018

In attendance: Grechar Aquino, FOH/CSO, Olivia Bernstein, MHA, Nichole Bodiford, FOH/CSO, Fina Fulla-Kay, City of Springfield, Jessica Dorman, Mercy Medical Center, Fina Fulla-Kay, City of Springfield, Sarah Hills, Eliot CHS, Janice Humason, FOH/CSO, Sarah  Hills, Eliot CHS,  Todd, Koniezhny, Viability, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS, Sara Lopes, FOH/CSO, Jennifer Lucca, Samaratin Inn, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Lizzy Ortiz, Mercy Medical Center, Herschelle Reaves, BHN,  Denise Rivera, FOH/CSO, David Rodriguez, Viability, Christina Ruest, FOH/CSO, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Antonia Stewart, FOH/CSO, Paul Thomas, Reentry Services, Stephanie Tonelli, FOH/CSO, Catherine Torres, FOH/CSO, Kathleen West, Eliot CHS, Lynn White, Viability 

Committee FY19 Work Plan Discussion
Gerry provided the project work plan that was developed by the Hampden County CoC team at the last Built for Zero conference in Detroit several weeks Please see attached for the detailed breakdown of goals and outcome measures.  INCREDIBLY IMPRESSIVE WORK.

The stated goal for Hampden County is to reduce the number of chronically homeless individuals to 50 by February, 2019.  Ambitious! And possible.

3 immediate decisions/action steps:

  1. Every 2 weeks the case conferencing meeting will be largely devoted to troubleshooting housing barriers for individuals who have vouchers who are looking for units.
  2. A workshop for voucher holders – Friday, 11/2, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm, FOH – to assist individuals on how to conduct a housing search, e.g., how to present, what to ask/not ask, what to disclose/not disclose, etc.
  3. Weekly phone call with the Built for Zero team – Gerry, Jess, Janice and Kate- to assess progress in each area

Additionally, a “mini-diversion project” is underway with Dennis at the front door of FOH to conduct a trial run of asking individuals some key questions to facilitate quicker targeting of their needs and appropriate direction.  More on that to come.

The Committee agreed that Hampden County’s Built for Zero Project Plan – click here –  will serve as its work plan.

The Committee also agreed that the Network role in relation to this work plan included:

  1. Convening this committee for its regular monthly meeting and providing a vehicle for group review of progress on its goals
  2. Providing trainings in service of the work plan, (e.g., how to run an awesome shelter, diversion, trauma informed care and racial equity and homelessness)
  3. Providing a communication vehicle to the larger community and elected officials around this work

Network training updates

Remember to register for How to Run an Awesome Shelter, Tuesday, 12/18 9 am – 4 pm, HCC.  Pamela will send out a targeted email on this as well. Please register here.

There is a tentative agreement to sponsor a 3-part racial equity training offered by Marc Dones who was formerly of T4 and co-authored the SPARC report on racial equity and homelessness.  We are looking at March 7 as the first installment with the subsequent two to be offered in late April and early June. Capacity for 100 people.  All must commit to all 3 trainings.  Stay tuned for a whole lot more.

Holyoke planning

Gerry shared the good progress in Holyoke, including a meeting hosted by Alicia Zoeller, Community Development Director, that included police, DPW, public health nurse, Gerry as CoC support and all the primary providers. There was discussion around the need for greater outreach to unsheltered people and the new permanent supportive housing underway through Viability (funded by Hampden CoC) – 1 person has been housed and 3 more are in process (ultimately funded to house 6 individuals). There was also the very start of discussion around a winter shelter in Holyoke.  Having everyone around the table was a terrific start.  More conversation to follow.

Next meeting date: Tuesday, Nov. 20, 1 pm 

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Meeting Minutes – 10/17/18

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Committee
Meeting Minutes – 10/17/18

In attendance: Jesus Arce, City of Springfield, Peter Cofoni, DCF, Emily English, Gandara Center, Rosemary Fiedler, HCC, Charlie Knight, Rainville, Ann Lentini, Domus, Inc., Gerry McCafferty, Hampden CoC, Rebecca Muller, Gandara Center, Rylee O’Brien, Mena Regan, CHD, Jean Rogers, CHD, Martha Sandoval, Baystate General Pediatrics, Pamela Schwartz,Network, Julie Vital, Baystate General Pediatrics

State youth funding:  Gerry and Lisa shared that they both received notice that youth grants will be announced on a call on Thursday morning (tomorrow) for Hampden and 3 County regions.  Both sub-regions applied for funds as part of the state funding allocated for youth housing and homelessness services provided in the FY19 project (grant applications in the $300,000 range).  The state envisions this funding to be renewed and hopefully increased over a 10 year period.  The money will be utilized for outreach, prevention, rapid rehousing and a winter shelter for youth and will pay for a range of staff, services and appropriate cash assistance for youth.

Building youth input: Gerry, Emily and Rebecca recently met with young leaders of Youth Voice, the leadership group at Gandara’s Impact Center, to introduce themselves and begin a dialogue with them about how best to structure a winter shelter.  It was a very productive conversation that included touching on points around how to support both privacy and safety (no doors but curtains or some kind of separation); ensuring it’s LGBTQ welcoming, making it low barrier (e.g., perhaps “damp” as opposed to a dry or wet shelter – behavior based).

On LGBTQ accessibility and awareness, Gerry hosted a training on working with transgender individuals for Hampden County providers. The trainer was Rev. Louis Mitchell, a transgender man with a history in the field of homelessness and recovery, including involvement in creating the nation’s first emergency shelter.  His bio is here: http://www.transfaithonline.org/engage/leadership/louis/  The training was a follow-up to a HUD webinar on the Equal Access Rule, which requires HUD-funded programs to provide equal access to all regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation.  An additional resource on this issue is  the Stonewall Center at UMass,which offers workshops (DIAL/SELF has used them with success).

Coordinated Entry update: MANY (Mid-Atlantic Network for Youth) hosted its 4th call yesterday where the focus was on how to use data.  The calls include leaders on youth homelessness from 5-7 communities.  It’s a great opportunity to exchange best practices and goals.

Discussion of ACO’s and connecting around homelessness.  We had a very lengthy and productive conversation around how Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) are structured in relationship to intersecting with patients facing homelessness.  Julie, Martha and Rylee of Baystate General Pediatrics helped us all understand better what hospitals/health care centers are now incentivized to do around asking about housing stability (reimbursement for each finding), how many patients are reporting their housing instability and the current gap in having a clear protocol in response to those reports.  We discussed the tremendous opportunity this poses for our Network as a whole for building into the system capacity to reach and serve these people. This will be a process!  And we spent some time laying the groundwork for the work that lies ahead.

Gerry will provide the cards produced that summarize youth services in Hampden County.  Pamela will add Julie, Martha and Rylee to the family services email list.  Pamela will reach out to Julie to connect with HNE director around the 12/17 training on “thinking like a system” to see if she can attend.  We will also reach out to other ACO’s to see how we can bring them into these conversations as well.

Network trainings:

Pamela reported on upcoming Network sponsored trainings – how to run an awesome shelter – 12/18; progressive engagement and diversion (1/2 day 1/31) and trauma informed care (1/2 day, 1/31).  All offered by OrgCode, a highly reputed consulting firm that works on system change within homelessness systems.  Email registration forms went out this morning.

We didn’t have the time to discuss the racial disparity analysis but will put that on the agenda for next meeting.

Next meeting dates:
Wed., Nov. 14, 9-10:30 am, Frost Building, Room 309

 

 

3 County Individual Services Meeting Minutes – 10/15/18

Three  County Individual Services Committee
Meeting Minutes –10/15/18

In attendance:  Elizabeth Bienz, ServiceNet, Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Sam Cunningham, ServiceNet, Erin Forbush, ServiceNet, Jen Glover, Life Path, Lisa Goldsmith, DIAL/SELF, Chris Hayes, ServiceNet, Andy Klatko, Eliot CHS-Homeless Services,  Peg Keller, City of Northampton, Brendan LaPlante, Eliot CHS-Homeless Services, Phyllis Lutsky, VA, Danielle McColgan, CHD, Katie Miernecki, ServiceNet, Kate Shapiro, DMH, t, Jack Tulloss, ServiceNet, Hayley Wood, Easthampton Council on  Aging, 

General Updates:

  • No new housing units available for coordinated entry purposes (at mostly a standstill due to turnover happening with Servicenet’s PSH units)
  • Northampton has new housing units in the pipeline (Peg Keller provided the update): Dial/SELF youth housing – 4 units; Lumberyard – 55 units; 82 Bridge Street, SRO, 16 new units; Village Hill – 12 units and 53 units
  • Winter shelter starting in region on 11/1 – Greenfield shelter in process, will include 12-14 beds; Berkshire shelter still looking to solidify funding but moving ahead

Committee Goals for FY19:
Pamela reported on the Steering Committee’s request for each Network committee to articulate its goals for the year.  We noted the turnover happening in 3 County CoC leadership – the Hilltown CDC is transition from the role and will be issuing an RFP for new administrators. Our initial brainstorm included:

  • Gain a better understanding of the 3 County CoC’s role in shaping the Coordinated Entry goals (i.e., the CoC’s own goals and requirements and how they inform this work)
  • Gain a better understanding of the data provided by the CoC (Pamela will bring a sampling of its reports to the next meeting)
  • Play an active role in the decision making around the new CoC lead – what is this group’s expectations of that entity and how can it help shape the partnership
  • Support the integration of data across systems so the Committee can have the best possible understanding of its homeless population

Network trainings:
Pamela reported on upcoming Network sponsored trainings – how to run an awesome shelter – 12/18; progressive engagement and diversion (1/2 day 1/31) and trauma informed care (1/2 day, 1/31).  All offered by OrgCode, a highly reputed consulting firm that works on system change within homelessness systems.  Stay tuned for email registration forms.

She also reported that the Network is sponsoring a “think like a systems training” for regional leaders on 12/17, also offered by OrgCode, which should provide an exciting foundation for all our work.

Finally, the Network is in conversation with another training group around a series of trainings on racial equity and homelessness in the Spring.  This should be a very exciting opportunity for our region.  Stay tuned!

Next meeting date:
Monday, November 19
1 pm – 2:30 pm
ServiceNet
296 Nonotuck Street, Florence

 

 

 

 

Action Alert: MA ID Action Campaign Day of Action

Please see below from the MA Coalition for the Homeless and take action if you can!

Thank you for your continued support of the passage of the Massachusetts ID Access bill. Today we are coming together to take action to tell House Ways and Means Chair Jeffrey Sánchez and Speaker of the House Robert DeLeo that it’s time to pass this bill!

There are three ways you can take action today.

  1. Contact Chairman Sánchez and Speaker DeLeo to urge them to take action to pass Senate Bill 2568.

By phone:

  • Chairman Sánchez: 617-722-2990
  • Speaker DeLeo: 617-722-2500

By mail:

  • A sample letter with room to add your own thoughts can be downloaded here. I have also attached a copy of the letter to this email. Print out two copies to mail to the State House.

By email:

  1. Post on social media. One of the best ways to put pressure on our legislators is to show that people in their district and around the state are talking about this bill and want it to be passed.

Please download and share our campaign logo from the attached file or from here with the hashtag #EveryoneNeedsID and a link to our online action .

For longer posts, use the text below as a sample:

In order to complete typical life tasks such as opening a financial account, applying for jobs, and enrolling in education programs, people often need a state-issued ID card. As of right now, not only does it cost $25 for people to get a Mass ID, but there is also a requirement for applicants to prove Massachusetts residency to receive the card. This creates huge barriers to access for people experiencing homelessness in our communities. Senate Bill 2568, An Act to Provide Identification to Homeless Youth and Families, unanimously passed the Senate and is awaiting action by the House. This bill would waive the fee to get an ID card and create a process for people experiencing homelessness to use alternative proof of residency to get an ID. This is critical to giving rights and access to members of our community. Help us call on House Ways and Means Chair @jeffrey_sanchez and House @SpeakerDeLeo to move forward Senate Bill 2568. #EveryoneNeedsID

  1. Send testimony to myself, Molly Schulman,at molly@mahomeless.orgto share why you think it’s important for this bill to be passed. You can use the letter template to help you get started . I will bring your letters to the State House on Monday to make sure your voice is heard!

Once you have taken action, please share feedback by completing this simple feedback form or contacting me.

Thank you again for your continued support of this campaign!

In solidarity,

Molly Schulman
Community Organizer and Legislative Advocate
Pronouns: She, her, and hers
Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 10/9/18

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 10/9/18

In attendance: Yoshi Bird, YWCA, Lynnann Brown, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Carla Chioda, Adams-Cheshire Schools, Emma Ciccarillo, YWCA, Joel Cox, NEFWC, Rose Flores, YWCA, Jessica Jacobs, Tenancy Preservation Project, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Yeisie Mateo, DCF, Michelle Michaelian, BHN, Theresa Nicholson, CHD, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Janette Vigo, Way Finders

Discussion with Assistant Undersecretary Jane Banks re: re-procurement of family system:

Jane Banks was able to join us on the phone for a good portion of our meeting.  She reported that the Request for Information (RFI) for the family system re-procurement (slated for July, 2020) will be released end of November/early December with a couple months allowed for responding. She strongly encouraged the following:

  • consider how to build collaborations within the system with DV providers and mental health/substance use providers; how to make a system that responds to sexual assault survivors. Establish the relationships and connections “from the ground up.”
  • consider how to build more intensive, on-the-ground collaborations with state agency local offices, including DCF, DMH, DTA
  • consider how to build partnerships with legal advocates in a more effective way, to build relationships that are less adversarial and more collaboratively problem-solving, e.g., meet monthly with the advocacy community
  • consider how to build the stabilization process; how are we going to keep families housed; how to best use HomeBASE for that purpose (meeting with a family once-a-month is not sufficient – how do we connect with other stakeholders to strengthen the family; consider mobile outreach teams; consider stronger ties to workforce development)
  • consider a joint Network response to the RFI – strongly encouraged!
  • THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX – how do we make a system that works better for families!

The group discussed these ideas after the call and agreed that it should meet in smaller sub-groups around the particulars.  Janette will check back in with Lauren regarding the quarterly family providers meeting (next one happens to be 10/26 at Way Finders) and whether it makes sense to utilize that meeting to start this conversation.  Pamela will be back in touch regarding next steps, but we will aim for targeted meetings by topic, e.g., DV/sexual assault survivors; mental health/substance use providers; legal advocates.

Other announcements:

  • BHN’s Project FIT is ending at the end of this calendar year due to lack of funding.  Michelle will provide us with some summary data so we can learn from it (and also bring its success into the re-procurement conversations).
  • The Network is hosting its legislative gathering on Friday, November 16, 1 pm – 3 pm, Greenfield Community College.  State legislators, mayors, and other elected officials will be in attendance for a session on the “state of homelessness” in the region and our best practices to address it.  Please register here.
  • The Network is sponsoring trainings offered by OrgCode, a highly reputed training group on issues of homelessness.  On December 18, it will offer “how to run an awesome shelter” – stay tuned for a registration link but for now if you are a shelter provider, please mark your calendar for this all-day training!

Next meeting dates:
Tuesday, November 13, 11 am – 12:30 pm
Tuesday, December 11, 11 am – 12:30 pm
Location for both: HCC, Frost Building, Room 309

 

Overcoming Tenant Screening Barriers: PowerPoint Presentation

Last Thursday, October 4, the Network hosted a training on Overcoming Tenant Screening Barriers at Holyoke Community College. Over 60 people attended from across the 4 Western Counties.  Attorney Jane Edmonstone from Community Legal Aid offered an excellent training, which included this PowerPoint Presentation. I wanted to offer it to you all!

Attorney Edmonstone is happy to offer similar community based organizations to your own organization or a group of organizations on this topic. Feel free to contact her at jedmonstone@cla-ma.org with an inquiry of this nature.  To make an inquiry about an individual case, please go to this page on CLA’s website to find out the process.

Finally, Esther Darko, an attorney with Central-West Justice (a sister organization of CLA), also offered her assistance, especially in situations where housing applicants are suffering barriers as a result of being a victim of a crime (e.g., sexual assault or domestic violence).  You can reach her at edarko@cwjustice.org or 413-727-7102.

Thanks to our partners in the legal community for their great work!