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Author Archives: Pamela Schwartz

A big day on Beacon Hill for the Network’s legislative agenda

I am pleased to provide an update on the Network’s legislative activity that culminated in hearings on Beacon Hill yesterday regarding 5 of the Network’s legislative priorities: 

The Network submitted testimony on these bills (see Right to Counsel/HOMES here; Cliff Effects here; Act of Living here). We brought Western Massachusetts into the room!

We also had amazing legislative leadership and support for these priorities so first and foremost, THANK YOU to our Western MA delegation.

A few special thanks are in order on both a state and local level to: 

  • Senator Jo Comerford for both her lead sponsorship of the data transparency bill in relation to cliff effects and for testifying in support of Right to Counsel and the HOMES Act (while chairing her Public Health Committee hearing simultaneously!). Check out her testimony on Right to Counsel and HOMES that draws on the Network’s commitment as fueling her mission.
  • Representative Lindsay Sabadosa who provided powerful testimony on Right to Counsel based on her first-hand experience as an observer in Housing Court. 
  • Senator Eric Lesser and Representative Aaron Vega for their lead sponsorship of the cliff effect pilot program that will provide a model for families gaining stability while their employment income increases.
  • Senator Adam Hinds for submitting testimony in support of HOMES and Representative Mindy Domb for standing in support of Right to Counsel and HOMES.
  • And to the other members of the Network Leadership Council – Senators Anne Gobi and Jim Welch, and Representatives Natalie Blais, Dan Carey, Michael Finn, Carlos Gonzalez, Paul Mark, Smitty Pignatelli, Jose Tosado, John Velis and Bud Williams – for their co-sponsorship of one or more of these bills. 
  • Northampton City Council for its Resolution in support of Right to Counsel and HOMES bills
  • Springfield City Council for its Resolution in support of Right to Counsel
  • Mayor David Narkewicz on behalf of the City of Northampton in support of the Cliff Effect bills
  • Our Network partners, including Berkshire Regional Housing Authority, ServiceNet, United Way of Hampshire County, Way Finders and more, for taking the time to individually express their support as well.  

Of course this process will continue to unfold – it’s not too late to submit your organization’s testimony! – and the Network will continue to collaborate with our elected leaders and partners to ensure Western Massachusetts’ voices reach Beacon Hill. We are being heard, and we are making a difference together. 

Senator Comerford and Representative Sabadosa testifying before the Judiciary Committee on the Right to Counsel and HOMES bills.

Homes for Families Envisioning Day: August 15

Please see Homes for Families invitation below:

REGISTER BY AUGUST 6th FOR VISIONING DAY 2019

We are excited to open up registration for Visioning Day 2019 when families and providers come together in partnership to articulate our priorities for the coming year. Strong family participation is absolutely vital! We invite families overcoming homelessness and family shelter providers across Massachusetts to have their voice heard in articulating our collective policy advocacy priorities for the year ahead. The day includes dialogue with key state agencies via a state agency panel, table discussions, breakout groups, a fun and engaging children’s program, breakfast and lunch, and of course plenty of inspiration! Check out last year’s Visioning Day report here.

The event will be at the DCU Center in Worcester, on August 15th from 9:30 am to 3:00 pm.

All groups should register using the Group Registration Form. Please submit a child pre-registration form for each child that will be attending. We have an eventbrite page with more information on the event, but please note only people registering as individuals and not coming as a group, should register via eventbrite.

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 7/9/19

In attendance: Hillary Cronin, VA, Anthia Elliott, BHN, Kelli Kefalas, NEFWC, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Andrea Marion, Valley Opportunity Council, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Michelle Michaelian, BHN, Lizzy Ortiz, Mercy Medical, Marisabel Perez, CHD, Kim Saveny, Hilltown Community Health Center, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Janna Tetrault, Community Action, Lauren Voyer, Way Finders,

Shelter system RFP update: Pamela reported that DHCD Assistant Undersecretary Jane Banks advised that the RFP is under final internal review and we can anticipate its release by the end of this month.

Legislative update: Pamela reported that the FY20 budget bill is still in conference committee (the compromises of the House and the Senate budgets) despite the new fiscal year starting on 7/1 (this is typical). Pamela will relay when the budget is released.

Meanwhile, legislative bills pertaining to homelessness that were filed at the start of the new legislative session in January are now coming up for hearings, as soon as Tuesday, July 16. Pamela reviewed these bills, including a pilot program to reduce the “cliff effect” (led by SpringfieldWorks), a data coordination bill requiring state agencies to release data pertaining to homelessness (Senator Comerford is lead sponsor), right to counsel for tenants facing evictions and eviction sealing (so tenants are not permanently penalized for evictions being filed against them).

We discussed the role of the family services committee in this legislative process and there was consensus that members would like to more actively participate in the process. We agreed that we would continue this conversation around how to prioritize bills and strategically push them forward as a committee. It was also suggested that one of our trainings this year address “how bills get made” and other tips around advocacy.

FY20 work plan discussion

Network trainings for FY20
We began by reviewing the training survey results (click here). After discussion, we agreed on the following recommendations for this year’s training calendar:

Provided by Network/state trainers, free of charge (repeats from last year):
EA/HomeBASE training
Overcoming tenant screening barriers
Legal services training
Child care voucher system
SSI/SSDI systems training
DV best practices (provided by Hampden CoC last year; Gerry is looking to repeat this year)
New proposals provided by Network/state trainers:
Advocacy: how does a bill get passed; how can we help make it happen
Mental health/substance use systems training (Michelle, Lizzy, Anthia and Yoshi agreed to be a planning sub-group for this)


Paid trainings:
Racial equity: unanimous support for continuing this work with Marc Dones
OrgCode: unlikely on trauma informed care only because other orgs are offering it; unlikely on diversion/progressive engagement; possibly on “how to run an awesome shelter” but only if modified to better address the family shelter system

We discussed the need for more targeted focus on rural needs, especially regarding transportation. We agreed that the newly forming Three County CoC (through Community Action) will be a great starting point for this conversation.

Next meeting dates:
Due to vacation and other scheduling conflicts, we are shifting our next two meetings to the first Tuesday of the month, so we will meet next on:

Tues., Aug 6
Tues, Sept. 3
11 am – 12:30 pm
Kittredge Center, Room 301
Holyoke Community College

New Resource Directory for Hampshire/Franklin/Quabbin!

Community Action Pioneer Valley is pleased to announce:

The Look4Help Public Resource Directory has LAUNCHED!

We want you to check it out and help us spread the word about it!

Please go to www.look4help.org on your smart phone, tablet, or computer to check out this fabulous, free, easy-to-use source of information about MANY community resources in Franklin and Hampshire Counties, the North Quabbin Region, and surrounding areas. There’s a quick keyword search option, as well as an easy guided search through 15 Popular Categories including: Food, Housing, Mental Health, Addiction and Recovery, Health Care, Disability Services, Money, Transportation, Clothing, Diapers, and Household Goods, Legal Help, Employment and Job Training, Family and Children, Seniors, Adult Education, State Agencies.

Look4Help is immensely useful for service providers and for everyone in our community. It includes options to translate the pages into Spanish or Russian, as well as an easy way to increase or decrease text size and a full suite of accessibility functions through the UserWay button. 

And, once you’ve found information about one of the many resources listed, you can easily share the information by printing it out, making a PDF, or sharing a link to the resource listing. 

Another great feature of Look4Help is the “Add/Update Listing” tab at the top. We know that programs change, and that there are more programs and services out there that we’ve yet to include in Look4Help. The Add/Update Listing tab makes it easy for you to send us information about updates and/or suggest additional programs to be listed in Look4Help. We will be continuously updating Look4Help.

Thanks for spreading the word about Look4Help and for all that you do!

Webinar 7/16: Advancing Health Equity through Housing Law and Policy

From the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation:

Register today for our next webinar to explore the influence housing laws and policies can have on health in urban and rural communities. Experts from The Network for Public Health Law will provide an introduction to public health law and policy, and explain how laws and policies related to gentrification, eviction, and homelessness can improve or further embed health inequities. We will share insights into where you can start with smaller policy-oriented solutions, as well as community-wide solutions that embrace comprehensive, tailored approaches that focus on collaborative efforts and broad partnerships. 

Tuesday, July 16, 3 pm EST

Register HERE.

TODAY: Join National Tweetstorm or Comment to Keep Families Together

Please see this action alert below from the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Whether it’s a tweet or submitting a comment, it will take only a minute and we have until the deadline of TOMORROW, July 9, to be heard!

From NLICH:
Thanks to your efforts, over 10,000 comments have been submitted in response to HUD’s cruel proposal to evict 25,000 mixed-status immigrant families – including more than 55,000 children who are U.S. citizens or have legal status – from HUD-assisted housing.

To build on this success, NLIHC, the National Housing Law Project, and other leaders are calling for a national tweetstorm on Monday, July 8 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ET to encourage organizations and individuals to submit comments before the July 9 deadline. Be sure to include #KeepFamiliesTogether in your tweets.

You can also submit a comment here.

How You Can Participate!

NLIHC and NHLP are leading the effort to oppose HUD’s harmful and cruel proposal and have developed resources to help you draft and submit comments, including a Myth vs. Fact factsheet, a Spanish language commenting portal and fact sheet, and state and demographic data. Comments are most useful when they contain original language.

Check out our social media toolkit and other resources at: www.Keep-Families-Together.org

Some suggested tweets are below:

  • A proposal to evict over 100,000 people during a housing crisis is unconscionable. Let @SecretaryCarson know that children belong with their families. Send comments by July 9 at www.Keep-Families-Together.org #KeepFamiliesTogether  
  • The HUD proposed rule to prohibit “mixed-status” families from living in federally subsidized housing is cruel. Tell @SecretaryCarson to #KeepFamilesTogether by submitting comments by July 9  www.Keep-Families-Together.org
  • HUD does NOT fund undocumented immigrants living in subsidized housing! The new proposed rule would break up families & do little to shorten waitlists. #KeepFamiliesTogether Tell @SecretaryCarson NO to this cruel rule! #protectfamilies www.Keep-Families-Together.org
  • @SecretaryCarson’s unconscionable proposal would evict over 100k people, incl. 55k deeply poor kids that are US citizens or legal residents, at the height of an #affordablehousing crisis. Let HUD know by July 9 that you oppose this rule www.Keep-Families-Together.org #KeepFamiliesTogether
  • #FACTS: Undocumented immigrants do NOT receive housing subsidies–it’s not allowed in law. HUD’s rule isn’t for shortening housing waiting lists but for instilling fear in families. Tell @SecretaryCarson we will not stand for this! www.Keep-Families-Together.org #KeepFamiliesTogether
  • Prohibiting “mixed-status” families from being able to live together is cruel & unnecessary. Tell @SecretaryCarson to #KeepFamiliesTogether by July 9 www.Keep-Families-Together.org #protectfamilies 
  • HUD’s “mixed-status” families rule places thousands, incl. 55,000 children that are US citizens or legal residents, at risk of homelessness. #KeepFamiliesTogether. Tell @SecretaryCarson you stand against splitting up/evicting families by July 9 www.Keep-Families-Together.org
  • Hsg stability is crucial for getting families on a path to a better life. HUD’s proposed “mixed-status” rule threatens this path for some low-income immigrants. #KeepFamiliesTogether, support housing asst. for people w/ greatest needs www.Keep-Families-Together.org
  • DUE JULY 9: Submit comments now & tell HUD to #KeepFamiliesTogether www.Keep-Families-Together.org
  • The time is NOW to let HUD know that its proposed rule to force 25K “mixed-status” immigrant-families (incl. 55k children) to separate or face eviction is just cruel! Submit comments before the July 9 deadline #KeepFamiliesTogether www.Keep-Families-Together.org
  • Speak the Truth, @SecretaryCarson! The “mixed-status” immigration rule is based on a lie! Let HUD know that we will not stand for the cruel proposal. Submit comments by July 9 at www.Keep-Families-Together.org #KeepFamiliesTogether
  • Let’s be clear. Federal subsidies DO NOT support undocumented immigrants! Then why is @SecretaryCarson proposing such a cruel rule? Let HUD know that a proposal like this will not stand. Send comments by July 9 at www.Keep-Families-Together.org #KeepFamiliesTogether

Community Evaluators needed for families experiencing homelessness

Please read below for this meaningful (and compensated) opportunity from the MA Dept. of Public Health:

The MA Home Visiting Initiative and the Maternal Child Health Block Grant, both at the MA Department of Public Health, are undertaking a statewide Needs Assessment, facilitated by research partners Tufts Interdisciplinary Evaluation Research (TIER).   The overarching goal of the needs assessments is to use a racial equity approach to gather a deeper understanding of the needs and strengths of families, young children, and youth/adolescents (including children with special health care needs) to gather to inform statewide priorities and program delivery. 

A key part of our qualitative data collection includes a Community Evaluator (CE) component. Facilitated by TIER, the Community Evaluator approach is grounded in Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) models that emphasizes the importance of:

1) Placing knowledge production in the hands of those most directly affected by the work;

2) Forming academic-community partnerships that are genuinely based on a commitment to co-learning;

3) Building evaluation capacity in communities (training community members in research); and

4) Proposing program and policy solutions that represent communities’ goals and aspirations.

In addition, the long term goal of TIER is to also invite CE’s to join the TIER Community Advisory Council and continue to work with Tufts on evaluations and research projects into the future. 

TIER will be identifying 10 community applicants to join the Community Evaluator Team.

Community Evaluator activities include:

1.       Participating in a two-day training on participatory research approaches at Tufts University

2.       After the training, CEs will be responsible, with support from TIER staff, for organizing, co-facilitating, and analyzing data from a focus group to be held in their respective community.

3.       TIER and DPH will also consult with the CEs on other evaluation activities to ensure our interpretation of findings is valid and useful from their important perspectives.

4.      Participating CEs will each receive a $3,000 stipend to attend the training and conduct the focus group.

5.      TIER will also cover lodging and travel costs (if any) and provide childcare during evening trainings, meetings, and focus groups.

6.       More information on this project and the TIER CE model can be found on: https://sites.google.com/view/tier-community-evaluators/home

Additional considerations for recruits are:

  1. 10 CEs:  Only 10 CEs will be selected, which means that unfortunately not all applicants who apply will be selected.
  2. Selection Process | Eligibility Minimum Qualifications:

·         Lives and/or work in Massachusetts

·         Has past or current experience either working for or being a member of the target populations of any family groups

·         Expressed interest in working on behalf of children, youth, and families

·         Completed the application