Author Archives: Pamela Schwartz

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – 1/12/18

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – January 12, 2018
In attendance: Ben Cluff, DPH-Veterans, Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Keegan Hersey, Veterans Inc, Sue Moorman, VA, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Kate Sweetster-Owens, Alison Wilson-Pierce, HUD-VASH
Discussion of new vouchers for VHA ineligible veterans: The group discussed HUD’s recent decision to allow Soldier On to convert 25 HUD VASH vouchers to use for VHA-ineligible veterans.  This is great news since many of the chronically homeless veterans are VHA ineligible.  This also raises the question of how those 25 vouchers will be allocated across the region (Soldier On has its veterans in GPD beds who need to be permanently housed and most of Hampden County’s remaining homeless vets are VHA ineligible).  The group agreed it would be useful to have a meeting across both CoC’s to discuss the allocation process and how best to collaborate.  The group agreed Pamela will reach out to: Mike Hagmaier (Soldier On), Gerry McCafferty (Hampden County CoC),  Dave Christopolis (Three County CoC) and Sue White (VA) to start scheduling (and welcome them to invite any one else).
The group also agreed that this meeting would be an opportunity to discuss sub-regional communication and coordination around each CoC’s coordinated entry efforts in light of the veteran population’s mobility up and down the Route 91 corridor.
Hampden County CoC veterans: Kate reported a meeting with After Incarcerated Support Services (AISS) to discuss housing options for sex offenders since there are several chronically homeless veterans whose sex offender status is creating a barrier to housing.  Unfortunately, the options are so limited to virtually non-existent.  Pamela shared the Network’s working group experience on this issue – and how the group has become dormant due to a lack of statewide leadership on this (a commission to address the problems of leveling and housing barriers among other problems did not produce any meaningful results).   The restriction of housing options for sex offenders on both the federal and state levels is an intractable barrier to permanent housing for this population.We agreed we should raise this  issue in the Network’s upcoming meeting with Bob Pulster of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Three County CoC: Soldier On is launching its 1-800 coordinated entry phone number next week!  Stay tuned.
Nikki Riello also provided this update by email on the current CoC veterans count:
192 homeless veterans
2 on the streets
9 chronically homeless
approximately 55 moves into permanent housing from 12/1-1/10
Meeting frequency:
The group decided to experiment with meeting every other month since there are monthly CoC-based veteran meetings happening focused on the by-name lists and housing efforts.  The group agreed it would meet next as a sub-group around the Soldier On voucher issue and then pose meeting dates for March.  Pamela will poll “regulars” in the group to help land on a date when people are able to attend.
Next meeting date: to be determined.

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Committee Minutes – 1/9/16

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Committee Meeting
January 9, 2018


In attendance:  Peter Cofoni, DCF-Springfield; Rosemary Fiedler, Thrive HCC, Lisa Goldsmith, DIAL/SELF, Sharon Hall-Smith, Gandara,  Charlie Knight, Rainville, Yeisie Mateo, DCF, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield/CoC, Rebecca Muller, Gandara Center, Juan Rivera, DYS-Holyoke, Jean Rogers, CHD, Pamela Schwartz, Network
Youth Special Commission Update:  Please click here for the draft report . Comments are due by Jan. 14. The drafters apologized for the short turn-around time (to accommodate their next steering committee meeting on 1/16).  The committee agreed that the process for this report is questionable and may undermine desired outcomes.  Gerry will provide feedback on a specific matter regarding the coordination gap between DCF and DMH that precludes youth aging out of foster care to become eligible for DMH services.  The committee agreed that this kind of feedback –  concrete proposals for changes in state agency policy and coordination – would be the place to focus our energies.

State youth funding: The Governor released the $675K in FY18 youth funding but some of the funds have been earmarked for other youth orgs in and around Boston (unclear how that happened) and the understanding is that the remainder will be allocated via an RFP.  The committee acknowledge the consequences of this late timing in the fiscal year – this will be difficult to manage! And we will all stay tuned.
Point in Time Count: for Hampden County it will take place on 1/31; for 3 County 1/24.  Gerry confirmed how the HUD count does not count people who are doubled up or couch surfing, only those in shelter or unsheltered.  Gerry organized some outreach efforts with HCC, CHD and Gandara.
Continuing discussion of youth outreach: We welcomed Peter Cofoni, a DCF adolescent supervisor, to our committee.  He works with young adults in the Springfield area who are in residential support or who are in transition from foster care.  He is always looking for housing options and was pleased to connect with Gandara’s Shine program again.
Juan Rivera of DYS provided additional information on the numbers they serve in Western MA:  119 youth are still committed; 43 are youth engaged in services (YES, voluntary services).
Network Evaluation project: Pamela provided an update on the consultant working with the Network to help evaluate the best use of the Network going forward. She distributed the interview questions and encouraged everyone to provide their input.   She will send the information electronically as well.  She encouraged people to attend the Network meeting on 2/12, 1-4 pm, Kittredge Center, HCC, to further engage in this effort to help shape the Network going forward.
Next meeting date: Wed., 2/14, 2-3:30 pm; Rosemary will confirm space. [Note: Rosemary confirmed it is Donahue Buiding, Room 368, HCC]

Family Services Meeting – 1/9/18

Family Services Meeting Minutes – 1/9/18
In attendance: Shelly Benoit, BHN, Yoshi Bird, YWCA, Ellen Broadhurst, West Springfield Public Schools, Doris Gonzalez, YWCA, Fran Lemay, Greenfield Family Inn, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman House, Lisandra Maysonet, YWCA, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Jenni Pothier, Mental Health Association/TPP, Aisha Pizarro, YWCA, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Janette Vigo, Way Finders, Melissa White, Valley Opportunity Council
DHCD Data Review and Discussion:
Thanks to Bill Bartosch and Andrew Pape of DHCD for their assistance in responding to data requests.  Click here for the excel document provided by DHCD is a “work in progress” and allowed for additional brainstorming.  Pamela will report back to Bill and Andrew these follow-up questions:
  • For where families applied (the breakdown among Greenfield, Pittsfield and Springfield), we would like to also understand the town of origin for the families applying (i.e., there may be some discrepancy between where the application is filed and where the family is from).
  • The family transfer number is not useful without more context (transfers within a program are also included in that number). The group is interested in the # of families from Western MA placed out of the region and the number of families from outside of Western MA placed within the region; they would also like to pull out transfers that occurred based on domestic violence.
  • It was noted that the number of active families with DV history had to be wildly underreported (59 was the number drawn from HMIS – out of 600 beds – the group consensus is that this is nowhere close to accurate).  The question was raised about whether it was possible to add to HMIS a question when the family is exiting shelter re: “has the family member experienced DV either before or since the date of entry?” (recognizing that many people may not feel comfortable reporting DV at the initial intake). We discussed the barriers of data entry insofar as “new” DV cannot be captured in HMIS – beyond a “touch point” (aka case note) – without going into the initial assessment and changing the data – this is extremely cumbersome for case workers and contributes to missed reporting.
  • Housing status upon exit: the group would like to add this data set to the monthly template.
At the next meeting, we will hope to have a more formalized template in an easier-to-distribute format.
Puerto Rico evacuees:  We were not able to obtain updated data to share.  We know families are still arriving and FEMA is expiring imminently; it is anticipated that this will place a huge demand on the EA system.  MEMA, DHCD and other state agencies are meeting regularly.
State budget update: Youth funding has been released by the Governor but it’s unclear how it will be distributed (via an RFP?).  RAFT funds for individuals has also been released although it’s not yet at Way Finders.
Network Evaluation project: Pamela provided an update on the consultant working with the Network to help evaluate the best use of the Network going forward. She distributed the interview questions and encouraged everyone to provide their input.   She will send the information electronically as well.  She encouraged people to attend the Network meeting on 2/12, 1-4 pm, Kittredge Center, HCC, to further engage in this effort to help shape the Network going forward.
Coordinated entry discussion with DV and shelter providers: Gerry McCafferty hosted a meeting for the Hampden County CoC DV providers and EA shelter providers to begin to tackle the challenge of connecting both systems to create a coordinated entry process.  The first step is for the DV providers to assess how many of their population meet the criteria for chronically homeless (and therefore eligible for permanent supportive housing).
Homelessness Resource Fair – June 14.  We agreed we would start our planning process for this event at our next meeting in Feb.
Next meeting date: Tuesday, Feb. 13, 9:30-11 am, Northampton Senior Center.

Secure Jobs Advisory Committee Update

On the heels of the Secure Jobs Advisory Committee’s very successful Career Services Workshop on 11/15/17, with over 70 people in attendance, the group decided it was time to take stock of how to build on that success and make best use of the Committee.
At our last meeting on December 13 (attending: Luis Arzola, CHD, Ashley Brehm, Way Finders, Bud Delphin, CareerPoint, Lisa Lapierre, Franklin Hampshire Career Center, Maegan Pedemonti, Way Finders), the group, also in consultation with Konrad Rogowska of FutureWorks and  Pamela Wojtkowski of BerkshireWorks, made some important decisions around the Secure Jobs Advisory Committee.
In summary, the group is changing its name to the Career Services Committee and has decided to take a broader scope in its mission beyond the Secure Jobs Initiative, which due to reduced state funding over recent years (and Way Finders’ innovative in-house ways to continue to employ people far in excess of its state contract goals), now needs to refine its purpose and mission.
Towards that end, the Network in conjunction with core committee members – each career center and Secure Jobs – will convene a focus group-style meeting with specific stakeholders to brainstorm how to best serve the region in our shared goal to increase employment for those at risk of or experiencing homelessness. This meeting will include representatives from: community colleges, literacy centers, community action agencies, family resource centers, housing and shelter providers. If you are among those listed, please stay tuned for a meeting date in late January.
We look forward to being back in touch in February with our clarified focus and next meeting date for the entire committee.