Author Archives: Pamela Schwartz

An Update on President Trump’s Proposed Housing Budget

This message is from Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition:

President Donald Trump is expected to send to Congress a high-level budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 next week. An overview of early drafts by the Washington Post show the severity of cuts under consideration. Multiple sources confirm that OMB Director Mick Mulvaney could slash the HUD budget by as much as 14% ($6 billion)-without considering inflationary adjustments. There is a national shortage of 7.4 million homes affordable and available to the lowest income people in this country. Just one in four low income people in need of assistance, including seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, and veterans, get the help they need. In light of these considerations, these suggested cuts are unconscionable and unacceptable. Such draconian reductions could cause homelessness.

The proposed cuts would devastate critical programs that keep roofs over the heads of some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. They are in direct contrast to Mr. Trump’s promises to revitalize distressed communities and ensure that “nobody’s going to be dying on the street” from homelessness.

Mr. Trump’s proposed budget would slash resources to repair and rehabilitate public housing developments by two-thirds. Even before these dramatic cuts, we lose an estimated 10,000 public housing apartments each year due to chronic underfunding; the capital needs backlog is close to $40 billion and grows at a rate of $4.3 billion per year. Such deep cuts would allow properties in which billions of dollars have been invested over decades to fall further into disrepair. Communities would lose a long-standing asset that has provided millions of people a place to call home and that-with the proper investment-can continue to do so for generations to come.

The proposed cuts to Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance could result in more than 200,000 families losing that critical support. Many would be forced to pay even more of their limited incomes on rent, having insufficient resources left for food, healthcare, transportation and other basic needs. Others would be unable to cover the increased cost of their rents and would face the destabilizing impact of eviction, which has especially damaging effects on children and their ability to succeed in school. In the worst cases, these families will become homeless, reversing the gains made in recent years to reduce homelessness in America.

Mr. Trump further proposes cutting resources that provide thousands more affordable homes for the lowest income seniors and people with disabilities. This would put residents at an especially high risk of eviction and homelessness, make it difficult for landlords to make their monthly mortgage payments, and erode the public-private partnerships that make these rental homes possible.

While Native Americans have some of the worst housing needs in the U.S.-suffering from extreme levels of poverty and substandard housing-Mr. Trump’s proposed budget would cut resources targeted to these communities by nearly a quarter.

And by eliminating block grant resources for community development and housing production, the Trump budget would undermine the ability for states and communities to address their most pressing needs.

Federal investments in affordable housing have already been cut significantly in recent years because of the low spending caps required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Funding to HUD was already $3.4 billion-or 8.4%-lower in 2016 than in 2010, adjusted for inflation. The same programs that would suffer dramatic cuts in Mr. Trump’s budget are those that have been hardest hit in recent years-public housing, community development and housing block grants, and housing for the elderly and people with disabilities.

This is the wrong approach. Mr. Trump and Congress should be increasing investments in affordable homes-not dramatically cutting resources. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s (NLIHC) recently released report, The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes, the U.S. has a shortage of 7.4 million affordable rental homes available to the nation’s 11.4 million extremely low income households. This means that for every 100 extremely low income households, there are just 35 rental homes affordable and available to them. As a result, 71% pay more than half of their income on rent and utilities. Despite the growing housing affordability crisis, just one in four households eligible for housing assistance receive the help they need.

The NLIHC-led Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding recently released a new report, A Place to Call Home, showcasing the latest research on how access to affordable housing boosts economic mobility, reduces poverty and homelessness, improves health outcomes, and strengthens the economy by supporting local jobs and increasing wages. The report estimates that more than 500,000 jobs were supported through HUD investments in 2015 alone. It also features more than 100 success stories of how families and communities have benefited from federal investments in affordable housing-from the very programs that the Trump budget proposes to cut.

These proposed cuts are unacceptable, and Congress must soundly reject them. We call on HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson to uphold the commitments he made during his confirmation process. At that time, Dr. Carson said, “We need to be cognizant of our fiscal responsibilities as well as our social responsibilities. Safety net programs are important. I would never abolish one without having an alternative.” We couldn’t agree more. Dr. Carson must uphold his commitment to “house as many families as possible in safe, affordable housing…and look for ways to expand affordable housing options everywhere” by urging Mr. Trump and Mr. Mulvaney to reverse these harmful cuts before submitting a budget proposal to Congress.

Furthermore, Mr. Trump and Congress must lift the spending caps with parity for defense and non-defense programs and ensure the highest level of funding possible for affordable housing. We cannot afford to balance our budget on the backs of low-income people. Instead, we must invest in the resources that families and communities need to thrive.

Join NLIHC and other leaders of CHCDF for a webinar on March 20 at 4pm to learn more about the impact of President Trump’s proposed budget and how you can help protect these critical resources.

 

Individual Services Meeting Minutes – 3/2/17

Individual Services Meeting
March 2, 2017

In attendance: Gechar, Aquino, Friends of the Homeless, Jesus Arce, City of Springfield, Nichole Bodiford, Friends of the Homeless, Margaret Curran, Mass Fair Housing, Courtnee Godbolt, Friends of the Homeless, Charlie Knight, Rainville/SCARF, Madeline LaSanta, Hampden County Sheriff’s Dept. – AISS, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS Homeless Services, Jade Lovett, Craig’s Doors, Jen Lucca, Samaratin Inn, Kim Majewski, Gandara Center, Terry Maxe, SMOC/Open Door, Bill Miller, Friends of the Homeless, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Tania Olmo, Hampden County Sheriff’s Dept.,, Pre-release Ludlow, Luz Ortiz, Friends of the Homeless, Denise Rivera, Friends of the Homeless, Christina Ruest, Friends of the Homeless, Stephanie Tonelli, Friends of the Homeless, Rachel Weiss, Craig’s Doors

Hampden County Point in Time Count Update (via Gerry McCafferty email):

For individuals, this year’s PIT count identified 269 persons in emergency shelter, plus 54 unsheltered persons. This is an increase from 2016, when there were 244 persons in emergency shelter and 34 unsheltered persons.

Shelters with higher numbers in 2017: FOH, Taylor, Samaritan, Womanshelter–all of which were at capacity. Each one was up by a fairly small number, but the accumulated increase was 25 people.

The unsheltered count was up by 20 people. This was driven by higher street counts in Chicopee (up from 3 to 8) and Holyoke (up from 12 to 16). In Springfield, the unsheltered count went from 12 to 23–a few more found by outreach, but also different types of people found at the Youth “come-and-be-counted” events, which identified several individuals living in cars, where they would be unlikely to be found during a regular street count.

A few notes–

  • The increase seems to be consistent with what I am hearing statewide, about increasing numbers of individuals.
  • At least one factor that seems to be driving increases is opiate addiction.
  • However, one factor that I think contributes in Springfield is that we have significantly slowed the rate that we are moving long-term/chronic into housing. There are a number of contributing factors to this, and I think that we will have higher-than-average numbers moving into housing in the next six months. But while this will relieve some pressure on the shelter system, the underlying factors leading to widespread increases are worrisome.

Data is still in DRAFT form, as there is still some clean-up and checking going on. I will have a full report in the next month or so.

Also, Gerry provided the hand-out (click here) that compared the Hampden County by-name list with the PIT count.

Analysis and discussion of increase in numbers included the following:

  • More volunteers counting, plus police involvement, i.e., higher numbers are a function of better identification, not necessarily a function of a higher rate of homelessness
  • Opioid addiction
  • Relatively warmer weather

Jay noted that increases in the PIT were seen all over the state, e.g., in Worcester the number of unsheltered people rose to 96, including a higher number of women, young people and elders. Jen shared her observation of higher number of individuals experiencing drug or alcohol use.

Review of data templates:

The group reviewed data submitted by FOH, Craig’s Doors, Samaratin Inn and ServiceNet (Grove St and cot shelter in Northampton; Wells Street in Greenfield).

Discussion:

There was general agreement that this data could be useful but we needed greater clarity around how to actually use it – how to package it (not in 5 different data templates from 5 different shelters) and how to analyze it. Donna Nadeau of DHCD was explicit that this data would be very useful to her in better understanding and advocating for her region.

The group agreed that the goal for this data would be to help answer the questions of : who are we serving, what do we need, where are the gaps and how do we fill them?

It was also noted that the number of Holyoke shelter residents across all shelters was significant and revealed a gap in Holyoke providing its own emergency shelter to its residents. The new statewide procurement process that is likely slated for FY19 may be an opportunity to address this gap.

It was also noted that it would be useful to get Pittsfield shelter information as well.

Pamela agreed to follow-up with Gerry and others to get more clarity around how to best use this data and will be back in touch with the shelter providers. Stay tuned on whether it makes sense to produce this data for next month’s meeting.

It was also raised whether this committee should sponsor an “individual services retreat” similar to that which was held for the family services committee. The group can revisit this idea as well at its next meeting.

Built for Zero Team Learning Session:
Bill relayed information from Gerry regarding this Built for Zero team learning session being offered by Community Solutions on 4/25-4/26 in Washington, DC. The Hampden County CoC can send a couple of people and receive stipends to help do so. You can learn more here:  https://springfieldhampdencoc.wordpress.com/2017/02/28/invite-built-for-zero-team-learning-session-april-25-26-wash-dc

Network Funding Update: Due to the current Network funding situation, the Hampden County CoC is funding our Network committee meetings, and therefore is required to hold the meetings in Hampden County until further notice.

Next meeting date: Thursday, 4/13, 1-2:30, Friends of the Homeless (note not that usual 2nd Thursday due to the conflict with the Fair Housing Conference).

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – 2/24/17

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes

In attendance: Ben Cluff, DPH, Steve Connor, Hampshire Veterans Services, Chris Lizotte, West Springfield Veterans Services, Jim Mahoney, Holyoke Veterans Services, Melissa Mateus, Springfield Partners, Sue Moorman, HUD-VASH, Katherine Person, Veterans Inc., Farah Rodriguez, HAPHousing, Rick Sabellico, Soldier On, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Kate Sweetster-Owens, HUD-VASH, Sabrina Willard, Soldier On, France Wolfe, HAPHousing

Hampden County 2017 Point in Time Count

Gerry provided this summary by email:

The Hampden County PIT Count identified a total of 19 homeless veterans, as follows:

  • 2 unsheltered
  • 10 in emergency shelter – this includes 1 family headed by a veteran
  • 7 in transitional housing (BiLingual Veterans – 53 Maple Court)

The two unsheltered veterans were 1 in Holyoke and 1 in Chicopee. These are both new to us and not on our by-name list. They were identified by Eliot, which is doing follow-up with them.

We identified 1 chronically homeless veteran–it is the Family head of household, who has been in shelter for over 2 years. She is not VASH-eligible.

The 19 counted this year is a reduction from the 2016 count, where we identified 25 veterans.

Group discussion:

  • There was some confusion about why the chronically homeless family is not finding another resource for housing support, e.g., SSVF.
  • Jim Mahoney would like to find out more about the unsheltered veteran in Holyoke.
  • There was general interest in finding out which veterans among all of those identified were not VHA eligible. Sue Moorman raised the concern of the rising number of veterans who are in need of assistance who are not VHA eligible while there is a large pool of HUD VASH vouchers not being used (anecdotally at last meeting, Sue said roughly one-third of veterans being seen were not VHA-eligible). We agreed we would devote more time to this topic at our next meeting. Is there some advocacy we can do with VA/HUD?   We need to turn VA eligible vouchers into non-VA eligible vouchers.
  • At the same time, there was confusion around the number of referrals in relation to the number of unused vouchers. Kate pointed out the slow-down in the Springfield office due to lack of staffing – case manager being hired now. There are veterans in the pool who are lacking case managers and therefore not moving as quickly as they would otherwise. Improvement on this is in process.
  • It was also noted that Soldier On’s opening up of 88 beds is having a positive impact in housing veterans.
  • Pamela will invite Mike Hagmaier of Soldier On to a meeting with committee members to discuss the issue of referrals/non-VHA eligible veterans.

Hampden County Sheriff Roundtable Planning Effort:

Steve Connor obtained a letter from the DVS Commissioner supporting the roundtable effort that he will provide to Dan Boyea to present to the Sheriff.

As to the sample MOU Dan is looking for, Steve has not been able to reach Carl at the Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office. Pamela will reach out as well.

Veterans NOFA

Steve raised the question of the NOFA and how discussions are happening around the state around funding requests for different bed types (there are 5 options). The group agreed it wanted to have more dialogue locally around the types and number of beds for which funding is being sought. Pamela will reach out to Sue White, Mike Hagmaier, Sara Polidore, and Jim Seney to invite them to a meeting to discuss this. This is time sensitive because the application is due at the end of March!

Network update:

Due to current funding arrangement – Hampden County CoC paying for Network meetings in this phase of limited Network funding – the veterans committee will meet exclusively in Hampden County (at MHA) until further notice. 3County participants are always welcome and encouraged to attend!

Announcements:

  • Veterans Inc has opened a clinical stabilization services in Shrewsbury for post detox. Length of stay between 10 and 21 days.
  • VOC has 10 SRO rooms currently available in Chapin Mansion – must be sober for 6 months.

Next meeting date: (we meet regularly on 4th Friday of the month): March 24 9:15- 10:30 am, Mental Health Association, 995 Worthington Street, Springfield