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Author Archives: Pamela Schwartz

3 County Individual Services Committee Minutes – 2/11/19


In attendance: Sam Cunningham, Resource Center/Cot Shelter/ServiceNet, Eleanor Dodson, ServiceNet, Erin Forbush, Chris Hughes, ServiceNet, Jay Levy, Eliot Services, Brendan Plante, Eliot Services, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Kate Shapiro, DMH, Mike Trembley, Hampshire County Resource Center/ServiceNet, Hayley Wood, Easthampton Council on Aging

Announcements/Updates:

  • Kate Shapiro, DMH: at least one Shelter Plus Care voucher is available – Eliot Services is connecting with individuals who are eligible to use it 
  • Jay Levy, Eliot Services: updated the group on CSO’s new 2-year SAMHSA grant a Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic – CCBHC program) that will run out of  Northampton, Greenfield and Amherst and provide outreach services to dually diagnosed individuals who are reticent to receive clinical services – an exciting partnership opportunity for housing providers.  They are also launching a Living Room model drop-in program (a similar model exists in Springfield through BHN). They are hiring now and hopefully will be up and running within 2 months.  
  • Coordinated Entry Update: With Nikki Riello’s departure from Hilltown CDC (she was the keeper of the list) and the CoC transition to Community Action, there is not a new update on coordinated entry or the by-name list.
  • ServiceNet update: Greenfield and Northampton beds are full.  Beds are available in Pittsfield. 2 female beds for PSH (through MHSA contract) (3 bedroom apt; chronicity is not a requirement). Barton’s Crossing also has beds available (within the shelter setting; good for early recovery).  Do not need to be chronic. 
  • SMOC: has 5 openings in Easthampton; also an opening in Chicopee.  We agreed that Pamela and Hayley and Mike would be contacting Terry Maxey, director, to gain a better understanding of why these units are not being filled.

Discussion of eligibility flow for Shelter Plus Care vouchers:We discussed at great length the current system challenges of expedient use of shelter plus car vouchers.  DMH must establish eligibility for these units, and individuals being assessed for them are linked through ACCS (Adult Community Clinical Services), a ServiceNet program that is funded through DMH.  Right now, ACCS does NOT intersect with 3 county’s Coordinated Entry system.  It was agreed we need to fix that!  Erin will reach out to the ACCS staff person and invite them to this meeting.  We also agreed that in order to close the gap between DMH assessment and timely use of an available voucher, the system should move towards assessing eligibility (assuming willing individual, of course) PRIOR to voucher becoming available; that this eligibility info is part of the data tracking in the CE list so as soon as the voucher becomes available, the list can provide quick distribution of it. This requires coordination with ACCS which is our next step in the coordination process.


Point in Time Count Update from January, 2019:
Jay reported a total of 28 unsheltered individuals in the 3 county region:7 in Amherst, 6 in Northampton, 6 in Pittsfield, 3 in Greenfield, 3 in Hadley, 2 in Great Barrington, 1 in Leverett.Shelters were all over-capacity. 
Outreach by Julie Federman, Amherst Homelessness Systems:Julie Federman reached out to Pamela to discuss how best to approach the follow-up on “how to run an awesome shelter” so that the response is regionally developed.  We agreed to initially use this meeting as the place to start this dialogue.  Pamela will invite Julie (and she can invite others; in particular Craig’s Doors) to join us at our next meeting on March 11. We agreed this is an exciting step forward to expand the scope of this important discussion.


We also discussed how “systems work” in the 3 county region must incorporate the THREE different sub-systems within, one for each county, due to the wide geography and variations in population for each area.  This geographic expanse brings an additional challenge to the coordination and we recognize the goal is to create the shared best practices that join shelter and re-housing practice across the region. 


Racial Equity in Homelessness Training coming up:Pamela reminded all of this 3-part training – March 7, April 25, June 6 – that will launch our region’s process to have racial equity inform Western Mass.’ homelessness response system. Please let Pamela know if you want additional information. 


Next meeting date: March 11, 1 pm, ServiceNet, 196 Nonotuck Street, Florence

OrgCode PowerPoint Presentations on Trauma Informed Care and Progressive Engagement/Diversion

On January 31, over 100 Network partners attended trainings offered by OrgCode on Trauma Informed Care and Progressive Engagement/Diversion.

I am pleased to provide their PowerPoint presentations here:

Trauma Informed Care

Progressive Engagement and Diversion

It was a day filled with important learning that we look forward to reviewing through our Network committees and supporting best practice implementation across the region.

Veterans Committee Minutes – 1/29/19

n attendance: Kate Bavelock, 3 county CoC, Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Craig Deroaway, SoldierOn, Erin Forbush, ServiceNet, Mike Hagmaier, SoldierOn, Phyllis Lutsky, HUD/VASH, Gerry McCafferty (via phone), Hampden CoC, Katie Miernecki, ServiceNet, Jesus Pereira, Holyoke VSO, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Jim Seney, VAMC, Kate Sweetser-Owens, HUD/VASH, Sue White, HUD/VASH, Allie Wilson-Pierce, HUD/VASH 

Reviewed current status:
Three County CoC is in transition with leadership moving to Community Action (HMIS and Coordinated Entry contract will move by 2/1; the remainder beginning by 6/1). There were a lot of setbacks in the creation of data systems but now work is underway with the consultant Green River (Gerry reported the great success Hampden CoC has had using Green River to create by-name lists, including pulling from HMIS)

Goals
One of our goals is not losing track of veterans as they travel across both CoC’s so we can provide as much continual service as possible. This requires data sharing and that capacity is possible!  

Another goal is to ensure all systems (VA/Soldier On/community) are on the same page around prioritization of units. Right now veterans in GPD beds are not on the by-name list – there was concern that the numbers in GPD would bog down real movement on the list; Gerry shared their experience of NOT talking about each veteran at each meeting but that having them all on the same list allows for comparing across the system who has the highest needs. 

If both on-the-street veterans and Soldier On veterans share a list, it would allow the region to have a global view of the challenge and to cross-reference on needs and services. Assessments could be done only on those veterans in GPD who are chronic, have the highest acuity and/or cycle in and out of homelessness.  This way the region could work from one list. 

Housing unit prioritization
In terms of prioritization of units, Soldier On shared that they are awaiting clarification on whether it is allowable to shift their wait lists from first-come first-serve to acuity-based (in relation to funding based on agreed upon tenant selection plans). Gerry noted that HUD readily gave approval for this kind of switch but there is not yet clarity on the state level. 
Meanwhile, Sue and Steve will continue the work of ensuring veterans’ paperwork and other procedures are in order for when the presumed approval for the shift comes.

Tracking vacancies in non-HUD funded properties:The group discussed the challenge of engaging non-HUD funded property managers in the coordinated entry process (frequently openings are discovered later than necessary). Gerry pointed out that the Green River data system allows for quick identification of vacancies and tracking of occupancy – this requires getting housing orgs to use this tool. We need DHCD’s help to make this happen.

Next steps

  • stand by (and support as needed) Community Action’s hires and acquisition of Green River software ASAP
  • HUD/VASH will start screening processes so ready to go when get approval to prioritize based on acuity
  • Pamela will reach out to DHCD Assistant Undersecretary Jane Banks to meet (with CoC leads) to discuss how DHCD can better support the prioritization process (clear mandate to funded entities to adopt tenant selection plans on that basis).

Announcements

  • In addition to VSO coverage in Housing Court on Mondays in Northampton, now VSOs are in Springfield Housing Court on Thursdays – providing support when veteran identified
  • Good news!  2 non-VA eligible veterans who have been homeless for 5-10 years were recently housed!  One at Soldier On’s housing in Agawam, another through a Springfield mainstream voucher.  A huge team effort – congratulations everyone!

Next meeting date:Thursday, March 14, 9:30 am – 11 am, Frost Building, Room 309, HCC

Network’s 2019-2020 Legislative Priorities

We are pleased to provide our Western MA legislators with our Legislative Priorities for this Legislative Session. Please click here to view.

The Network’s list of 9 priorities is of course a fraction of the housing-related legislation that has been filed that would make a very substantial impact on preventing and reducing homelessness. We have consulted with our statewide partners, including CHAPAMass Coalition for the Homeless and Mass. Law Reform Institute, and support so many more of their priorities and are encouraging our legislators to consider supporting their more expansive agendas as well.

For now, however, the bills outlined here offer the Network’s starting point for a legislative agenda that will create more permanent and stable housing for the people of Western Massachusetts and beyond.

The deadline for legislators to co-sponsor House bills is this Friday, Feb. 1 at 5 pm. Please contact your legislators (find contact info here), urging them to co-sponsor the bills outlined here.  

Thank you!

New data resource for Pioneer Valley; New England Fathering Conference – 3/13-15

New Pioneer Valley Data Website Available

On Thursday, the Community Foundation of Western MA joined the Pioneer Valley Planning Commission to celebrate the launch of the new  Pioneer Valley Data website. Now local governments, businesses and nonprofits can quickly get answers to question such as “What’s the poverty rate in West Springfield?” 
The website is a project of the CFWM, MassMutual Foundation, Irene E. & George A. Davis Foundation, Beveridge Family Foundation, Regional Employment Board of Hampden County, Economic Development Council of Western Massachusetts, Public Health Institute of Western Massachusetts and Franklin County Council of Governments. Read more coverage here

New England Fathering Conference – 3/13 -3/15

The 20th Annual New England Fathering Conference , March 13-15, Springfield Sheraton. See the conference brochure by clicking here, or go to www.nefatheringconference.org where you can view the brochure, register for the conference, and book your discounted room. Be sure to register by January 31st, while early bird rates are in effect (only $250 for all three days),

3 County Individual Services Meeting Minutes – 1/11/19


In attendance: Erin Forbush, ServiceNet, Chris Hughes, ServiceNet, Andy Klatka, Eliot Services, Jay Levy, Eliot Services, Patti McDonnell, SMOC, Katie Miernecki, ServiceNet, Brenda Plante, Eliot Services, Nikki Riello, Hilltown CDC, Jack Tulloss, ServiceNet, Hayley Wood, Easthampton Council on Aging, Josh Wren, ServiceNet 

Point in Time Count:Taking place on Jan. 30.  Working out outreach and plans which will be provided in more detail at the next Coordinated Entry meeting on next Monday on 1/28.

Amherst forum with landlords took place last week. Jay reported multiple service providers were present and discussion of unaffordable rents was a central topic.

Nikki Riello of Hilltown CDC is moving to a new position at Berkshire Bank Foundation.  Thank you, Nikki!

Discussion and debrief of “how to run an awesome shelter training”  that took place on 12/18/18. This training was offered by Iain DeJong of OrgCode as part of the Network’s training series this year.  Pamela prepared a summary hand-out of the major points that the group reviewed.  Those who had attended the training reported out that it was useful and discussion was underway about ways to implement lessons learned.  At the next meeting on Feb. 11, we will go into further depth around the training take-aways and if/how we can implement here.

Next meeting date: Monday, Feb. 11, 1 pm, 196 Nonotuck Street, Florence.Note: Upcoming training on Progressive Engagement and Diversion on Thurs., Jan. 31 at HCC has some slots left.  Click here to learn more.

New reports on homeless youth; elders

MA 2018 Youth Count Report
The MA Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness recently released the 2018 MA Youth Count Report. For the full report please click here, and for summary graphs and charts, go here.

Elder Homelessness Report

According to a new study, The Emerging Crisis of Aged Homelessness: Could Housing Solutions be Funded by Avoidance of Excess Shelter, Hospital and Nursing Home Costs, the population of individuals who are homeless and elderly is expected to nearly triple over
the next decade.

The multi-site study includes Boston, New York City, and Los Angeles County. For Boston, the report states that the number of homeless people age 55 and older will almost triple by 2030 (from 570 in 2017 to roughly 1560). The predicted spike is based on 30 years of existing census data. The report also looked at associated healthcare costs related to this cohort. “Caring for this elderly group in homelessness is going to cost about $5 billion a year – that’s just for their health care and shelter, not to house them,” said Dennis Culhane, the principal investigator of the study.