Author Archives: Pamela Schwartz

Senate Ways and Means Budget: Thanks and some critical amendments!

The Senate Ways and Means (SWM) Committee released its Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal yesterday.  Please click here for a complete summary of how the Network priorities fared in the budget.

This budget proposal contains some great news for homelessness programs, including:

  • Youth homelessness demonstration project: $2.5 million ($2 million more than House budget; .5 million more than FY17 funding)
  • RAFT: $18.5 million (up from $13.5 million in FY17 and includes $2 million for expanded eligibility to include individuals as well!)
  • Secure Jobs: $800,000 (level with FY17 funding; up from $500,000 in House budget)
  • Housing Consumer Education Centers: $2.7 million (up from $2.6 million in FY17; and up from $2.3 million in House budget)
  • Mass Rental Voucher Program (MRVP): $100 million (up from $86.5 million in FY17; consistent with FY18 House budget funding)
  • Craig’s Doors Shelter: $200,000 earmark to maintain FY17 level funding (up from $0 in House budget)
  • Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness: $125,000 earmark (consistent with FY18 House budget and level for FY17, which was actually cut this year due to the Governor’s 9C cuts).

These are significant investments that will make a meaningful difference in our efforts to prevent and end homelessness.  Please thank your Senator!

At the same time, we have some extremely important work to do in the next 2 days to close a couple of critical gaps:

  • Local Consortium prevention funds (Line Item 1599-0017) for families and individuals were zero funded. The region currently receives a total of $250,000 in prevention funds that would disappear without an amendment (the House budget also failed to fund this item).
  • The Berkshire Regional Housing Authority’s earmark for $150,000 (Line item: 7004-012) was not funded in the SWM budget (and is not funded in the House).  These funds provide critical emergency shelter and other services through the winter months to Berkshire area shelter providers.
  • Tenancy Preservation Project (Line Item 7004-3045) was funded at $500,000 while receiving an increase to 750,000 in the House budget.  We are hopeful the Senate will support an amendment to increase TPP funding to $750,000.

Please reach out to your Senator to both thank them and urge their support of these amendments.  I will forward more amendment information as I receive it.  But please call or email now to express your support and your urgency.

If you’re uncertain who your senator is, go here: https://malegislature.gov/Search/FindMyLegislator.  And if you are reaching out on behalf of the people you serve, please contact them all!

Senate President Stan Rosenberg: 413-584-1649, Stan.Rosenberg@masenate.gov (as Senate President, it is worthwhile to contact him AND your own senator if he is not one and the same)
Senator Eric Lesser: 413-526-6501, Eric.Lesser@masenate.gov
Senator Adam Hinds: 413-344-4561, Adam.Hinds@masenate.gov
Senator Don Humason: 413-568-1366, Donald.Humason@masenate.gov (Senator Humason is on the SWM Committee, so you can thank him especially for his work on this budget proposal.)
Senator Jim Welch: 413-737-7756, James.Welch@masenate.gov

Thank you for this important work!

 

 

Individual Services Meeting Minutes – 5/4/17

Individual Services Meeting
May 4, 2017

In attendance: Steve Connor, Hampshire County veterans services, John Hornik, Amherst Housing Committee, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS Homeless Services, Jen Lucca, Samaratin Inn, Kim Majewski, Gandara Center, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Dave Modzelewski, REACH, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Lynn White, HRU

Community Solutions Learning Session Report-Out:
The bulk of today’s meeting included a presentation and discussion of a special  2 day “Learning Session” in Washington, DC, that took place a couple of weeks ago.  It included 75 communities from across the country working on ending chronic and veteran homelessness.  The Hampden County CoC attended, represented by 6 participants (from Health Care for the Homeless, MHA, FOH, Eliot Services and the CoC).

It was an exciting and rewarding time, filled with concrete action plan creation and goal setting. Community Solutions is a non-profit that is driving the analysis and experimentation with ending homelessness strategies, all data-driven.  HUD is present and supportive of the effort.

Community Solutions will be convening this same group of 75 2 more times over the next year (next gathering in Chicago in September, then another gathering in January) on the premise that this effort will encapsulate 12 months of continuous improvement, i.e., real time experimentation with strategies and quick feedback, exchanges and next round of experimentation.

Gerry talked us through Hampden County’s summary action plan. Click here for their “Storyboard.” The goal is to reduce the number of chronically homeless people by 47% over the next 4 months.  This will be accomplished by both increasing the number of people housed and reducing the number of people coming into chronic homelessness.  This will involve several strategies which were also discussed, including the creation of “pipeline units” in order to maintain engagement with CH individual while searching out permanent housing unit and the shifting of resources to allow for greater prevention efforts.  Friends of the Homeless’ Coordinated Entry effort will also dedicate an employee to housing search/landlord contact development.  Conversations with Springfield Housing Authority have also led to a new partnership around their Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP) subsidies.  Gerry will also be reaching out to Holyoke Housing Authority (and other Holyoke city officials) to explore partnerships there.

The group observed how reducing the numbers of homeless individuals requires very “in-the-weeds” work – extremely exacting, individualized, concrete.  The by-name list is a critical component of the effort.

We discussed how lessons learned from this effort can be utilized across the region. Gerry will send out the link to general materials available through Community Solutions.

Note: click here: https://cmtysolutions.docebosaas.com/lms/index.php?r=site/index&login=1 And go to the “new user” button at the upper right of the page

We agreed that it would be useful to incorporate in our monthly meetings a report-out on progress: how many people entered homelessness; how many people housed in a given month. Steve will explore whether this is possible via the Three County’s list.

Quick Summary of Federal Budget for FY17:
We noted the passage of the Continuing Resolution for the FY17 federal budget; that US Interagency Council on Homelessness is still funded and there have been increases in funding for homeless assistance programs.  This is a pleasant surprise.  But it has no bearing on what may lie ahead for FY18.

Hampshire/Franklin REACH Meeting: Monday, 5/8, 1 pm, DMH building
Dave Modzelewski announced that this meeting is being convened upon request by participants to discuss the future of this REACH meeting and if/how it may modify itself to support the by-name list work in the Three County region.

Next meeting date:
Thursday, June 1, 10:30 am- 12 noon, Friends of the Homeless, 755 Worthington Street.

Network’s Updated FY18 Budget Priorities – House Outcomes; Senate Asks

Please see below or click here for a summary of the Network’s Budget Priorities that includes the House Budget outcomes and the Senate requests:

Fiscal Year 2018 State Budget Priorities

  • Fund the Youth Demonstration Project $4 million (Line item 4000-0007) to support unaccompanied homeless youth ages 18 to 24 with housing and support services. This effort, funded at $2 million in FY17, has already provided over 130 youth across the four counties with a range of services, including housing, educational, vocational and other case management support. The Governor’s FY18 proposal included $2 million; the House Budget included $540,000. Funding at least $2 million in FY18 is critical to allow the current level of services to continue.
  • Level Fund the Local Consortiums to End Family Homelessness $1 million (Line item 1599-0017). Western Massachusetts hosts two consortiums- Hampden County and Three County (Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire). Together, they have played a vital role in FY17 in preventing and diverting homelessness with flexible funding and innovative interventions. The Governor’s FY18 proposal included $1 million; the House Budget provided no funding. Funding at $1 million in FY18 would allow for this vital component to reducing homelessness across the region.
  • Fund the Secure Jobs Initiative $2 million (Line Item 4400-1020) to maintain the statewide level of workforce development services for homeless families across the Commonwealth. Secure Jobs has facilitated employment for close to 500 families in Western Massachusetts alone. The Governor’s FY18 proposal included $800,000; the House Budget included $500,000. Funding at least $800,000 in FY18 would allow for a minimal degree of continuity in this employment initiative for homeless families.
  • Fund the Tenancy Preservation Program $1 million (TPP, Line Item 7004-3045). This homelessness prevention program works with individuals and families with disabilities who face eviction. The Governor’s FY18 proposal included $500,000; the House Budget included $750,000. Funding at least $750,000 in FY18 would preserve more tenancies and provide housing stabilization services to individuals before they are in housing court at greater risk of eviction.
  • Fund Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) $18.5 million and maintain language to include individuals (Line Item 7004-0108). This funding increase and language would allow for the RAFT program to provide prevention resources to families with children and expand them to include elders, people with disabilities, and other individuals. The Governor’s FY18 proposal included $13 million; the House Budget included $15 million, neither including the expansion language for individuals. Funding at least $15 million and including the expanded language in FY18 would reduce the use of emergency shelter and provide significant savings.
  • Fund Housing Consumer Education Centers $2.6 million (HCECs, line item 7004-30036). Level-funding HCECs in FY18 (relative to the initial FY17 level, prior to the 9C cut of $300,000) is critical to maintaining the front line for housing crisis response in the Commonwealth in general and Western Massachusetts in particular. The Governor’s FY18 proposal and House budget included $2.3 million. Funding at $2.6 million in FY18 would bring HCEC’s back to the FY17 funding level.
  • Fund individual emergency shelter $50 million (Line Item 7004-0102) to provide an incremental but vital increase of $5 million from FY17 to support the increasing demand of emergency shelter statewide. This increase is especially critical to Western Massachusetts, which meets the emergency shelter needs of 13 percent of the population while receiving only 7 percent of funding statewide. The Governor’s FY18 proposal included $45.2 million; the House budget included $47.4 million. Funding at $50 million in FY18 would provide a small but critical boost to Western MA shelters.
  • Fund Home and Healthy for Good $2.2 million (Line Item 7004-0104). This Housing First program provides permanent supportive housing for the chronically homeless, including a Western MA program for LGBTQ unaccompanied homeless youth that has served over 17 LGBTQ youth this fiscal year alone. The Governor’s FY18 proposal included $2 million (level funding for FY17); the House proposal included $2.2 million. Maintaining the House funding proposal at $2.2 million in FY18 would provide more housing for the hardest to house population.
  • Fund the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program $120 million (MRVP, Line Item 7004-9024) to increase the number of vouchers available and to adjust the fair market rent guidelines so the vouchers are more usable. The Governor’s FY18 proposal included $97.5 million; the House proposal included $100 million. Funding at least $100 million would recognize this program’s critical role in homelessness prevention.

Regional Earmarks Addressing Homelessness

Western MA Network to End Homelessness (Line item: 7004-0102) for $125,000 to support its collaborative efforts to end homelessness in Western MA. From FY15-FY17, the Network received this earmark, which was cut in FY17 as part of the Governor’s 9C cuts. The House Budget proposal included $125,000 in funding.

Craig’s Doors Emergency Shelter, Amherst (Line item: 7004-0102) for $200,000 to level fund 28 emergency shelter beds for homeless individuals from Hampshire, Franklin and Hampden Counties. This is the only behavior-based shelter in Hampshire County. This earmark was not funded in House Budget. Senate support for this earmark is critical to maintaining this emergency shelter resource.

Berkshire Emergency Shelter Initiative (Line item: 7004-0102) for $150,000 to level fund 20 additional emergency beds in Berkshire County as well as diversion and other support services, providing assistance to over 150 Berkshire County residents annually. This earmark was not funded in the House Budget. Senate support for this earmark is critical to maintaining this emergency shelter resource.

Contact: Pamela Schwartz, Director, 413-219-5658, pschwartz77@gmail.com

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – 4/28/17

Veterans Committee
April 28, 2017

In attendance: Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Melissa Mateus, Springfield Partners, Sue Moorman, VA, Digno Ortiz, Friends of the Homeless, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Stephanie Tonelli, Friends of the Homeless 

Hampden County update: Springfield Partners hosted its Wellness to Work event earlier this week.  It was very successful, with a turn-out of 60-70 veterans, mostly from the Springfield area.  A great range of resources were available. We discussed using the Network’s veterans committee email list to spread the word on these types of events to ensure maximum awareness.

Stephanie noted the high number of homeless individuals needing a mass ID or birth certificate and not having any funds to pay for them.  We agreed I would bring this question to the individual services committee to learn more about any resources to pay for these items.

Three County Point in Time Data Review:  Please on Annual Point in Time Count to see the summary data along with visuals.  We reviewed veterans data, which reflected current knowledge and assumptions.  Steve noted that with the new Veterans NOFA pending, the breakdown of the GPD beds will be dramatically changing and it is still unclear how that will impact the Point in Time count in the future (i.e., what will be considered transitional vs. permanent housing beds).  Funding decisions will likely be released in August.

Holyoke Soldiers Home: Steve noted a recent study about the Holyoke and Chelsea Veterans Homes.  We discussed the lack of connection/relationship between the Holyoke Veterans Home and the Network and all agreed it would be useful to gain a better understanding and explore greater collaboration.  Steve will send a link to the report to us and follow-up around best contacts for planning a meeting.

Family Homelessness Resource Fair: We discussed the upcoming Family Homelessness Resource Fair on June 8, 9 am – 12 noon, Holyoke Community College Kittredge Center and the presence of veterans services providers.  All have committed to participating and also to planning a 15-20 minute break-out group that focuses on veterans services and homeless families.  Pamela will put everyone on the same email with Hillary Cronin of the VA who has volunteered to be the point person (she attends the family services meetings) and will include: Beth Barbra, Steve Connor, Melissa Mateus, Katherine Person, Sarah Polidore and Sabrina Willard.

Next meeting date:
Friday, May 26
9:15 am – 10:30 am
Mental Health Association
995 Worthington Street, Springfield