Statewide Access to Justice Commission Requests Your Input

This letter below from the Social Services Committee of the Statewide Access to Justice Commission requests input from non-lawyer social service providers on how to improve the justice system for low-income clients.  Please read and complete the survey if you can!

Dear Community:

As you know, many social service workers provide information and advocacy support to poor people who are interacting with the courts, with government agencies and with  public benefit administrators.  The Social Services Committee has launched a short survey to figure out ways to help social service workers be better able to help clients/guests with legal needs.

We need your  help in spreading the word. We are hoping to collect 500 responses over the next month – and we are almost there.

Please circulate this survey to link to your non-lawyer social service contacts.  This could include people who work at health centers, shelters, food pantries, hospitals, social service agencies, domestic violence shelters, ESOL programs, job training programs, housing authorities, etc.


Secure Jobs Advisory Committee Meeting Minutes – 6/23/15

Secure Jobs Advisory Committee Meeting
June 23, 2015

In attendance: Toni Bator, HAPHousing, Ashley Brehm, HAPHousing, Sara Chaganti, Brandeis University, Bud Delphin, CareePoint, Donna Harris, Franklin Hampshire Career Center, Denise Johns, Berkshire Community College, Joanne LacCour, DTA, Lisa Lapierre, CPM, Melissa Mateus, Springfield Partners, Darlene Morse, CareerPoint, Konrad Rogowski, FutureWorks, George Ryan, Hampden County Regional Employment Board, Pamela Schwartz, Network Ken White, Holyoke Community College, Phyllis White, Franklin Hampshire Career Center, Pamela Wotjkowski, CPM

Progress Reports: Click here and here

On DHCD grant, which ends 6/30, we have surpassed our enrollment goal and are at over 80% for employment and retention rates (and CareerPoint will continue to place following 6/30).

On Commonwealth Corp grant: in this last month, the program has been able to bill CommCorp for 20 client placements (great progress). Funding continues through 3/16.

On Fireman Foundation:  with the slated transfer of the contract from HAP to CPM as of 7/1, there was some confusion about the transition. Pamela Schwartz spoke yesterday with Vanessa Otero, Deputy Director of CPM, who explained that she was waiting for the contract to transfer to CPM and plans to sit down with the two grantees – BerkshireWorks and Franklin Hampshire Career Center –  to discuss new contracts for the remainder of the grant period (until 1/31/16). There is concern that if a contract is not in place as of 7/1 there will be a break in services.

UPDATE AS OF 6/30/15: Due to the reorganization taking place at CPM/NEFWC right now, it has been decided that HAP will continue to administer the Fireman Foundation grant through FY16.

We also agreed that any discussion around the potential need for any reallocation of funds based on performance goals (and rate of client intake) must wait until the contract issues are resolved. We will pick up this question and related process questions at our next meeting.

Brandeis updated that they are meeting with DHCD and Fireman this week to learn more about the prospect for upcoming funding for this fiscal year

 FY16 state funding update:

Pamela reported that the state budget is currently in Conference Committee where the House and Senate are working out differences (House: $600K for Secure Jobs; Senate: $750K). HAP was advised that they learned from DHCD that they will get $60K (a portion of the state funding, divided among the SJ funded programs across the state) for FY16 as of this time. Fireman has also advised that they will contribute $500 for the year to the program statewide – allocating $250 in the first 6 months and continuing with another $250K based on performance outcomes.

In response to both the state funding loss and the desired goal to increase integration of workforce development in rehousing efforts:

HAP is hiring 2 employment specialists (supervised by Ashley Brehm);

CHD has hired an employment specialist;

NEFWC is restructuring its shelter services and increasing focus on workforce development

On data collection: with the end of Lisa’s position as of 6/30, the group expressed great concern about the continuity of the data collection effort. CPM has advised the Network that it will ensure training and continuity of services. The group learned from Lisa that she has not yet heard who is taking over this role and when training is to tae place. She thinks this information will become clear in the next day or so. She will keep us posted as soon as she knows.

HUD Technical Assistance offer:

As follow-up to the federal jobs summit in DC last October (Western MA as one of 11 communities invited to share its Secure Jobs experience), HUD has reached out to offer technical assistance on our employment programs for the homeless population we serve. The phone call is scheduled for tomorrow. We reviewed the initial brainstorm of topics for possible TA, including: best practices guidance around integrating employment specialists within housing organizations; best practices around program sustainability in view of declining state funding and precarious private funding; and continuing the conversation regarding reducing career center barriers to serving the homeless population and retention strategies. Pamela will report back on the call at our next meeting.

Western MA Opening Doors Plan

Pamela summarized the Opening Doors Plan – our region’s alignment of our work with the federal Opening Doors Plan that will provide a data-driven blueprint for our efforts to end homelessness. She shared that based on committee feedback (individual, family, youth, veterans), the Plan will include “workforce development” in every sub-population’s strategies to end homelessness. All agreed this was appropriate.

Thank you to Lisa Lapierre

Lisa Lapierre’s last day at CPM and therefore at Secure Jobs will be on June 30. We all expressed our gratitude for Lisa’s extraordinary leadership over these last 2 years that resulted in hundreds of homeless families and individuals becoming employed and achieving greater housing stability. Her commitment and skill and innovation have been a cornerstone of this program’s success. Thank you, Lisa. We will miss you greatly!

Next meeting: Tuesday, July 24, 3:30-4:30 pm, Franklin Hampshire Career Center


New: Boston Action Plan to End Veteran and Chronic Homelessness

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh today released  An Action Plan to End Veteran and Chronic Homelessness, the results of months of work by the Mayor’s Task Force on Individual Homelessness.

The Task Force identified that Boston has one of the lowest rates of urban, unsheltered street homelessness in the United States, as a result of steadily increasing the number of housing units for homeless individuals by targeting resources and committing to new investments.

In the last two years:

  • 191 long term shelter stayers have been housed
  • 391 homeless individuals have been rapidly rehoused
  • 67 highly vulnerable individuals on the street have been housed
  • 640 homeless veteran have been housed
  • Emergency department use has been reduced 54 percent among a cohort of high utilizers of emergency services after permanent supportive housing placement; nights hospitalized were reduced by 31 percent

Despite these efforts, the demand for shelter services has recently increased. To truly solve homelessness in Boston, it is imperative for the City and its partner providers to implement critical system reforms.

The action plan will work to end veteran homelessness by 2015 and chronic homelessness by 2018. The goals will require a complete transformation of the homeless response system and will impact outcomes across the system for the entire individual homeless population.

The Action Plan will redesign Boston’s homelessness response system by focusing more on technology alongside the components of Front Door Triage, Coordinated Access, Rapid Rehousing, and Permanent Supportive Housing:

  • Front Door Triage is the immediate response to homeless individuals upon entry into the homeless system, including individuals on the street or entering emergency shelter. It will have special focus on unaccompanied youth and young adults; untreated substance use disorders; discharge planning; and street outreach.
  • Coordinated Access is a centralized online data system that matches homeless individuals to housing vacancies based on need. The Coordinated Access system will centralize vacancies to permanent supportive housing units and will use data to drive outcomes.
  • Rapid Rehousing is an approach that moves homeless households to housing as quickly as possible by providing the amount, type and duration of assistance needed to stabilize the household, such as employment opportunities, help with increasing household income and securing benefits.
  • Permanent Supportive Housing combines subsidized rental housing with individualized support services. It is an intensive intervention typically reserved for individuals with complex barriers who need a high level of support in order to achieve stability in housing. The City will target 950 Permanent Supportive Housing units to the most vulnerable; of those 950 units, 750 will become available through turn-over of existing permanent supportive housing units. The City will create an additional 200 new units of very low-barrier permanent supportive housing; create strategies to help those who no longer need services to move on; revise housing policies that create barriers to housing; and help maximize opportunities to provide services through MassHealth.

The approximate total amount of existing resources dedicated to meeting the goals of this plan over three years is $60.9 million. The total estimated amount of new resources needed over three years is $12.7 million, which will be secured through a variety of public and private partners.

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Committee Minutes – 6/17/15

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Committee
June 17, 2015

In attendance: Dawn DiStefano, Heidi Gold, Simtech Solutions, Lisa Goldsmith, Dial/SELF, Jean Rogers, Safety Zone, CHD, Diana McLean, City of Westfield, Pamela Schwartz, Network

 Draft Western MA Opening Doors Plan Review (click here)

  • Point in Time Count numbers for homeless youth need to be checked and corrected (e.g., Three County CoC youth number was in accurate – listed as 0, when 25 – will also cross check number for Hampden County)
  • Discussed inclusion of “youth parents” – those unaccompanied homeless youth under the age of 25 who are also parents of children. We agreed that targeting this population was also important and that strategies for this population should be included in the “family strategies” section.
  • We agreed the Plan should include the state Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) numbers of homeless youth. They are counted differently than the HUD definition – DESE includes “doubled-up” as homeless – so while they cannot be integrated into PIT count, our Plan should account for the fact that this data exists and provides an additional view of this population.
  • Another strategy to consider is breaking down the current barrier posed by DESE around gaining access to the schools for the PIT count. While some advances were made around that this past year, greater access and collaboration are needed to maximize getting both in and out of school youth in the annual count.
  • We discussed the various HMIS systems as it intersects with the Runaway Homeless Youth (RHY) HMIS system. The RHY is in the process of being integrated into the HMIS system – we agreed that this needs to be spelled out in the strategy section that refers to RHY and HMIS so it is comprehensible to the lay reader. It was also noted that RHY data goes straight from the local community to the federal agency requiring it; the state is nowhere in this data loop.
  • We discussed the multiple barriers to good data that exist across the system. For instance, Dawn shared how data is collected on the domestic violence beds at the YWCA that are funded by DCF. DCF only collects data on intakes and exits on a monthly basis. Right now there is no way of understanding the state systems clients used prior to entry into this one; and where are they re-entering the system after this one). The YWCA uses the HMIS system called Client Track.
  • Consider stating explicitly as a strategy (in every sub-population!) “enhancing coordination and collaboration among all state agency and non-profit providers.” It was noted that the homeless youth population intersect with so many state agencies; this point of collaboration is especially critical.
  • Add strategy of prioritization of the population for placement. Adopt a release of information that all providers can use for this purpose.
  • Heidi said she will get the matrix of providers that Andrea put together and share that with everyone.

Next meeting: Thursday, July 16, 11 am – 12:30 pm, Northampton Senior Center to be confirmed (not our usual day due to vacation schedules)