New Data on Affordability and Homelessness; NYC Right to Counsel Report

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Two reports for your information:

Zillow-sponsored research on the size and root causes of the nation’s homelessness challenge: Homelessness Rises More Quickly Where Rent Exceeds One-Third of Income


New York City was the first U.S. city to pass right-to-counsel for low-income tenants in housing court. A new report shows that in the first year, nearly 22,000 residents (7,800 households) threatened with eviction were able to remain in their homes after securing legal representation.

EA and HomeBASE Powerpoint Presentations Available

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On December 6, the Western MA Network to End Homelessness hosted a training on the Emergency Assistance shelter system and the HomeBASE program.  Our trainers, Alvina Brevard, Director of Field Operations for the MA Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), and Amy Mullen, HomeBASE and RAFT Contract Compliance Coordinator, led a group of over 70 Network partners in a morning of learning.  They produced two excellent PowerPoint presentations that provide a comprehensive overview of the programs: Emergency Assistance and HomeBASE and have generously volunteered them to our larger blog audience.

A huge thanks to Alvina and Amy for such an excellent training and thanks to our Network partners for their commitment to help families avoid and end homelessness.

ACT by Dec. 10 to weigh in on federal “public charge” rule

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On October 10, the Trump administration announced a proposed regulation that would dramatically broaden the “public charge” test, forcing immigrant families to choose between permanent legal status and their ability to access basic needs like safe housing, healthy food, and health care. Please see these Frequently Asked Questions to learn more.

The Western MA Network to End Homelessness has taken a position to oppose this rule change due to the devastating impact it will have on immigrants’ access to federal housing programs and related needs. We are encouraging all partners and members to take action  by clicking here and submitting your public comment on or before December 10.

The Administration is required to review every single comment. A coalition of partners under the umbrella Protect Immigrant Families urges us to join in this action to create the pressure necessary to stop this rule from being enacted. Our few minutes will make a difference.  Please forward and spread the word.


Media on Ending Homelessness Event – 11/16/18

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At our regional gathering on Friday, November 16, the Network released a report on Homelessness in Western Massachusetts : The Numbers, The Solutions, The Partnerships.  

Over 150 leaders attended, including our incoming and current state legislators, where we shared concrete to-do actions on both a community and statewide level.  To-do actions are outlined in the report and in more detail for legislators in our Budget and Policy Recommendations.

We are so pleased that the public was able to “enter the room” though extensive and front page media coverage across each county, including:

Springfield Republican 
Berkshire Eagle (Spotlight Investigation) and “by the numbers” breakdown here
Daily Hampshire Gazette and Greenfield Recorder (same article shared in each publication)
WAMC interview
Channel 22

We look forward to continuing the work together!

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Meeting Minutes – 11/14/18

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Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Meeting Minutes – 11/14/18
In attendance: Peter Cofoni, DCF, Emily English, Gandara Center, Rosemary Fiedler, HCC, Lisa Goldsmith, DIAL/SELF, Gerry McCafferty, Hampden CoC/Springfield, Rebecca Muller, Gandara/Grant Works, Lizzy Ortiz, Mercy Medical, Mena Regan, CHD, Jean Rogers, CHD, Pamela Schwartz, Network (apologies if I forgot anyone else or added someone who wasn’t there – I lost the sign-in sheet!)

Statewide Youth Count Check-inWe collected feedback for Lisa as she is talking with statewide youth count coordinators shortly.  The feedback included: preference to do count every other year instead of every year; focus on more qualitative data, i.e., what is driving homelessness, since a pure “count” is difficult to obtain, factor in more “upstream” variables, increase capacity to ascertain patterns


EOHHS grant updates:  Hampden CoC received its grant for $316,000.  The City will issue an RFP to allocate the funds.  Working with CHD, Safety Zone and Gandara will for outreach, rapid rehousing and a shelter component (planning underway).  Funds will also be allocated to conduct a needs assessment.  Community Action – for 3 county region – is waiting on contract.

Data Update: Gerry shared that work continues on the youth “by name list.” Roughly 40 youth on the list but it is challenging because youth are seen briefly, then not seen again for a while, then re-emerge.  The by-name list at least affords a sense of the patterns and makes clear the challenge of being best positioned to serve when the “brief touch” occurs at different intersection points.

Discussion of racial equity reports: See attached Hampden County report here; 3 County all populations report here and 3 county youth report here. We discussed the racial equity reports for Hampden and Three County CoCs.  One shared general finding (see reports for details): young African Americans are over-represented in the homeless population relative to their percentage of the general population in Hampden County; latinx are over-represented in the Three County region. In Hampden County, for young people of color who are not parenting, they are more likely to more quickly get re-housed than white youth.  This may be related to the fact that the people doing the re-housing work are also people of color and are able to better connect. 

It is also relevant to note that 71% of young people in Hampden County are young people. This is especially pertinent to the upcoming family re-procurement process: we need to focus on reaching populations most at risk, including people of color, extremely low-come, LGBTQ, and those without a GED or high school diploma.

This conversation segued into a discussion of young people at greatest risk of homelessness: those leaving foster care or juvenile justice system (nationally, over 1/3 of youth who are homeless were in the foster care system; close to half who are in the juvenile justice system or jail experience homelessness).  And the correlation between these populations and teen pregnancy is extremely high.

We agreed we need to focus our efforts on coordinated entry with DCF and DYS, building a two-way communication system that maximizes the potential for successful intervention. As a start, Peter Cofoni of DCF will reach out to DCF regional supervisor to see if she can attend our next meeting.

Next meeting date: Friday, December 14, 9:15 am – 10:30 am, Kittredge Center, Room 301, HCC 

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 11/13/18

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In attendance:  Yoshi Bird, YWCA, Melissa Blisset, Square One, Portia Bullock, NEFWC, Christine Cullen, Holyoke Chicopee Family and Community Program, Alicia Gordon, Veteran Administration, Jessica Jacobs, TPP, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Jane Lindfors, DTA DV Unit, Carmen Lopez, Yeisie Mateo, DCF, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Rylee O’Brien, Baystate General Pediatrics, Lizzy Ortiz, Medical Medical Group, Andrea Marion, VOC, Aisha Pizarro, YWCA, Stephen Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action,  Martha Sandoval, Baystate General Peditraics, Pamela Schawrtz, Network, Tanya Sparks, Janna Tetreault, Community Action, Janette Vigo, Way Finders, Julie Vital, Baystate General Pediatrics, Erica Zayas

Family shelter re-procurement discussion:The group discussed how best to approach the strategic planning.  We agreed that while we await the Request for Information (RFI), due out late November or December from DHCD, we can get started with examining some of the presume questions, e.g.:

  • what’s working in the current system?
  • what’s not working and creates barriers or gaps? (including what currently exists in theory but is not actually working as intended AND what doesn’t even exist but should)
  • what do we think should be done differently to address those barriers and close those gaps?
  • what is the role of the Network in this effort in relationship to the role of the individual providers, i.e., what does it mean for the Network to maximize its support and complement the work

We discussed the value of family input in this process, including the possibility of focus groups and surveys.  Family shelter providers will consult within their agencies on this question and report back at our next meeting.  We also discussed the value of learning from the focus groups conducted by Boston-based Homes for Families and agreed to invite Libby Hayes, executive director, to our next meeting to get her input.  Pamela collected possible meeting dates from the group and will report back after connecting with Libby.


We agreed everyone would consider the questions above prior to our next meeting.  Then when we meet, Pamela will have news print in tow and we will use some of the meeting time to break out into small groups and start answering these questions.

Legal services training:  Pamela brought to the group a conversation with Jen Dieringer of Community Legal Aid regarding bringing Legal Aid in for a training (within the committee) to better understand Legal Aid’s availability and offerings in this work. The group was uniformly enthusiastic and recommended planning for a January date. Pamela will follow-up with Jen and report back.

Update on Three County Continuum of Care:  Janna Tetrault of Community Action announced that the 3 county CoC is in the process of changing administrator hands.  It is currently administered by the Hilltown CDC and they are deciding to no longer continue in that role.  An RFP has been issued, so there will be a new CoC leader in the coming months. Stay tuned for more information as it becomes available.

Next meeting date: Pamela will report back after reaching out to Libby Hayes to determine a meeting date.

Update: Next meeting date set:  Tuesday, December 11, 1:30-3:30 pm, Kittredge Center, Room 303, Holyoke Community College

150 Leaders Gathered to Combat Homelessness in Western Massachusetts

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Over 150 leaders from across the four Western Massachusetts counties came together today to combat homelessness in the region and to learn from a newly released report by the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness.

In a packed room at GreenfieldCommunity College, a dozen state legislators, including the five just elected from the Upper Pioneer Valley, two sheriffs, 7 mayors, 2 town administrators, 8housing authorities, state agency leaders, every community college, career center and major hospital in each county, and over 100 others across every sector showed up to find out what it will take to prevent and end homelessness inWestern Massachusetts.

“Today our region made an extraordinary demonstration of its commitment to end homelessness,” said Pamela Schwartz, Director of the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness. “And today our Network shared some vital tools that will bring us all closer to making thatgoal a reality.”

The report found that since 2012 in Western Massachusetts:

  • Chronic homelessness declined 38 per cent
  • Veteran homelessness declined 24 per cent
  • Family homelessness remained level

Read more in the report here. 

Today was a big step forward to help us do even better tomorrow. See here for “What you can do next.”

Three County CoC seeking new lead agency – RFI due by Nov. 30

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Hilltown Community Development Corporation has acted as the Collaborative Applicant for the Three County CoC serving Berkshire, Franklin and Hampshire Counties for the last 6 years. Due to a number of factors, Hilltown will discontinue its role as the CoC’s Collaborative Applicant as of June 30, 2019.

This Request for Information (RFI) seeks to gather information and qualifications of any party or entity interested in taking over the role of the Three County CoC, with planning and coordination for said transition beginning in mid-January 2019.   We ask for responses to the RFI to be submitted by the end of November.

In addition, our Annual Meeting on Dec 5th at 10am at the Hilltown CDC offices will serve as a forum for provider and community input on the transition process.

Please feel free to circulate both the RFI and the meeting notice to those working to end homelessness in our region.

Please email your Responses or any questions to Kate Bavelock at kateb@hilltowncdc.org.