Legislative Update on Overrides

Please find below the update from CHAPA on the housing related override votes.  There is good news on a couple of priority items, especially the youth services program and the Tenancy Preservation Program.  We are still working on overrides for Housing Consumer Education, RAFT, Berkshire Regional Housing Authority and the Network itself.

Please keep advocating!

From Eric Shupin, CHAPA Public Policy Director:

On September 13th, the Massachusetts House of Representatives voted to override $275 million in spending from the FY2018 state budget that Governor Baker vetoed in July. According to House Ways and Means Chair Jeffrey Sánchez, the House started with veto overrides for programs that have a statewide impact. Most of the funding restored to the budget included $220 million for MassHealth.

The House voted to restore funding to several of our affordable housing and homelessness prevention priorities. These include overrides for:

  • Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP): $400,000 veto
  • Public Housing Operating Subsidy: $1.5 million veto
  • Tenancy Preservation Program (TPP): $125,000 veto
  • Housing Court Expansion: $250,000 veto
  • Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Services: $625,000 veto
  • New Lease for Homeless Families: $125,000

The House did not override vetoes for several other priorities, including Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs), Foreclosure & Housing Counseling, Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT), and Home and Healthy for Good. Chairman Sánchez said the House will continue to consider additional overrides in the coming weeks. The Senate must now vote on the overrides to restore funding.

Please continue to contact your legislators about taking up the overrides.

As a reminder, for a full list of CHAPA priorities impacted by the Governor’s vetoes, please click here.

Also, for your reference, to search for exactly which line-items were voted on by the House, you can visit the budget bill’s page and look for a line-item under “Bill History”.

Network Testimony Submitted in Opposition to Housing Bills that would further Restrict Access to Former Sex Offenders

The Network Leadership Council, in concert with the Network’s Work Group for People with Sex Offense Histories, approved submission of this written testimony on its behalf in opposition to two housing bills, S. 682 and S. 679, that would automatically deny public and subsidized housing and subsidized housing in hotels and motels to Level 2 and Level 3 former sex offenders.  The Joint Committee on Public Housing is holding its public hearing on these bills today. If you would like to weigh in further, please contact: Senator Joseph Boncare and Representative Kevin Honan, Committee Chairs, and your own legislator who you can find here.

Individual Services Meeting Minutes – 9/14/17

Individual Services Meeting Minutes
September 14, 2017

In attendance: Jesus Arce, City of Springfield, Nichole Bodiford, FOH Steve Connor, Central Hampshire Veterans Services, David Havens, MHA, Sarh Hills, Eliot CHS, Janice Humason, FOH Charlie Knight, Rainville, Todd Koniezhny, Next Step, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS, Sara Lopes, FOH, Jenifer Lucca, Samaratin Inn, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Bill Miller, FOH, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Digno Ortiz, FOH, Keith Rhone, FOH, Denise Rivera, FOH, Christine Ruest, FOH, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Julie Strothman, Green River Software Firm, Stephanie Tonelli, FOH, Rachel Weiss, Craig’s Doors, Lynn White, Viability Inc

Built for Zero Campaign: Gerry McCafferty reviewed the Hampden County CoC’s particiationi in the Built for Zero Campaign (with Community Solutions) to refine systems and improve outcomes in ending chronic homelessness.  The year long effort includes 4 conferences with other CoCs. There was one in April and another is upcoming in Denver in late September.

As part of this effort, out of the last meeting in April, the group produced the Chronic Storyboard with its goals, measures and strategies.  The goal was to reduce the number of chronically homeless people by 47% by the end of August.  There was a 20% reduction.  While short of goal, this is still an excellent accomplishment.

In reviewing the various elements, there has been a mix of progress and the need to revisit strategies and barriers.  Some goals need to be more long-term than anticipated.  The trend on chronic homelessness placements is positive with 44 chronically homeless individuals housed since January.

One important data finding is that between April-September 2017, 48% of the newly identified chronically homeless “aged in” to that status (click here ). This points up the priority of prevention efforts in order to avoid chronic homelessness.

Another significant finding is that 39% of those identified over this same time period were unsheltered.  The question here is whether there is an increase in the unsheltered population or improvement in the identification and assessment systems.  The feedback from the group indicated that while there may be some increase, the training around the assessment process is proving effective and better identifying those that should be identified.

Looking at new strategies going forward, questions to answer include: how do we make housing occupancy move faster when housing units are not being filled quickly? How we do we create more units? How do we identify who is on the verge of entering the chronic homelessness system and prevent it?

Gerry shared a draft Prioritization and Referral Rules for establishing clear guidelines for prioritizing placement in available units.  The application of these rules will take place in the context of a new database called Green River, which will replace Home Link (which is ending as of the end of September).  This system will allow for information to be drawn from HMIS and will facilitate easy identification of chronic homelessness status.  The group unanimously approved these Prioritization and Referral Rules.  

Shelter updates:

The Rescue Mission (Taylor St) opens on 10/2.  This will hopefully provide a welcome relief to the demand at Friends of the Homeless.

FOH is averaging 160 people/night.  This is extremely high for this time of year.  There was some discussion about whether this is partly driven by recent “sweeps” of buildings where people were sleeping in open spaces and stairwells.

Craig’s Doors in Amherst will open on 11/1.  They are gearing up with hires in place.  They also now have their Resource Center which will offer day time support to residents.

Grove Street (via email from Sam Cunningham of ServiceNet):  Grove Street is full and the waiting list is very long.  They are now hiring for the Interfaith Winter Shelter!  People can apply via ServiceNet’s website or call direct and they can direct.

Samaratin Inn – 4 short of full on funded beds.  They have seen a doubling of people in alcohol or drug recovery, the opioid epidemic coming home.

Holyoke meeting: Gerry McCafferty attended a meeting in Holyoke to discuss panhandling.  There was recognition by Holyoke leaders that emergency shelter located in the community could be helpful in addressing their challenges.  Gerry encouraged shelter providers to reach out to Holyoke to support this conversation and need for an emergency response system in Holyoke.

Network funding: Pamela announced that Network continuity is at risk in view of the Governor’s veto of funding in FY18.  While overrides are being considered now, one is unlikely for the Network. There are currently 2.5 months remaining in funding.  The Network Leadership Council is aware of the situation and while appeals for partner support are going out, suggested that it is time for Committees to take stock of this possibility and start to consider whether they would like to continue with the committee and brainstorm volunteer management.  Pamela urged people to bring this possibility back to their management for possible discussion.  She will report back on any funding news at the next meeting in October.

Next meeting:

Thursday, October 5
10:30 am- noon (note later hour in Northampton due to a conflict)
Northampton Senior Center

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Meeting Minutes – 9/13/17

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Committee Meeting
September 13, 2017

In attendance:  Rosemary Fiedler, Thrive HCC, Sohanda Failla, CHD, Lisa Goldsmith (by phone), DIAL/SELF, Natalie Hill, Gandara SHINE, Sarah Hills, Eliot CHS-Homeless Services, Natalie Kyles, Gandara SHINE, Ann Lentini, Domus, Inc. , Cindy Maddison, HCC, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Emily Nolan (by phone), HUD TA, Jean Rogers, CHD,  Pamela Schwartz, Network, Marie Thoppe, HCC Transition to College

A framework for our efforts right now:

Gerry McCafferty, as liaison of the Hampden County CoC, provided a backdrop for our planning effort.  The initial impetus for this planning was a HUD youth services grant – a first application was submitted last year and while the CoC scored well, it was just shy of getting selected; and now the promise of a second round of HUD funding for which the CoC will apply (the RFP is not out yet).

The goal, however, is larger than the submission of any one application.  It is to take an in-depth look at our current youth services homelessness system, determine what is working and what isn’t, what, where and how we need to invest to close the gaps and what it would cost and how best to allocate any funds.

We can learn from other efforts in other cities and states.  Gerry provided us a copy of Washington, DC’s 5 year plan to end youth homelessness.  It offers an explicit breakdown of the contrast in outcomes from the “same old approach” to “after Year One” (see p. 3).

We need to answer the questions: What do we know? What are we missing? How do we do the necessary outreach to ensure complete information? How do we determine what is needed?

Gerry will map out the various “buckets” of information needed to help us determine next steps. The buckets will include:

  • Data – what do you know?
  • Environmental scan – who is out there intersecting with this population?
  • Coordinated entry system: what is the current system of assessment/service; how do we integrate it into the overall coordinated entry system?
  • Promising models – what do we want to learn from?
  • Strategies and outcomes

Youth involvement

The group welcomed two HCC students to the committee.  Cindy offered the perspective that one of the biggest challenges for young people is time!  The time it takes to access services, transportation, public benefits.  The barriers are daunting.

The group agreed that we needed to hear more from youth and Cindy helped us frame a gathering in terms of “what could have made it easier for you” when faced with housing instability, a request for information as opposed to personal experiences (that they may not be inclined to share).

We agreed on the following:
Thursday, October 26
4:30-6:30
include pizza, gift cards (if available) and child care

Possible title:
Your Voice,
Your Housing Needs

Rosemary will see if HCC has space and whether offering child care is permissible.

Pamela will send out draft text and Natalie will do a draft flyer.

Gerry will reach out to MHSA to learn more about their youth led training (for adult providers and youth) and see if they can do a training here.

Gerry will produce an initial document around the “buckets” of work to be done for discussion at our next meeting.

Next meeting date:
Wed., October 11
4:00 – 5:30 pm
HCC Frost Building Bartlett Room (across from Frost Building 309, Board Room)