Present: Karen Dean (Hampden County Sheriff’s Dept.), Doreen Fadus (Mercy Medical), Charlie Knight (Rainville), Bill Miller (FOH), David Ferenz (HRU/Lighthouse), Lizzy Ortiz (City of Springfield, Jerry Ray (Mental Health Association), Lauren Voyer (HAP), Steve Huntley (Valley Opportunity Council),, Dawn DiStefano (YWCA), Marianne Polmetier (River Valley Counseling Center), Gerry McCafferty (City of Springfield), Pamela Schwartz (Western Mass. Network to End Homelessness), Shannon Barry (Springfield Public Schools), Maria Perez (New North Citizens Council), Alicia Zoeller (Holyoke), Kathleen Lingenberg (Chicopee), Mary Walachy (Davis Foundation).
Absent: Jennifer Lucca (Samaritan Inn), Mike Suzor (STCC), Kathryn Buckley-Brawner (Catholic Charities), Sylvia deHaas-Phillips (United Way), John Roberson (CHD), Alvina Brevard (DHCD), Charly Oliva (Springfield Veterans Services Dept.), Diana McClean (Westfield), Ronn Johnson (MLK Jr. Family Services), Charlotte Dickerson, Christina Densmore (Arise), Paul Bailey (Springfield Partners for Community Action), Steve Trueman (Regional Employment Board),
- Welcome and Introductions
Gerry McCafferty welcomed Board members and members introduced themselves to the group.
- Review of Minutes
The Board reviewed the draft minutes of the June 20, 2014 meeting. Jerry Ray noted the need for a correction on page 3—the number of permanent supportive housing units at Annie’s House will be 13, not 15. Charlie Knight made a motion to approve, which was seconded by Mary Walachy. The Board voted unanimously to approve the revised minutes.
- CoC Policies and Procedures: Coordinated Assessment
Gerry provided background on the topic of coordinated assessment. A summary of the background, the VI SPDAT Overview, was distributed at the meeting. Gerry reminded the Board that it considered the VI-SPDAT as an assessment tool at the June 2014 meeting, and did not make a decision, but decided to learn more about the tool. Since that meeting, Friends of the Homeless and Eliot Community Services have piloted the tool and reported their experiences back to the Individual Services Committee. After the reports of the pilots and discussion, the Individual Services Committee recommends use of the VI-SPDAT as a required screening tool for permanent supportive housing placements. There were two issues that have been raised about the VI-SPDAT. The first is the fact that some people may not have the ability or willingness to answer the questions, which may lead to people being characterized as not having high service needs when in fact they do have high service needs. The Individual Services Committee believes that this concern can be met through our REACH committees, which enable multiple providers to talk about a particular persons needs and decide to overrule the tool in some cases. The second concern is the intrusiveness of the questions of the VI-SPDAT. The response to this concern is first, when a person is being considered for PSH, there is a need to know about sensitive issues such as substance abuse and mental health. At the same time, individuals may decline to answer any questions, and decline to do the VI-SPDAT at all. Gerry has met with two of the three CoC-funded providers of PSH for families, and these providers endorse use of the VI-SPDAT.
Charlie Knight made a motion that the CoC adopt the VI-SPDAT as a required screen for CoC-funded PSH. Maria Perez seconded the motion.
A number of questions were raised about the particulars of use of the VI-SPDAT, and Gerry indicated that her expectation is that the CoC will begin crafting policies and procedures as it is using the tool and understanding it in use. In particular, the CoC is not, at this time, mandating scores that will lead to particular placements, whether there is expectation of reevaluation with the tool at some regular interval. In her summary, Gerry had mentioned assessment at two points—“front-door” and “back-door” and was asked for clarification. Gerry explained that she was trying to differentiate because she does not want the CoC work to conflict with what is being done at the state level. The state has been focused on “front-door” assessment, which screens for whether a person experiencing a housing crisis is in need of shelter or if needs can be met through prevention or diversion assistance. In contrast, our CoC is considering use of the VI-SPDAT as “back-door” assessment, which refers to assessment of people already in shelter, with a goal of determining the intervention that is most appropriate. In particular, the “back door” screen is useful at determining which people are in need of the service-rich intervention of permanent supportive housing.
There was also some discussion about the potential fair housing issues that may arise with use of the tool. There was discussion about how clear guidelines, applied uniformly, as well as a coordinated wait list, should prevent fair housing violations. One provider with some recent fair housing experience noted that one place that programs need to be cautious is where family composition changes—for example, from single individual to household with children. Even if a program is designed only to serve single individuals, this does not by itself allow a refusal to serve an ongoing individual who becomes a family household.
The Board voted unanimously to approve the motion to adopt the VI-SPDAT.
In the discussion on the VI-SPDAT, Gerry referenced HUD’s new recommendations for prioritization of permanent supportive housing, which requires a way to distinguish between severe service needs and service needs that are not severe. The recommended prioritization is as follows:
Priority 1: Homeless one year or longer, with severe service needs
Priority 2: Homeless one year or longer, without severe service needs
Priority 3: Homeless 4+ times in the last 3 years with severe service needs
Priority 4: Homeless 4+ times in last 3 years without severe service needs
The Board will be considering HUD’s recommendations regarding prioritization at a later meeting.
- FY2014 CoC Competition
Gerry reported that the CoC Competition NOFA was released September 16, 2014. CoC responses to HUD are due October 30, and the local competition to be included in the CoC competition must be concluded by October 20, 2014.
Gerry explained that the CoC established a process last year in which individual projects submitted applications to a CoC Scoring and Ranking Committee. The Committee ranked all projects, and applied CoC priorities to determine final ranking. Ranking of projects is critical, because HUD uses a funding formula in which it agrees to fund the full amount of need, minus 2%, as Tier 1 projects. In addition, the CoC may submit Tier 2 projects, which make up the remaining 2% of funding, but anything in Tier 2 is at risk of loss of funding. Tier 2 is funded based on CoC score in the FY13 competition and the amount of HUD funds available. The CoC must also decide whether to include a planning grant, in an amount up to $44,000, in either Tier 1 or Tier 2.
This year HUD has made available a Permanent Supportive Housing Bonus, which may be used to fund a project that serves 100% chronically homeless individuals or families. The CoC is eligible for a Permanent Supportive Housing Bonus award of $530,189. [NOTE: this is a clarification of what was presented at the meeting, and has been confirmed by HUD.]
Gerry provided two handouts, attached: a list of FY2014 renewals and their renewal amounts, and a chart indicating the factors the CoC Scoring and Ranking Committee will need to consider in making its determination. These factors are 1) the importance to the CoC of a planning grant; 2) preference to cut all programs a small amount or to eliminate lowest-scoring programs; 3) if there is a need to cut program budgets, whether to cut across the board or only cut lowest-scoring projects; and 4) whether to allow new projects to compete against existing projects, as we have in past years.
After some questions and discussion, Kathleen Lingenberg made a motion that the CoC Scoring and Ranking Committee consider the following points in making funding decisions: 1. Planning is important (but at the same time may be funded locally—Gerry will quickly explore local funding); 2. The highest scoring programs should be fully protected against budget cuts, and lowest scoring projects may be put at risk for elimination or budget cuts; and 3. If there is a need for budget cuts to make amounts balance, cuts should only be made to the lowest scoring programs. Mary Walachy seconded the motion, and it passed unanimously.
Kathleen made a second motion that would allow application for new projects only in the Permanent Supportive Housing Bonus competition; that is, for this year, new projects will not be able to replace existing projects. Pamela Schwartz seconded the motion, which passed unanimously.
Gerry provided the Board with the proposed CoC Application Ranking and Selection Process 2014 and asked for written comments to be sent to her by email on Friday. A final version of this document must be published Monday in order to give sufficient and timely guidance to FY2014 applicants.
The meeting adjourned. It was followed by the CoC Annual Meeting; notes from this meeting will be published separately.