Secure Jobs Advisory Committee Minutes – 4/5/17

Secure Jobs Advisory Committee Meeting
April 5, 2017

In attendance: Bud Delphin, CareerPoint, Dawn Distefano, Square One, Madeline Martinez, Way Finders, Maegan Pedemonti, Way Finders, Pamela Schwartz, Network

Progress Report:  Click here. There were 4 additional placements last month, one with a wage of $18/hour, bringing the average wage over $13/hour.

The success story this time featured the collaboration with Aaron’s Furniture which now always seeks out Way Finders program participants when there are job openings, including putting a special link on their website specifically addressed to Way Finders participants (see: https://jobs-seiaarons.icims.com/jobs/2003/hap-program-participants/job?mobile=false&width=965&height=500&bga=true&needsRedirect=false&jan1offset=-300&jun1offset=-240)

We discussed the possibility of the Advisory Committee hosting an “employer appreciation” event to draw attention to this and other similar practices. We will discuss this further at our next meeting. We noted that we could do a smaller version of the previous SJ events at HCC, presumably for Hampden County only, but that would afford participants on all levels to pause and appreciate the impact of their efforts.

Legislative Meetings Update

Pamela reviewed the series of meetings with legislators – 10 legislators met with thus far – Senator Lesser, Rep. Vega, Rep.Gonzalez, Rep. Tosado, Rep.Williams, Rep. Velis, Rep. Mark, Rep. Farley-Bouvier, and on Friday will be meeting with Senator Rosenberg, Rep. Kulik, Rep. Kocot and Rep. Scibak. Meetings are in the works for Senator Hinds, Senator Humason and Senator Welch.

Secure Jobs has been discussed at all the meetings; Ashley has attended and presented at most and the data demonstrating impact is very well received.

At the meeting with Rep. Farley Bouvier in Pittsfield, the Representative expressed concern about the lack of SJ resources going to the Berkshires. At the meeting, we explained about the funding cuts statewide that had a direct impact on funding in our region. After this meeting, Ken Demers of BerkshireWorks and Brad Gordon of Berkshire Regional Housing Authority and Pamela had a conference call to review the Berkshires Secure Jobs program. Ken suggested that without a designated staff person it is virtually impossible to obtain the level of engagement necessary from the head of household to successfully participate in the program (especially because predominantly RAFT clients, so incentive to participate is that much less compelling); that a performance based contract does not deal with the staffing need. Ken also noted that the program has not yet had a full year of adequate staffing due to internal staffing challenges (the one successful 6 month period of case management by Pamela Wojtkowski saw 10 placements, i.e., with appropriate staffing, outcomes are meaningful). We agreed that depending on the funding outcome for next year, the committee would propose renewed discussion around the funding question for Berkshire and Franklin/Hampshire Counties.

Move to Work (MTW) and Learn to Earn:

The group discussed these two programs.

MTW is funded through HUD money. DHCD’s annual plan includes allocating significant MTW funds ($800m?) to Secure Jobs to attach housing vouchers to SJ participants. We will learn more about this.

Learn to Earn is a a new program proposed in the Governor’s budget that would be administered through the Commonwealth Corporation and would provide a very Secure Jobs-like model – case management plus flexible funds – but available to all unemployed and under-employed individuals. It will be interesting to see how this program unfolds.

Other items:

Bud noted that CareerPoint is attending many meetings with DTA to discuss their increased involvement in the workforce system. And WIOA is also requiring closer collaborations among a wide range of groups.

The group also discussed the Working Cities Grant which is addressing the Cliff Effect with the creation of a fund to provide assistance to offset any loss in benefits from employment. Part of the proposal includes hiring 2 additional DTA workers to provide intensive case management around these issues. We debated the pros and cons of having the workers based at DTA vs. in a community agency.

Next meeting date: Wed 6/7, 11 am – 12 noon

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes –

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes
March 24, 2017

In attendance: Beth Barbra, Veterans Inc., Dan Boyea, Hampden County Sheriff’s Dept.,Steve Connor, Hampshire County Veterans Services, Lillian Gray, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Mike Hagmaier, Soldier On, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS Homeless Services, Chris Lizotte, West Springfield Veterans Services, Jim Mahoney, Holyoke Veterans Services, Melissa Mateus, Springfield Partners, Gerry McCafferty, Hampden County CoC/City of Springfield,  Katherine Person, Veterans Inc., Sarah Polidore, SoldierOn, Farah Rodriguez, HAPHousing, Stephanie Tonelli, Friends of the Homeless, France Wolfe, HAPHousing, Susan White, VAMC, Sabrina Willard, Soldier On 

Point in Time Count Update:
Gerry reported that HUD’s definition of “veteran” for purpose of the count is defined as “at least one day of service” in the military (“service” only begins post training and being on active duty). This clarification requires revisiting those counted since that was not the definition used. She knows that at least 5 of the 19 counted on 1/25 would not qualify as veteran and they are still in the process of determining the status of several others. These individuals would still be counted in the individual homeless count, but not as veterans.

Discussion of VHA vs. non-VHA eligible veterans:
We revisited the discussion from our last meeting on gaining a better understanding of the number of veterans who are not VHA eligible (and therefore not eligible for HUD-VASH vouchers). Gerry reported that the number of non-VHA eligible veterans is significant (among the recent count of homeless veterans it was unusual for any to be VHA eligible). At the same time, having a pool of HUD-VASH vouchers at the ready (currently there are 37 in the region) is important since the engagement process with eligible veterans is ongoing and can take time and it is hard to predict when they will become “ready” to accept a voucher (i.e., housing).

The prospect of converting vouchers to non-VHA eligible is made complicated by the fact that with that conversion comes the loss of the HUD-VASH aspect, i.e., they become traditional Section 8 vouchers without case management services (which everyone agrees is extremely important). It is theoretically possible for a housing provider to attach its support services to these vouchers (with other funding) but that takes resources!

It was also noted that last year DHCD made available Mass Rental Vouchers for veterans, requiring case management services in conjunction with them. It was difficult then to ascertain need but now with the by-name list in use, there is greater potential to utilize this resource.

Mike noted that Soldier On’s veteran housing in Agawam will be ready in early August. There will be 51 units, 49 for low-income, 21 for market rate (providing housing for 100% service connected veterans).

Sue White agreed to return to the next meeting with a breakdown of VHA eligible and non-eligible veterans.

Update on Veterans NOFA application:
Mike Hagmaier provided an extensive summary of Soldier On’s Veteran funding application and their proposed allocation of beds per the VA’s new guidelines around Grant Per Diem (GPD) beds:

  • Bridge housing (32 beds) – provided in conjunction with SSVF, must offer veterans housing and have housing in place
  • Clinical treatment (57 beds) – for veterans with mental health or substance use diagnosis who want to receive treatment, provides life skills program
  • Transitional housing (116 beds) – these are typical GPD beds, providing service intensive transitional beds with a housing path on a maximum 2 year timeline
  • Hospital to Housing (8 beds) – VHA eligible veterans, in collaboration with VA hospital (and other local hospitals)

The new rules also allow 15% variance to increase or decrease beds in each category, depending on demand. The application is due on 4/4, with program to start on 10/1.

The total beds will be 28 fewer GPD beds at Soldier On than currently exist (from 241 to 213).

Update on Hampden County Sheriff outreach with veterans:
Dan Boyea updated the group about the progress being made on using SQUARES data system to check on veteran status for every offender. It’s happening now for men and will be happening next week for women. In early April, there is a Sheriff Dept/provider meeting to map out collaboration around identifying veterans, linking them with services and coordinating re-housing effort upon release. Dan especially thanked Steve Connor for the assistance in obtaining the letter in support of this effort from the DVS Commissioner.

Announcements:
Jim Mahoney announced that the funeral events for CPL Jules Haunterman Jr. (fought in the Korean War, being returned to his home now) is taking place 3/29-3/31. Calling hours are Thurs 3/30, 4-6 pm at Barry Farrell’s Funeral Home, 2049 Northampton St., Holyoke. Friday, 3/31, 8:45-9:15 are final respects at Funeral Home; 10:00 Mass at Blessed Sacrament Church 1945 Northampton St. Burial at approx.. 11 am at St. Jerome Cemetery, 1666 Northampton Street.

Springfield Partners: 3rd annual Wellness to Work – Veterans Health and Career Fair, Tuesday, 4/25, 10:30 am – 2:30 pm, Christ Church Cathedral, 35 Chestnut Street, Springfield, MA

Recommended podcast (thanks Mike Hagmaier) – a novel approach to using Medicaid funds to pay for housing for chronically homeless people :

http://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2017/03/09/hawaii-homelessness-medical

Next meeting: Friday, 4/28, 9:00-10:30 Northampton Senior Center

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes –

Family Services Committee Meeting
March 21, 2017

In attendance: Jesus Arce, City of Springfield, Jane Banks, CHD, Hillary Cronin, VAMC, Shelly Benoit, BHN, Michelle Michaelian, BHN, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Sara Slautterback, DESE, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Tonya Sparks, WomanShelter, Janna Teatrault, Community Action, Jennnifer Utley, DCF, Janette Vigo, HAP, Jen Wands, Springfield Schools 

Reviewed Point in Time Count Information (click here for the PIT overview and here for the Family PIT Report)

The group reviewed and discussed the findings. Follow-up question:

  • What is the precise breakdown in the decrease in homeless families between 2015 and 2016 (the report says “35% since 2015”). This would be interesting to better analyze the impact of the increased investment in the diversion program (began around 9/15) and the creation of the Strategic Re-Housing Initiative (SRI) (began in 2016). The SRI included DHCD allocations to housing providers to provide flexible funds to help re-house in challenging situations. This has proven very effective. Pamela will follow-up with Gerry for the breakdown by year.
  • The group also decided it would be worthwhile to look more closely at the allocation of SRI and better understand its impact, e.g., # of families served, typical use of funds, etc. Jane and Janette agreed to bring this analysis to the next meeting. Pamela will reach out to Joel Cox of NEFWC to request his participation.
  • Sarah Slautterback of DESE added that 21,000 children were identified as homeless during the 2015-2016 school year. And they are seeing an increase in doubled-up families this year.

Reviewed Boston Foundation Homelessness Family Report (click here for summary of Executive Summary)

The group reviewed the findings of this report, remarking on the overall marked increase in family homelessness since FY08 with notable decreases in the last 2 years. This circles us back to the examination of regional data as discussed above.

Family Homelessness Resource Fair Brainstorm

After good discussion, the group decided the following about this event:

  • It will take place either June 6, June 7, June 8, depending on results of a Doodle Poll. From 9 am – 12 noon (light breakfast included, thanks to CHD – thank you, Jane!)
  • First choice location is Northampton Senior Center – if not available will try HCC.
  • In addition to tables with agency information (and ensuring a staff person is always at the table while people are roaming!), we will offer mini-break-out groups, e.g., landlord outreach, how does the EA process work, services for veteran families.
  • The largest agencies (e.g, HAP, CHD, NEFWC, Community Action, Berkshire Regional, Franklin Regional, ServiceNet, BHN, Veterans Inc, other veterans agencies) could offer mini-sessions that provide info on the range of services they provide .
  • Consider possibility of having broader service info available, e.g., Mass Health rep (others will pursue leads on this and be in touch with Pamela on any contacts) or CBHI
  • A sub-committee will help plan this in between committee meetings. It will include: Janna Tetrault, Jane Banks, Janette Vigo and Shelley Benoit (and Pamela). Pamela will be in touch to further discuss shortly.

Network FY18 Budget Priorities

The Network’s Leadership Council convened last week and decided upon the Network’s FY18 budget priorities (click here), which included the recommended priorities from the family services committee. Pamela is working with Network partners now to schedule legislator meetings over the coming weeks to advocate for these priorities.

Next meeting date:
Our regularly scheduled meeting date of 4/11/17 conflicts with the first day of Passover. Then Spring Break is the week following. So the group decided the next available date is Thursday, 4/27, 9:30-11 am, and will try for the Northampton Senior Center

An Update on President Trump’s Proposed Housing Budget

This message is from Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition:

President Donald Trump is expected to send to Congress a high-level budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 next week. An overview of early drafts by the Washington Post show the severity of cuts under consideration. Multiple sources confirm that OMB Director Mick Mulvaney could slash the HUD budget by as much as 14% ($6 billion)-without considering inflationary adjustments. There is a national shortage of 7.4 million homes affordable and available to the lowest income people in this country. Just one in four low income people in need of assistance, including seniors, people with disabilities, families with children, and veterans, get the help they need. In light of these considerations, these suggested cuts are unconscionable and unacceptable. Such draconian reductions could cause homelessness.

The proposed cuts would devastate critical programs that keep roofs over the heads of some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. They are in direct contrast to Mr. Trump’s promises to revitalize distressed communities and ensure that “nobody’s going to be dying on the street” from homelessness.

Mr. Trump’s proposed budget would slash resources to repair and rehabilitate public housing developments by two-thirds. Even before these dramatic cuts, we lose an estimated 10,000 public housing apartments each year due to chronic underfunding; the capital needs backlog is close to $40 billion and grows at a rate of $4.3 billion per year. Such deep cuts would allow properties in which billions of dollars have been invested over decades to fall further into disrepair. Communities would lose a long-standing asset that has provided millions of people a place to call home and that-with the proper investment-can continue to do so for generations to come.

The proposed cuts to Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance could result in more than 200,000 families losing that critical support. Many would be forced to pay even more of their limited incomes on rent, having insufficient resources left for food, healthcare, transportation and other basic needs. Others would be unable to cover the increased cost of their rents and would face the destabilizing impact of eviction, which has especially damaging effects on children and their ability to succeed in school. In the worst cases, these families will become homeless, reversing the gains made in recent years to reduce homelessness in America.

Mr. Trump further proposes cutting resources that provide thousands more affordable homes for the lowest income seniors and people with disabilities. This would put residents at an especially high risk of eviction and homelessness, make it difficult for landlords to make their monthly mortgage payments, and erode the public-private partnerships that make these rental homes possible.

While Native Americans have some of the worst housing needs in the U.S.-suffering from extreme levels of poverty and substandard housing-Mr. Trump’s proposed budget would cut resources targeted to these communities by nearly a quarter.

And by eliminating block grant resources for community development and housing production, the Trump budget would undermine the ability for states and communities to address their most pressing needs.

Federal investments in affordable housing have already been cut significantly in recent years because of the low spending caps required by the Budget Control Act of 2011. Funding to HUD was already $3.4 billion-or 8.4%-lower in 2016 than in 2010, adjusted for inflation. The same programs that would suffer dramatic cuts in Mr. Trump’s budget are those that have been hardest hit in recent years-public housing, community development and housing block grants, and housing for the elderly and people with disabilities.

This is the wrong approach. Mr. Trump and Congress should be increasing investments in affordable homes-not dramatically cutting resources. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s (NLIHC) recently released report, The Gap: A Shortage of Affordable Homes, the U.S. has a shortage of 7.4 million affordable rental homes available to the nation’s 11.4 million extremely low income households. This means that for every 100 extremely low income households, there are just 35 rental homes affordable and available to them. As a result, 71% pay more than half of their income on rent and utilities. Despite the growing housing affordability crisis, just one in four households eligible for housing assistance receive the help they need.

The NLIHC-led Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding recently released a new report, A Place to Call Home, showcasing the latest research on how access to affordable housing boosts economic mobility, reduces poverty and homelessness, improves health outcomes, and strengthens the economy by supporting local jobs and increasing wages. The report estimates that more than 500,000 jobs were supported through HUD investments in 2015 alone. It also features more than 100 success stories of how families and communities have benefited from federal investments in affordable housing-from the very programs that the Trump budget proposes to cut.

These proposed cuts are unacceptable, and Congress must soundly reject them. We call on HUD Secretary Dr. Ben Carson to uphold the commitments he made during his confirmation process. At that time, Dr. Carson said, “We need to be cognizant of our fiscal responsibilities as well as our social responsibilities. Safety net programs are important. I would never abolish one without having an alternative.” We couldn’t agree more. Dr. Carson must uphold his commitment to “house as many families as possible in safe, affordable housing…and look for ways to expand affordable housing options everywhere” by urging Mr. Trump and Mr. Mulvaney to reverse these harmful cuts before submitting a budget proposal to Congress.

Furthermore, Mr. Trump and Congress must lift the spending caps with parity for defense and non-defense programs and ensure the highest level of funding possible for affordable housing. We cannot afford to balance our budget on the backs of low-income people. Instead, we must invest in the resources that families and communities need to thrive.

Join NLIHC and other leaders of CHCDF for a webinar on March 20 at 4pm to learn more about the impact of President Trump’s proposed budget and how you can help protect these critical resources.