Category Archives: Best Practices


Amherst Affordable Housing Forum: 10/25, 7 pm


Working the Amherst Housing Puzzle: A Community Problem Solving Forum 

Dear All,

We invite you to participate in next Wednesday’s Amherst Housing Forum (October 25).  We have new data and new ideas to share with the community.  We expect to engage in interesting and valuable conversations about what we can do to address our local housing problems.

During the past 10-15 years, Amherst has lost an estimated 800 households with children under 18, according to US Census data.  Significant numbers of homeless individuals are served each year by local service providers, but rarely placed in housing.  Barriers to developing new affordable housing in Amherst for both individuals and families often appear insurmountable.  What can we do?

These are the issues to be addressed by this Forum.  We are bringing together persons from both within and outside Amherst to lend their knowledge and experience to these issues.  But most importantly we are convening the community to discuss and develop ideas about what we can do to make changes.

This is a collaboration of the Amherst League of Women Voters, the Amherst Municipal Affordable Housing Trust, Valley Community Development Corporation, and the Unitarian-Universality Society of Amherst. It is set for Wednesday, October 25, 7 P.M. in the Social Hall of the Unitarian Universalist Society, 121 N. Pleasant St, Amherst.

The sponsors wish to encourage the broadest possible participation in this Forum.  This invitation was also sent to other individuals and organizations in Amherst.  However, we probably did not include everyone we should have.  So please forward this to anyone you know who might be interested, even if that results in some duplication.  Also, a flyer about the event is attached for posting.

Thank you for your assistance.

Yours sincerely,

John Hornik, Chair, Amherst Municipal Affordable Housing Trust

Rebecca Fricke, President, Amherst League of Women Voters

Joanne Campbell, Executive Director, Valley Community Development Corporation


P.S.  Looking for more detail?

Our plan is to organize the forum into three parts:

(1) An introduction and presentation of what the Trust and the Town are doing to address issues of both affordable housing and homelessness in the past year.

(2) This will be followed by a panel presentation on the development of a small, studio apartment building in Amherst to serve the needs of persons who have very low incomes or are homeless.

(3) The final segment will break the larger group into five smaller groups to discuss actions that could be taken to further address these problems.  They are as follows:

  1. Studio Apartments: Continued discussion.
  2. Encouraging and Supporting Development: How can Amherst best leverage available resources to maximize affordable housing? What are the barriers to affordable housing: What changes are needed?
  3. Preventing homelessness: outreach counselors – small investment for significant returns; useful models, effective strategies
  4. Finding homes: recruiting landlords; caseworkers to assist individuals and families in getting housed; useful models, effective strategies
  5. Changing the Amherst housing market: Developing Town and University policies to assure greater access to housing.

Homes for Families Releases Two Papers on Family Homelessness

Homes for Families is pleased to release our final two papers as part of our three year research project funded by the Oak Foundation.  Click here for more background information and links to the previous two papers.   
Our research took place from 2014 to 2017, a period of restructuring and launching of new initiatives to reduce the reliance on motels. These two papers are intended to highlight the experiences of families and offer recommendations for the next areas of focus in the ongoing efforts to address family homelessness in the Commonwealth. 

Family Experiences of Homelessness in Massachusetts: The Case for Family Centered Care highlights key data from a survey we administered to families in the Emergency Assistance (EA) program. Click here for a summary of the data.

Evidence Based Stabilization: A Solution to Reduce Family Homelessness in Massachusetts reviews national research about systemic and programmatic responses to family homelessness. The paper concludes by recommending an assessment and evidence based stabilization model be implemented across the Commonwealth. 

We look forward to hearing your reactions and ideas.  Please read more about this project on our blog and stay engaged in our efforts to end homelessness in Massachusetts. 

Western MA Health Equity Summit – 11/18, UMass Amherst



Dear Colleagues,

I’m excited to announce the 2ND Western Massachusetts Health Equity Summit will take place on FridayNovember 18, 20169-3pm. The Summit will bring together practitioners and community leaders from across our four counties. We’ll work, learn, and take important steps toward greater health equity in Western MA.

Hear from  the 10-member Coalition of Western MA Hospitals/Insurer regarding their 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) and the Berkshire County Health Initiative.

Participate in networking and collaboration opportunities.

Hear about Data, Stories & Best Practices from communities in our 4 counties working on health equity issues.

Keynote: Rep. Aaron Vega (Holyoke)

To register: for more information. Low or no-cost transportation available.

If you have questions, please contact the UMass Amherst Office for Public Health Practice and Outreach at the School of Public Health and Health Sciences: at (413)-545-2529, email:

We look forward to seeing you there!

New England Summit on Ending Youth Homelessness: November 18, Boston

Save the Date!

The New England Federal Regional Interagency Council on Homelessness in partnership with the Liberty Mutual Foundation and the Melville Charitable Trust invites you to attend:

A New England Summit on Ending Youth Homelessness
November 18, 2016 from 9:00 am – 3:00 pm
Liberty Mutual Headquarters
175 Berkeley Street, Boston, Massachusetts

Featured speakers include
Rafael Lopez, Commissioner
Administration on Children, Youth, and Families
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
and other national and state leaders working to end homelessness by 2020 

Make connections with federal, state, and local partners, community leaders, and other stakeholders committed to ending youth homelessness, and gain knowledge on policy, programs, and resources targeted towards ending youth homelessness.

Seating is limited. Registration information is forthcoming.

The New England Federal Regional Interagency Council on Homelessness is supported by:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ● U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs ● Social Security Administration ● U.S. Department of Labor
U.S. Department of Education ● U.S. Department of Agriculture

For more information, please contact:

MA Selected as 1 of 10 States for Job-Driven SNAP Employment and Training

 Please see the press release below from the USDA announcing Massachusetts’ selection to participate in employment and training program for SNAP recipients.  This additional job development resource is also great news for homelessness prevention efforts.

WASHINGTON, March 2, 2016 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that 10 states have been selected to take part in SNAP to Skills, a first-of-its-kind, peer-to-peer effort to help state agencies design improved employment and training programs for adults participating in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in order to help them find employment and ultimately move off the SNAP program.

“Fortunately, the economy is improving in most areas of the country, but it is still very challenging for people with limited education or more basic job skills to secure full time work and better paying jobs,” said Vilsack. “Helping SNAP recipients move off the program due to higher job earnings produces a double win for the individual household and for the economy as a whole.”

States selected for SNAP to Skills include: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina and Tennessee. In October 2015, USDA announced that the Seattle Jobs Initiative would create an intensive technical assistance program to help states to build better, stronger Employment and Training (E&T) programs. These 10 states were chosen to participate based on their existing level of commitment and interest in expanding the SNAP E&T program, their ability to build effective partnerships with local training providers, and the availability of strong, job-driven workforce development programs in the state. The project will last two years, ending in September 2017.

E&T programs may include job search training, education activities (including basic skills training, English language learning, vocational training, postsecondary education), self-employment or on-the-job training, and job retention services.

Continue reading

Network Trainings Offered on Motivational Interviewing, Trauma Informed Care and Critical Time Intervention

Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness invites you to attend a series of one-day workshops on Motivational Interviewing, Trauma Informed Care, and
Critical Time Intervention


On behalf of the Network Steering Committee, we are pleased to offer you three upcoming trainings.  This opportunity comes to you through the Commonwealth’s funding of the Network in FY16.  The training topics are a result of your feedback collected through our Network committee meetings.

All trainings are free of charge.  You may sign up for 1, 2 or 3 trainings.  Capacity is limited to 50 participants per training.  Please consider signing up only 1 or 2 staff from your organization with the intention that your staff  will bring back what is learned to your organization as a whole.

All trainings will take place at Mercy Medical Center in Springfield and lunch will be provided, thanks to the generous donation of space and food by Mercy Medical Center.  All trainings will take place from 8:30 am to 4:00 pm.

You can find detailed information on the trainings and about the trainer here.

The trainings are as follows:

Motivational interviewing: Friday, Feb. 12.  Click here to register.
Trauma Informed Care: Wednesday, April 6.  Click here to register.
Critical Time Intervention: Tuesday, June 7.  Click here to register.

We look forward to learning together.

HUD on Access for Transgender People

HUD’s Special Needs Assistance Office has sent out the following message regarding access to for transgender people to HUD-funded shelter and transitional housing programs. Please see below.

SNAPS In Focus: Equal Access for Transgender People

Transgender people face discrimination and mistreatment in many facets of their lives. These challenges not only increase the likelihood of homelessness, but they also prevent individuals in need from accessing community services. A joint report by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center on Transgender Equality in 2011 found that for those respondents who had attempted to access homeless shelters, 29% were turned away altogether, 42% were forced to stay in facilities designated for the wrong gender, and others encountered a hostile environment. 55% reported being harassed, 25% were physically assaulted, and 22% were sexually assaulted. This same joint report found that the rate of homelessness among transgender or gender non-conforming persons was nearly double that of the general population. This is unacceptable.

HUD is committed to ensuring that all persons experiencing homelessness have access to inclusive and nondiscriminatory housing. At the 2015 National Alliance to End Homelessness Conference on Ending Family and Youth Homelessness in February 2015, HUD Secretary Julián Castro stated, “It’s an injustice that any transgender person is mistreated when seeking help.” (Hear more from Secretary Castro on the proposed Gender Identity rule). For this reason, HUD published Notice CPD-15-02: Appropriate Placement for Transgender Persons in Single-Sex Emergency Shelters and Other Facilities, which provides guidance to Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG), Continuum of Care (CoC), and Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) funded providers on how best to provide shelter to transgender persons in a single-sex facility and on appropriate and inappropriate inquiries related to a potential client’s sex for the purposes of placing transgender persons in temporary, emergency shelters, or other facilities with shared sleeping areas or bathrooms.

On November 20, 2015, HUD published FR-5863-P-01: Equal Access in Accordance With an Individual’s Gender Identity in Community Planning and Development Programs, which proposes to codify into law the non-discrimination practices that HUD first introduced in February 2015. The deadline for submitting comments is January 19, 2016. Your feedback is important in helping HUD to ensure that all persons experiencing homelessness have access to inclusive and nondiscriminatory shelter environments. We encourage you to read the new Proposed Rule thoroughly and submit your comments by the deadline. The instructions for submitting comments are outlined in the beginning of the Proposed Rule, and we encourage you to submit comments electronically, as this ensures that HUD receives and considers your comments in a timely manner.

Creating inclusive and welcoming communities is a fundamental part of HUD’s mission as America’s housing agency. Therefore, HUD is strongly encouraging providers to begin now to implement the best practices highlighted in CPD-15-02. HUD understands that in many communities this will require staff training and changes to program design. In the coming months we will be publishing several technical assistance materials on the HUD Exchange to help providers adopt these best practices and determine whether they have done so successfully. In the meantime, if you need assistance, please submit a question to the Ask A Question (AAQ) portal to request policy clarification or guidance. You can also find additional information on requirements related to Equal Access to housing that are already in place and resources for implementing those requirements on the HUD Exchange Equal Access to Housing Final Rule page.

Our nation is at its best when we open our arms, our minds, and our hearts to our fellow Americans in need. It’s our commitment that these resources will do their part to shape a future where all people are accepted, respected, and safely housed.

Thank you for all of your hard work,

Norm Suchar & Abby Miller

Norm Suchar is the Director of the Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs

Abby Miller specializes in LGBTQ homelessness, Fair Housing, and Data and Performance Analysis, and headed the development of the Equal Access Rule for the Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs