Our Network had the pleasure of meeting with Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray on Tuesday, August 24th at the Friends of the Homeless in Springfield. The Lt. Governor requested the meeting on the heels of other western Massachusetts events. Leadership council member Sylvia deHaas-Phillips of the United Way of Pioneer Valley generously stepped up to host the meeting as Pamela and Council co-chairs Lynne Wallace and Father Stan Aksamit were out of town. We also had 15 other Network partners from across the region in attendance, all on two days notice, a true testament to our depth as a Network. Members seized the opportunity to both hear from the Lt. Governor about the importance of our effort and to share with him how vital the Network is and will continue to be in our work to end homelessness.
Thanks to all who could be there and congratulations to everyone for once again demonstrating our unity and commitment!
These recommendations for action come from a variety of sources, including the Homeless Commission in 2008 and ICHH working groups over the last year or so. Many of these recommendations helped form the framework put forth in the ICHH’s RFR to which you each responded. I wanted to share this with you as a way to help you see how the ICHH and its partners at the statewide level have thought about the Networks over time, and some of what they would like to see coming out of your efforts. You’ll also notice that many of the items listed here are things that you already are working on and others that we have talked about as a group. I hope to continue to provide support to each of you as needed to accomplish the goals on this list.I ask that you review these and think about ways in which your Network can advance the agenda. I attempted to begin providing status updates on the spreadsheet in those cases where I knew of efforts off the top of my head, but I’m sure there are things here you are working on that I may not know about. If you’d like to provide any further information for any status updates, please shoot me an email or call me and I can add it in. I’m excited to continue providing the ICHH with the updates on all the work you’ve taken on and your accomplishments.
One last note: you’ll see that I’ve included a priority ranking (high, medium, low) for each recommendation. This is draft only, and is meant only to help begin to prioritize. Feasibility of implementation was taken into account, but, of course, priority level could change over time. All of the items listed are important to the ICHH to at the very least explore, if not fully implement.
I hope you find this information helpful in understanding the ICHH’s goals and interests. There are many other recommendations not included here that relate to particular state agencies (e.g., those relevant to DHCD, DMH, DOC, etc.). If you are interested in seeing those as well, I can send you the entire list.
This morning One Family hosted a Triage Training Webinar with Molly Rampe and Dave Davis from the YWCA and Community Shelter Board in Columbus Ohio. This slideshow includes their power point presentation and their intake and triage forms.
One Family reports early results from ICHH funding:
With its 3-month-old family diversion program now well underway, the Central Massachusetts Housing Alliance (CMHA) has fundamentally changed the way at-risk families interact with and receive support from the state. The debut of the new family diversion program empowers families with a voice in determining their immediate future, allowing them to choose between traditional shelter and finding placement in housing with the personalized support of the new diversion specialist. Because each family has been determined EA eligible by the DHCD Homeless Coordinator in advance of meeting with the diversion specialist there is no doubt that without this intervention the families would have gone to EA shelter. There is currently one diversion specialist stationed at the Worcester DTA/DHCD office. The diversion specialist is Marcia Shannon, an experienced provider with CMHA, who is using her years of practice to empower families to avoid shelter.
In the new system, families entering the Fitchburg and Worcester DTA offices first see a DHCD worker, who conducts an initial screening to determine EA eligibility, and then are transferred to a diversion specialist for a more in depth – and, often, more candid – discussion of viable next steps. The diversion specialist communicates to the family that in addition to shelter, the option of housing is available to them if they are willing to think resourcefully and develop a plan for obtaining a steady income by the end of the one year shallow subsidy. This subsidy is funded by the Regional Network’s flexible funds, DHCD Toolbox funds, and soon by HPRP funds. The strong majority (upwards of 95%) of families are eager to explore alternatives to shelter and are often relieved to discover they can leverage their existing resources – such as partners, boyfriends, parents, relatives, and friends – rather than hide them when creating a housing plan.
The DHCD’s 3-month rent subsidies and other private and public funds facilitate the diversion and housing of families under CMHA’s new diversion plan. Furthermore, the fact that families are pre-determined to be EA eligible at intake does not mean that they need to be EA eligible at placement – meaning they could have their boyfriend or roommate move in with them to help with the rent without risking their placement. If a second earner agrees to move in with the family (in market rate housing) they sign a contract to pay their portion of the rent, making the household more sustainable.
Landlords have proven to be essential partners in creating housing options for families looking to be diverted from shelter. Often landlords will lend to the diversion specialist keys to available units so that families can see their prospective homes within a matter of days after entering the DTA/ DHCD office. Landlord surveys are mailed by CMHA with the monthly checks so that landlords have an easy way to alert CMHA of any problems with the tenant, building trust and accountability in this crucial relationship between CMHA and the landlord. Over the past 3 months, CMHA has been able to divert between 8 and 9 families per month through this program, signifying a paradigm shift in the intake and treatment of at-risk and homeless families. As the relationship between the DHCD Homeless Coordinators and the diversion specialist continues to strengthen, proactive steps are increasingly being taken in addressing the challenges of this move from a shelter-first to a diversion and rapid re-housing model in the fight against family homelessness.
For more information on this shelter diversion program please contact Grace Carmark at the Central Mass Housing Alliance at (508) 791-7265
On Friday, The Daily Hampshire Gazette published a story on the Network’s grants:
The services for families seek to provide families with the means to stay in their homes and, thus, keep them out of motels and shelters, which are already stretched to capacity, said Schwartz. The funds will primarily help families who are experiencing a one-time crisis or infrequent occurrences that put them at risk of losing their homes.
For individual services, the money awarded is focused on the chronically homeless to provide support services to obtain and maintain housing.
Take note of the new blog masthead: welcome to our logo for the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness! You can enjoy it here, as well as on our letterhead and other official business, but who’s to say bumper stickers and t-shirts won’t be the rage before long.
The Network extends its heartfelt thanks to Laura Radwell of Radwell Communication by Design, a nationally recognized design firm based in Northampton, MA, who donated her time and talent to create this new look. Ms. Radwell is happy to make this contribution to our effort. And we are so grateful!
Ms. Radwell intentionally designed a logo that is adaptable to other regional networks. If your Network is interested, please contact me at email@example.com.
The ICHH has a new Director, Elizabeth Curtis. Elizabeth comes with a strong Housing First background based on her work as Senior Director of Community Impact at United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley.