Category Archives: Meeting Minutes

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Homes for Families Envisioning Day: August 15

Please see Homes for Families invitation below:

REGISTER BY AUGUST 6th FOR VISIONING DAY 2019

We are excited to open up registration for Visioning Day 2019 when families and providers come together in partnership to articulate our priorities for the coming year. Strong family participation is absolutely vital! We invite families overcoming homelessness and family shelter providers across Massachusetts to have their voice heard in articulating our collective policy advocacy priorities for the year ahead. The day includes dialogue with key state agencies via a state agency panel, table discussions, breakout groups, a fun and engaging children’s program, breakfast and lunch, and of course plenty of inspiration! Check out last year’s Visioning Day report here.

The event will be at the DCU Center in Worcester, on August 15th from 9:30 am to 3:00 pm.

All groups should register using the Group Registration Form. Please submit a child pre-registration form for each child that will be attending. We have an eventbrite page with more information on the event, but please note only people registering as individuals and not coming as a group, should register via eventbrite.

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 7/9/19

In attendance: Hillary Cronin, VA, Anthia Elliott, BHN, Kelli Kefalas, NEFWC, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Andrea Marion, Valley Opportunity Council, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Michelle Michaelian, BHN, Lizzy Ortiz, Mercy Medical, Marisabel Perez, CHD, Kim Saveny, Hilltown Community Health Center, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Janna Tetrault, Community Action, Lauren Voyer, Way Finders,

Shelter system RFP update: Pamela reported that DHCD Assistant Undersecretary Jane Banks advised that the RFP is under final internal review and we can anticipate its release by the end of this month.

Legislative update: Pamela reported that the FY20 budget bill is still in conference committee (the compromises of the House and the Senate budgets) despite the new fiscal year starting on 7/1 (this is typical). Pamela will relay when the budget is released.

Meanwhile, legislative bills pertaining to homelessness that were filed at the start of the new legislative session in January are now coming up for hearings, as soon as Tuesday, July 16. Pamela reviewed these bills, including a pilot program to reduce the “cliff effect” (led by SpringfieldWorks), a data coordination bill requiring state agencies to release data pertaining to homelessness (Senator Comerford is lead sponsor), right to counsel for tenants facing evictions and eviction sealing (so tenants are not permanently penalized for evictions being filed against them).

We discussed the role of the family services committee in this legislative process and there was consensus that members would like to more actively participate in the process. We agreed that we would continue this conversation around how to prioritize bills and strategically push them forward as a committee. It was also suggested that one of our trainings this year address “how bills get made” and other tips around advocacy.

FY20 work plan discussion

Network trainings for FY20
We began by reviewing the training survey results (click here). After discussion, we agreed on the following recommendations for this year’s training calendar:

Provided by Network/state trainers, free of charge (repeats from last year):
EA/HomeBASE training
Overcoming tenant screening barriers
Legal services training
Child care voucher system
SSI/SSDI systems training
DV best practices (provided by Hampden CoC last year; Gerry is looking to repeat this year)
New proposals provided by Network/state trainers:
Advocacy: how does a bill get passed; how can we help make it happen
Mental health/substance use systems training (Michelle, Lizzy, Anthia and Yoshi agreed to be a planning sub-group for this)


Paid trainings:
Racial equity: unanimous support for continuing this work with Marc Dones
OrgCode: unlikely on trauma informed care only because other orgs are offering it; unlikely on diversion/progressive engagement; possibly on “how to run an awesome shelter” but only if modified to better address the family shelter system

We discussed the need for more targeted focus on rural needs, especially regarding transportation. We agreed that the newly forming Three County CoC (through Community Action) will be a great starting point for this conversation.

Next meeting dates:
Due to vacation and other scheduling conflicts, we are shifting our next two meetings to the first Tuesday of the month, so we will meet next on:

Tues., Aug 6
Tues, Sept. 3
11 am – 12:30 pm
Kittredge Center, Room 301
Holyoke Community College

ACTION: Comment by July 9 to oppose HUD’s proposed changes to “mixed-status” families

From the National Alliance to End Homelessness:

Comment by July 9!
In May, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proposed a rule change that would no longer allow “mixed-status” families – households with both documented and undocumented members – to qualify for federal housing assistance. This proposed rule would force families out of public housing and Section 8 programs, effectively spurring homelessness, forced family breakups, and/or loss of housing assistance.

From our blog

“Although the Secretary of HUD has stated that the rule will help ‘legitimate American citizens’ secure housing, the fact is that 66.9% of people in mixed-status families are already U.S. citizens, nearly half of whom are likely to lose their homes if the rule is finalized. Not only does the proposed rule fail to achieve its stated goal, according to HUD, it will lead to $437 million in added costs, and could result in a reduction in the ‘quantity and quality of assisted housing’ for everyone.”
– Arianna Cook-Thajudeen, Legal Fellow at the National Housing Law Project. Read the full post here

Until July 9, you can submit a comment to HUD to oppose this proposed rule, which could lead to eviction for more than 100,000 people in HUD-assisted housing. 

Leave a comment >>>

Your input requested: A survey on Network trainings

The Network Steering Committee is now in the process of creating its work plan for the coming year. We are reviewing the trainings we offered last year and we would love to have your input as well. Your feedback will help inform decision making around the Network’s budget and related goals.

Please complete this training survey by Wednesday, July 3. Thank you!

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Committee Meeting Minutes – 6/5/19

In attendance: Jamila Bradley, Aaronson consulting, Emily English, Gandara Center, Lisa Goldsmith, DIAL/SELF, Rosemary Fiedler, HCC, Rebecca Muller, Grant Works, Lizzy Ortiz, Mercy Medical, Jeff Olivet, Jo consulting, Mena Regan, CHD, Phil Ringwood, DIAL/SELF, Justine Sabbs, Holyoke Housing Pamela Schwartz, Network, Elorie Stevens, DCF

DCF/DYS etc training feedback (5/23 training of state agency staff on youth services): Elorie provided the group feedback summary information.  Overall, the feedback was excellent; people found the information very useful, especially appreciated the take-aways that summarized available resources and contact info; also especially appreciated hearing from youth directly and would suggest more of that in the future.  
We agreed we will continue this collaboration and discuss further around how to provide a follow-up training next year. 

Hampden County Foster Care Project Update:  Gerry provided a report on next steps with the outside team supporting the work to partner with the foster care system to prevent youth homelessness. The current broad-strokes plan is to convene a group of 15 people, at least half of whom have experienced foster care (some of whom have also experienced homelessness), along with state agency leaders and providers for an intensive weekend of work over the summer, followed up by 2 1/2 day sessions. Gerry has reached out to Linn Torto of MA ICCH as well as other state agencies for their involvement.  They are very receptive.   It was suggested to include foster parents in the group.  Gerry will keep us posted as these meetings unfold.

Youth Needs Assessment Discussion:Jeff Olivet and Jamila Bradley, both of whom are part of the team working with both CoC’s on their EOHHS-funded youth needs assessment, attended to provide us with initial findings.  The full report will be released at the end of June.
Some feedback from the young adult focus groups included: shelters for adults are not safe places for young people; DCF case managers can be very helpful getting them connected to services; the best resource is each other.

Young adults were very receptive to the concept of partnering with adults; they do believe that most people care for them and have a lot of tools to offer.  They perceive themselves as being able to handle a lot of change quickly.  They are afraid of being overlooked.  They want to be able to develop new skills and ways of doing things and do not want to be seen as dangerous (they experience a lot of negative bias). They experience a lot of landlord discrimination based on a number of factors, e.g., limited employment history, no credit, CORI, etc. 

They would like adults to be better trained around racism, classism, gender bias.  

They expressed interest in dorm living concept and were excited by the idea of converting abandoned spaces into living spaces with multiple functions.  The conversation underscored the priority on a flexible continuum of housing options.   

Hospitals and health care systems are two areas that need strengthening in partnerships. School liaisons are another area as they are seeing a large number of homeless students.  
There was a general recognition of a lack of resources for young people ages 15-16. 

Reasons for homelessness:Hampden County: more to do with overcrowding – deep, multi-generational povertyThree County: more to do with family dysfunctionBut across the board, there was general finding of youth WANTING to leave

Hampden County LGBTQ – a finding of lower than average numbers which suggests a hidden population.

Berkshire County: lack of access to psychiatry and general mental health services.

The phenomenon of “calling Jake” or “calling Bobby” – while personal relationships are key for young people working with providers, the system is NOT a system when providers must rely on a particular individual to access services (i.e., calling Jake).  This is overwhelmingly the case in Berkshire County where there is such a severe shortage of resources. 

The Point in Time count grossly undercounts the number of homeless youth (see national studies on 1 in 10 18-25 year olds experience homelessness over the course of the year; 1 in 30 for 12-17 year old). There is so much invisible homelessness – couch surfing, stigma, etc.
The annual count is the “floor” – the national number is the “ceiling” – and our actual number is somewhere in between. 

College outreach – a very high rate of homelessness among college students, as much as 10%. There was discussion of getting all community colleges connected to each other (3 county had a good meeting with GCC and UMass).  We want to explore expanding the pilot on housing at state universities into this region.

What’s next in FY20: Hampden County has raised money to support ongoing planning work (and the CoC will contribute as well).  Will expand work to colleges, hospitals, general system-building.  


Next meeting: Reaching out to Katy Abel, the state liaison on the college pilot project, to have her attend our July meeting to learn more.  
Scheduled next meetings: July 17 – CONFIRMED  with Katy Abel and Linn Torto – 10:30-noon, Kittredge Center, Room 301, HCCAugust 7, 9:30-11- CONFIRMED – Frost Building, Room 309, HCCSept. 18, 10:30 am – 12 noon – CONFIRMED – Frost Building, Room 309, HCC
Resource Fair Monday June 10 – 15 legislators will be attending.  We will feature youth homelessness (and the $1.7 million funding increase on the line)

FY20 Senate Budget Outcomes

The Senate adopted its proposed budget last week for Fiscal Year 2020. In relation to Network priorities, the highlights include:

  • Unaccompanied Homeless Youth housing and support services funding was increased $1.7 million to $5 million.
  • Secure Jobs Initiative funding was doubled to $2 million.
  • Alternative Housing Voucher Program (AHVP) funding for non-elderly disabled individuals was increased $500,000 to $8 million.
  • RAFT received an additional $1 million in funding (now at $21 million), half of which is unrestricted funds and the other half dedicated to survivors of domestic violence.
  • Regional Transit Authority funding was increased to $90.5 million, although $4.5 million will be awarded through discretionary awards, which still threatens local RTAs with additional cuts.
  • The Berkshires’ earmark for overflow winter shelter was funded at $125,000 (big thanks to Senator Hinds for his lead sponsorship).
  • The Network itself was funded at $75,000 (big thanks to Senator Comerford for her lead sponsorship and to every other Western MA Senator for their co-sponsorship!).

Review all Network priorities and outcomes by going here.
For our statewide partner updates, see CHAPA and Mass Coalition for the Homeless.

Next up is the Conference Committee phase, where 3 Senators and 3 Representatives will work out the differences between the Senate and House versions of the budget. We will do our part to ensure that the progress in each budget holds firm, e.g., the House budget contains the additional funding for Homeless Individuals Assistance (emergency shelters), and Housing Consumer Education Centers. The good news is that Craig’s Doors funding is in the Governor’s budget as a line-item and ABE/ESOL funding increase exists across both the House and Senate, as does the $10 million increase in the Mass. Rental Voucher Program.

Unfortunately, Career Centers did not receive their needed funding increase in either the House or Senate budget so the advocacy will have to continue next year.

Additionally, on a related note, the Senate adopted an Amendment that increases the income cap for Emergency Assistance eligibility to 200% of the federal poverty level (up from the current limit of 115%), allowing families to increase their income and gain greater stability without suddenly losing their shelter. MA Coalition for the Homeless, Homes for Families and EmPath led the work on this effort, which will now continue in Conference.

Please stay tuned for additional advocacy updates. Thanks for your partnership!

Hampden County Individual Services Minutes – 5/21/19

In attendance: Grechar Aquino, Friends of the Homeless/CSO, Lynn Conway, SMOC, Jess Dorman, Mercy Medical Center, Fina Fulla-Kay, City of Springfield, Janice Humason, FOH/CSO, Mark Jachym, FOH/CSO, Nichole King, FOH/CSO, Jen Lucca, Samaratin Inn, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Bill Miller, FOH/CSO, Gerson Nivak, Viability, Lizzy Ortiz, Mercy Medical Center, Emmanuel Owusu, Dept of Veteran Services, John Paglier, Mercy Medical Center, Denise Rivera-Nunez, FOH/CSO, Laura Robertson, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Dennis Sheehan, FOH/CSO, Stephanie Tonelli, FOH/CSO, Catherine Torres, FOH/CSO, Kathy West, Eliot Services, Chris Zabik, DMH

Built for Zero Advisor Eddie Turner: We had the pleasure of hosting Eddie Turner, an advisor from the Built for Zero Campaign, based in Atlanta, whose job it is to support communities around the country that are close to ending veteran and individual chronic homelessness, and to help them reach that end-goal. Hampden County is making great strides in ending Veteran homelessness (roughly 16 Veterans on its by-name list), so Eddie began the day meeting with the Veterans’ providers and then joined us at our Individual Services meeting to offer his expertise on chronic homelessness as well. 


I highly recommend looking at the slide presentation here (note: the Veteran committee slides are also in this link, appearing first, and either check them out, too – interesting! – or keep going until you hit the start of the presentation on chronic homelessness). The presentation as a whole offers a great summary of the approach that is applicable across our region, as well as an interesting look at Hampden County’s current data. 


The group discussed the barriers chronically homeless individuals face to getting housed and what can be done to get past these barriers.  The current by-name list has 63 chronically homeless individuals on it.  The group committed to moving 13 people into housing over the next 5 weeks, by July 1, bringing the by-name list number down to 50.

The case-conferencing committee will continue to meet weekly and we will all take stock together at our next Hampden County Committee meeting on Tuesday, July 16, 1 pm, Friends of the Homeless (we are not meeting in June due to the Resource Fair on June 10).

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – 5/16/19

In attendance:  Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Craig Deraway, Soldier On, Bryan Dixon, Veterans, Inc., Mike Hagmaier, Soldier On, Phyllis Lutsky, VA, Justin Maynard, VA, Gerry McCafferty, Springfield-Hampden CoC, Jesus Pereira, Holyoke Veterans Services, Katherine Person, Veterans Inc., Pamela Schwartz, Network, Stephanie Shaw, Chicopee Veterans Services

State Senate Budget Update:The Senate Ways and Means Committee released its proposed budget next week.  This week is the week for filing amendments and next week the Senate debate will begin. To connect to Network advocacy on our priority amendments, please go to our blog post here

Network Housing/Homelessness Resource Fair – June 10:The Network’s Fair currently has over 60 providers signed up to share information (and about 130 registered attendees).  We also have roughly 15 legislators planning to attend from 9:30-10:00 am for a Network welcome.  HCC President Christina Royal will also welcome, as well as DHCD Assistant Undersecretary Jane Banks.  If you have not yet registered but plan to attend, please register  here(but don’t further spread the word – we are essentially at room capacity!).

Three County CoC Update:We discussed the transition that is underway in 3 County CoC administration.  Community Action recently hired a new CoC Program Coordinator Keleigh (pronounced “Kelly”) Pereira.  We look forward to welcoming her at our next meeting.  And Community Action is also currently hiring for their HMIS data analyst. This will be key to bringing the veterans by-name list meetings back on line for the 3 county region. 

Coordinated Entry update re: Soldier On/VA: Mike and Phyllis reported good progress on creating a work flow between Soldier On and the VA to ensure prioritization based on vulnerability assessments.  There was a good first meeting and a subsequent one scheduled for 5/20. Mike reported Soldier On is creating a google form to track applications and vulnerability scores.  Gerry suggested this could be incorporated into the Green River data warehouse system.  Gerry will follow-up to bring Mike and Green River together for a meeting to discuss further.


Built for Zero Update for Springfield-Hampden CoC: The by-name list has roughly 14-16 veterans on it at this point with a housing plan in place for most of them; several who were not thought to be VHA eligible are in fact eligible (a special shout-out to Jesus Pereira for his knowledge and expertise with the DPRIS data system that makes verification more readily available – see https://www.dpris.dod.mil/#!?side=accessinfo for more information). 
The HUD-VASH vouchers that we have been waiting on for non-VHA eligible veterans are once again very close to being authorized for use – latest word from US ICH is “imminent.”


Community Solutions expert Eddie Turner visiting Western MA on 5/21: Eddie Turner, a leader at Community Solutions, the parent organization for the Built for Zero campaign, is making a special visit to Western MA next Tuesday and Gerry is hosting a special veterans meeting with him from 10 am – 11:30 am at Union Station in Springfield.  We discussed the topics to address, e.g., how to build access to programs that have been harder to reach; how to fill units quickly and ensure good outcomes; how to make our outreach more effective so we connect with every single veteran who is unsheltered. Steve will invite all VSO’s to Tuesday’s meeting.


Next meeting date:
Thursday, July 18, 9:30 am – 11:00 am, Frost Building, Room 309, HCC.