Category Archives: Family Services Committee

Family Homelessness Retreat – 2/14/17

On Feb. 14, the Network’s Family Services Committee convened a Family Homelessness Retreat.     We had 33 people in the room, including DHCD Undersecretary Rose Evans, Fireman Foundation Special Initiatives Director Sue Beaton and representatives from other state agencies and providers across housing, health care, education, and more from each of our four counties.

It was a great day of learning and brainstorming and prioritizing.  You can read the details of our discussion in the meeting minutes here.

Hampden County CoC Administrator and City of Springfield Housing Director Gerry McCafferty produced an impressive map of our family homelessness system for our review and discussion. You can find it – along with Hampden County data that informed our discussion – here.  If you have comments or feedback, please email Gerry directly at GMcCafferty@springfieldcityhall.com.

Finally, for your convenience, below is the immediate priority decided upon at the meeting:

What can we do within the next 4 months?

The group agreed to focus its energies on convening a regional “surge event” that offered both information sharing around resources and relationship building across the region.  The group agreed that this was a critical starting point to making broader system change: knowing all the resources that currently exist to serve families in housing crisis, who the people and agencies are that are offering them and how best to access them.  The 33 people in the room identified gaps of knowledge among each other and decided well-planned information sharing within this community for themselves and others in the provider realm was the best place to start.  There was unanimous (and hand-raised!) agreement to commit time and energy to a successful event.

We agreed to continue the planning for this event at our next family services meeting on March 14, 1 pm – 2:30 pm, at  Center for Human Development, 51 Capital Drive, West Springfield.

We look forward to seeing many of you there!

Family Services Meeting Minutes – 1/9/17

Family Services Committee Meeting
January 9, 2017

In attendance: Jane Banks, CHD, Yoshi Bird, CHD, Hillary Cronin, HUD VASH-VA, Juan Cruz, NEFWC, Anthia Elliot, Safe Passage, Jessica Jacobs, TPP, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Michelle Michaelian, BHN, Katherine Moss, BHN, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Carmen Navarro, NEFWC, Lizzy Ortiz, Peck School, Jenni Pothier, TPP, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Tonya Sparks, WomanShelter, TJ Steele, Springfield Partners, Janna Tetrault, Community Action, Lauren Voyer, HAP

Family Services Retreat Planning:

See attached draft. The group expressed consensus on the draft agenda. Issues discussed included:

  • Coordinated entry: where does that fit into the agenda (discussed as a strategy in relation to all 3 goals of prevention, shelter stay reduction and preventing returns to homelessness but will focus on this more in our planning)
  • Ensure we focus on where our region can have an impact (as distinct from state system changes)
  • Agreed to not break-out by sub-region and instead focus outreach on good representation across all counties
  • Noted that Berkshires has unique challenges of accessing EA due to offices in Springfield
  • Donna offered to be the liaison DHCD data requests as needed
  • Discussed location and all agreed on UMass Springfield unless BHN’s offices in Holyoke are available and appropriate space (thanks to Katherine Moss for the inquiry). Note: since the meeting date, Katherine confirmed that the space is not large enough for our group so UMass shall be confirmed.
  • Pamela will be back in touch with updates as further planning unfolds. 

FY18 Legislative Priorities:

The group reviewed the Network’s family homelessness priorities for FY17 and reviewed CHAPA’s Building Blocks Coalition priorities for FY18 (click here for the summary). We agreed that the Committee’s thoughts on this topic would be relayed to the Network Leadership Council as precisely that (“thoughts”) as opposed to firm recommendations in recognition of the variability of who attends each meeting and the lack of executive level agency representation among some agencies in the discussion.

With that, Pamela will relay to the Leadership Council the following thoughts on priorities for family homelessness:

  • Continue to prioritize funding for the Secure Jobs Initiative
  • Adopt Building Blocks priorities on: MRVP ($120m), TPP ($1m), RAFT ($18m), HCECs ($2.64m)
  • Add EOHHS Consortium funding

Update on Behavioral Health Network demonstration project:

Katherine shared an update on the funding of a new demonstration project for Hampden County that will provide wrap-around behavioral health treatment (mental health, substance use issues) for families who are housing insecure. The grant is funded by the state Health Policy Commission and the commitment is to serve 140 families over an 18 month period, starting in late Spring. The measurable outcome for the grant is health care savings, although we agreed that we will track housing outcomes as well. The grant explicitly partners with HAP, Springfield Housing Authority and Home City Housing, although referrals are welcome from any source. Anyone in the family can qualify for services and the range of qualifying conditions is broad. Michelle will be working on the program directly and will be attending our family services meetings and will keep us posted once the program is ready to launch. This is an exciting opportunity for Hampden County.

Announcements: HAP (and all regional housing authorities) was allocated an additional 2 months of RAFT funding for FY17.

Next meeting dates: Our next meeting will be our retreat, Tuesday, 2/14, 10 am – 4 pm, UMass Springfield, conference room. The following meeting will be Tuesday, March 14, 1 pm – 2:30 pm, CHD.

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 10/25/16

Family Services Committee
October 25, 2016

In attendance: Jane Banks, CHD, Elyse Bianchet, ARISE for Social Justice, Yoshi Bird, CHD, Toni Bator, HAPHousing, Michelle Booth, Springfield Housing Authority, Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Hilary Cronin, VAMC, Juan Cruz, NEFWC, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet (Greenfield Family Inn), Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman House, Gerry McCafferty, Hampden County CoC, Gemini Murray, NEFWC, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Aisha Pizarro, CHD, Kristin Peterson, YWCA of Western MA, Ismael Santos, ARISE for Social Justice, Pamela Schwartz, Network, TJ Steele, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Janna Tetrault, Community Action, Lynne Marie Wanamaker, Safe Passage, Jen Wands, Springfield Public Schools

Family Services Meeting Schedule: We discussed that DHCD releases its monthly data on the last Wed. of the month (i.e., the day after our currently scheduled monthly meeting, the 4th Tuesday of the month).  This timing results in the group missing one of the key goals of our meeting time: to evaluate the data that reflects our progress in ending family homelessness and to have the most timely information to inform our discussion and strategies moving forward.

We revisited moving the meeting date to AFTER the release of that month’s data and discovered that the original reason for moving the meeting off of the second Tuesday of the month no longer exists so the group’s consensus, subject to the opportunity for email feedback, was to return to the second Tuesday of the month.

Data Update: We noted the follow-up questions from last month’s data re: the basis for the placement/application rate (i.e., basis for denials) and the returns to homelessness. We had no additional information at that time. However, Pamela spoke with Deputy Undersecretary Rose Evans following this meeting and learned that DHCD does not publicly release data on reasons for denial and released information re: returns to homelessness on a periodic basis depending on the time period they are looking to analyze. It is unclear when that information will next be available.

Family Services Work Plan Update: Currently, the draft is for Hampden County but we agreed we could make it a regional plan. Gerry clarified that the strategy pertaining to better coordinating prevention with permanent supportive housing and shelter refers to the “no wrong door” goal, i.e., for those who do not access services through the DHCD front door, ensuring that all other relevant resources are known and available at other points of entry. We agreed that the family services work plan is less about numbers per se (for veterans and chronically homeless individuals, the strategy of by-name lists and very specific numbers applies) and more about system planning.   We agreed we would focus more time on the work plan development, potentially in a separate sub-committee meeting.

Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project and brainstorm: Gerry McCafferty announced that Hampden County was applying for HUD’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project. This decision was processed in the Network’s Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Committee. The 3 County CoC was clear that it was not in a position to apply; the Committee as a whole is supportive of this application. It is extremely competitive – 10 awards across the country – and Boston (and Worcester?) are applying as well. It targets youth, 18-24 years old, including unaccompanied minors and parenting youth. The CoC applies to be a pilot community and if chosen it has 6 months to engage in more specific planning with HUD’s technical assistance. Following the 6 month period, it can receive anywhere from $1 million to $15 million for a 2 year period and then can be part of the annual renewal process. This would be an extraordinary opportunity to build on our youth services in the region.

Gerry invited a brainstorm of the barriers facing young parents in our system. Barriers included: lack of rental history; CORI, DCF involvement, lack of financial skills (e.g., bill paying).

It was agreed that there needs to be planning for young people’s refusal of services and repeated crises before becoming stabilized; different stages of gaining independence and stability; recognition of the role of inter-generational poverty and the resulting need for wrap-around services.

Housing Search Mini-Training: Thanks to Toni Bator for providing an informative training around housing search strategies. Here is the Housing Search Guide (in English) and in Spanish  and the powerpoint that were distributed. Toni also offered HAP’s Resource Room as a regular resource for housing search.

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Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 9/27/16

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
September 27, 2016

In attendance: Jane Banks, CHD, Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Hillary Cronin, VAMC, Juan Cruz, NEFWC, Dawn DiStefano, Square One, Jill Fijal, Chicopee Public Schools, Jamal Jacobs, Community Action, Faith Lafayette, DPH, Jane Lindfors, DTA DV unit, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman House, Gemini Murray, NEFWC, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Kristin Peterson, YWCA, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Jenni Pothier, Tenancy Preservation Program, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Tanya Sparks, WomanShelter, Janna Tetreault, Community Action, Luz Vega, WomanShelter, Janette Vigo, HAP, Lauren Voyer, HAP, Amanda Watson, Franklin County Regional Housing Authority, Mandy Winalski, Community Legal Aid, MaryAnne Woodbury, ServiceNet,

Data Update

Pamela reported that the most up-to-date DHCD data will be made available on tomorrow’s statewide DHCD conference call and she will relay it to the committee after the call. We exchanged information more informally and confirmed that there are no families living in motels in Western MA right now (and statewide the number is down to 272). While this is great news, the reality continues that families are entering the system at the same rate (anecdotally reported) and the demand for affordable, decent housing remains extremely high and finding housing placements, especially for larger families with multiple challenges, continues to be very challenging.

Right now there are roughly 450 families in emergency shelter beds in Western MA and that does not include families in DV shelters or refugees (more refugees slated to arrive in Western MA in the coming months).

Donna Nadeau pointed out that the Western MA housing placement rate is among the highest in the state. Our providers are doing a fantastic job under these difficult circumstances.

Work Plan Review (Hampden County): 

Gerry produced a draft work plan for Hampden County (click here). This can also serve as a springboard for 3 County and the region as a whole. The group reviewed the work plan and agreed we would discuss in more depth at our next meeting. Questions and comments included:

  • Under 2nd strategy around coordinated entry – conduct strategy session to identify ways to better coordinate with DV services – Jane Banks provided an update on its meeting (along with Safe Passage) with Full Frame Initiative and Homes for Families to continue the dialogue on improving the response system for families experiencing domestic violence. We will stay tuned on next steps.
  • Clarification needed for action step under second strategy around coordinated entry: “conduct strategy session(s) to identify ways to better coordinate prevention and PSH with shelter” – would like to better understand what the concept is around coordination
  • There was agreement that increasing affordable housing is a linchpin to success in ending homelessness but the question is if/where the Network Committee work intersects with this goal (i.e., other entities working on this, e.g., the regional housing network and other housing development groups; also HAP’s development projects but Lauren pointed out that the process is slow – one building a year if lucky – and complex). The group agreed that the needs are different in each region, for example, here in Western MA we have more abandoned buildings that could be rehabbed (NEFWC is doing this right now with a building in Springfield); in Boston there is a far greater gap in available housing. Lauren suggested a review of HCEC’s booklet on housing search.

We agreed at our next meeting to allocate some time on our agenda to hear from HAP (Toni, Lauren) around Housing Search strategies as well as an update on RAFT’s expansion of eligibility to include individuals.   Lauren will bring findings from HAP’s survey to landlords around their barriers/incentives for renting to families who are receiving HomeBASE.

Three County CoC Update:

Janna Tetrault of Community Action updated the group that Consortium funding has been spent (all on prevention; not enough funding to hire a coordinator); youth funding is being administered through DIAL/SELF and funding still remains (contact DIAL/SELF if you are working with a parenting youth at risk of homelessness).

Updates

Faith Lafayette of FOR families noted that with the end of motel use in the region, their staff is transitioning into shelter work (4 staff in Western MA) with HAP and NEFWC shelters. Getting referrals for families who have substance use or mental health issues or otherwise difficulty functioning.

Jill Fijal of Chicopee Public Schools provided an update on McKinney-Vento: the legislation was reauthorized and included some important changes: as of Oct. 1, any student has the right to stay in their feeder school in their home district if in shelter when ending one phase of schooling, e.g, from elementary to middle school. Also as of 12/11, children in foster care are no longer covered by McKinney-Vento, which means they are not provided transportation under M-V legislation. It remains to be seen how the transportation costs will be covered (presumably some split between DCF and school disricts but unresolved). A time of great uncertainty (and anxiety) around this change.

Next meeting: Tuesday, October 25, 1-2:30 pm, CHD, 51 Capital Drive, West Springfield