Category Archives: Family Services Committee

Family Services Meeting Minutes – 4/14/15

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
April 14, 2015

In attendance: Jane Banks, Center for Human Development, Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Sarah Cloutier, YWCA of Western Mass., Charity Day, Franklin Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Harry Duchesne, New England Farm Workers Council, Heidi Gold, Simtech Solutions, Donna Harris, Franklin Hampshire Career Center, Mary E. Johnson, Central West Justice Center, Cheryl LaChance, HAPHousing, Faith Lafayette, DPH FOR Families, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet Greenfield, Jane Lindfors, DTA Domestic Violence Unit, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Stephen Roussel, Community Action, Hilda Santa, Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Sarah Slautterback, DESE, Janette Vigo, HAPHousing, Jennifer Wands, Springfield Public Schools

DHCD update:  Bonnie Caldwell of DHCD provided a hand-out summarizing the monthly data on families living in motels.  Click here:  http://www.mass.gov/hed/housing/stabilization/emergency-assistance.html for the Emergency Assistance Monthly Report.

FOR Families:  FOR Families is providing services in 6 of the 7 hotels in WMass.  Mia Dixon is leaving the team 4/17/15.  With the slated closing of the Holyoke Hotel on 4/30/15 and with Mia’s departure, Mitchelly Colon will be reassigned to the EconoLodge/Chicopee and the Howard Johnson’s/Springfield.  Evelyn Montanez will continue assignment at the Holyoke Hotel until it’s closure.  Stay tuned for additional changes as May approaches.  We are seeing an increase in the number of DV placements and are noticing an uptick in placements at the Days/Holyoke and Days/Greenfield.

Shelter updates:  Valley Opportunity Council just opened 14 units in Holyoke as a congregate shelter (space formerly used for “motel families); New England Farm Workers Council opening shelter expansion (congregate/co-housing) in Holyoke – will be a total of 15-20 beds.

Overall, it was noted that shelter providers are seeing fewer out of area placements.

Nurturing Fathers Conference – Donna Nadeau provided an update on this inspirational conference.  8 dads attended, including 1 from CHD and 1 from Central Mass.  As follow-up, there is a 3 day mentoring conference in Holyoke in May.

CHD Collaboration with Enterprise Farms:  Jane Bank shared news of an exciting partnership between CHD and Enterprise Farms in Hatfield that will provide greater access to fresh vegetables and fruit to families living in shelter and motels through both farm shares and training heads of household on running farmers markets.  Two new farmers markets will be set up, one in Springfield  and one in Holyoke, through this initiative. We all agreed that this effort could be a pilot project for the region and state and also lends itself to positive media.  Congratulations to CHD!

RAFT update:  HAP shared that they have exhausted all RAFT funds for FY15.  Franklin County still has RAFT funds available but anticipates they will be spent by mid-May.

Update and discussion of Western Mass. Opening Doors Plan to End Homelessness

Pamela reminded the Committee of this Network project: the Network received state funding in FY15 to develop a regionalized version of the Western MA Opening Door Plan, a Plan based on the federal Opening Doors Plan to End Homelessness that was first released in 2010 by the US Interagency Council on Homelessness.  Its goals include ending veteran homelessness by 2015, chronic homelessness by 2016, family homelessness by 2020.  Our goal as a Network is to localize the Plan to provide a data-driven resource for measuring progress, identifying gaps and implementing action steps in response.

The Network retained Simtech Solutions to provide data tools and consulting services to develop the Plan.  We are working with Matt Simmonds and Heidi Gold of Simtech and Simtech sub-contracted with Andrea Miller, a Network veteran of data analysis and evaluation, to provide her expertise and knowledge of local efforts.

Heidi Gold presented on the Western Mass. Plan, beginning with a description of the US Opening Doors Plan and and its intersection with the HEARTH Act and HUD requirements that impact our local Continuums of Care.  She distributed a hand-out that outlined the goals of the Plan (click here).  HUD is continually releasing new data standards that are requiring communities to take a more holistic approach to homelessness.  This Plan will both better enable us to meet HUD requirements which dovetails with our own goals around preventing and ending homelessness (which dovetails with the US Opening Doors Plan).

We are currently working on the “landscape analysis” to understand our starting point.  We have dozens of providers, over a dozen data systems to report to from over a dozen funding sources!  We will use HUD’s performance measures as a basis for evaluating our own performance (as a starting point).

Committee members pointed out that one of the biggest challenges is not being able to get access to DHCD data to enable providers to understand a family’s shelter history, which would help inform the interventions and housing search.  Everyone agreed that data access across the system is critical to analyzing where families are at and how best to meet their needs.

Pamela will bring the draft Plan to the Committee in a couple of weeks for review and feedback.  The final plan will be released before June 30 (end of the fiscal year) and we are currently working with the legislature on continued funding in FY16 in order to begin the implementation process.

Next meeting: Tuesday 5/12, 9:30 – 11:00 am, location to be determined (likely DMH Haskell Building due to other Senior Center space demands)

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 3/10/15

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
March 10, 2015

In attendance: Jane Banks, Center for Human Development, Ashley Brehm, HAPHousing, Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Cris Carl, ServiceNet (Franklin), Loletta Collins, Springfield Housing Authority, Jenni Delmonte, Tenancy Preservation Project, Jennifer Dieringer, Community Legal Aid, Harry Duchesne, New England Farm Workers Council, Lindsay Errichetto, Family Life Support Center, Erin Forbush, ServiceNet (Berkshires), Hwei-Ling Greeney, Amherst Community Connections, Julia Guazzo, CFCE/HCS Head Start, Sandra Haigh, Tenancy Preservation Project, Donna Harris, Franklin Hampshire Career Center, Sean Hemingway, Center for Human Development, Steve Huntley, Valley Opportunity Council, Jill Fijal, Chicopee Public Schools, Faith Lafayette, FOR Families, Jane Lindfors, DTA DV Unit, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners, Anna Quan, Amherst Community Connections, Hiilda Santa, Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity, Lourdes Sariol, DHCD, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Helen Shea, Square One, Janna Tetreault, Community Action, Janette Vigo, HAPHousing, Phyllis White, Franklin Hampshire Career Center

Discussion of Governor Baker’s FY16 Budget Proposal:

Pamela distributed hand-outs of budget summaries provided by Mass. Budget and Policy Center and Mass. Law Reform Institute (see http://www.massbudget.org/report_window.php?loc=Analyzing_the_Governors_Budget_for_FY_2016.html and http://www.masslegalservices.org/content/governors-fy-2016-budget-proposal-mlris-preliminary-analysis-selected-issues. We reviewed the provisions pertaining to family homelessness, specifically the additional EA eligibility restrictions and the allocation of $20 million to Executive Office of Health and Human Service (EOHHS) for support services for homeless families.

We agreed it is too early and too much is unknown to weigh in on the $20 million allocation. There are many unanswered questions, chiefly: how would the proposed support services differ from those that that are being provided by current housing stabilization workers (via HomeBASE) and FOR Families. People expressed concern about the inefficiency/duplication of funding programs separate from those already underway, as well as the prospect of delay and gaps in services due to the need for procurement and start-up.

The group as a whole expressed immediate and grave concern in response to the Governor’s proposal to eliminate EA eligibility for families who are couch-surfing or doubled-up and families who are living in others’ homes that do not meet the State Sanitary Code. DHCD has estimated that roughly 40% of its current EA families are families who qualify for EA under these criteria.

The group discussed their presumption that the Governor decided he needed to restrict the “front door” (eliminating eligibility for many families) in order to have the funds to pay for the additional $20 million of support services. However, group members expressed that even this “trade” was off-base because it did not deal with the lack of affordable housing, the lack of subsidies and the lack of permanent supportive housing which many of these families need.

The group discussed the current DHCD model that has been in effect since December that provides diversion workers at the front door with DHCD staff. Since September, CHD staff have worked to significantly reduced the number of families entering the shelter system with their diversion efforts. The latest data shows a 70% diversion rate at the Liberty Street office. Statewide, the diversion rate is at 20% (Boston is especially difficult to divert due to housing costs). Right now, the motel population is at 1,397, down from 2,600.

The group consensus was that the current diversion effort is proving successful and should be expanded; that this demonstrates that it is possible to lower shelter entries without denying eligibility to families who are in fact homeless.

Specifically regarding the rural population in the Berkshires, Lindsay shared that with these new restrictions, no family would ever access EA (since rural homelessness is almost always defined as doubling up).

The group elected to take a position to strongly oppose these proposed restrictions on EA eligibility. The group agreed to focus its advocacy on continued support of diversion efforts at the front door; continued investment in affordable housing and subsidies and permanent supportive housing. The group also stressed the need to combine this advocacy with a focus on investment in child care because families cannot move out of poverty and into employment without safe and affordable child care.

Other updates:

Donna Nadeau of DHCD noted that EA shelter contracts expire on 3/21 (under a 21 day contract). She is awaiting updates on next steps for renewal/extension.

The Father Nurturing Conference is happening next week in Newport. A very exciting opportunity for all who can attend.

Habitat for Humanity provided applications for housing opportunities for low-income families. Consider this resource for some of the EA eligible families (with some income). Not a quick fix but offers an extraordinary opportunity.

Springfield Partners announced it has funding available to defray fuel costs for those who are not eligible for fuel assistance (above their income guidelines). Contact Steve Plummer for more information

Next meeting:

4/14, 1-2:30 pm, NEFWC, 225 High Street

Family Services Meeting Minutes – 2/10/15

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
February 10, 2015

In attendance: Jane Banks, Center for Human Development, Shannon Barry, Springfield Public Schools, Loleta Collino, Springfield Housing Authority, Jenny Delmonte, TPP, Harry Duchesne, New England Farm Workers Council, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Erin Forbush, Servicenet – Berkshires, Julia Guazzo CFCE Coordinated Family Community Engagement, Donna Harris, Franklin Hampshire Career Center, Sean Hemingway, CHD, Steve Huntley, VOC, Jill Fijal,Chicopee Public Schools, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet – Franklin County, Jane Lindfors, DTA Domestic Violence Unit, Heather Marshall, EFC, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools ,Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Dorothy Pink, VOC, Nelson Roman, Enlace de Familias, Laura Saponare, Catholic Charities, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Lauren Voyer, HAPHousing, Phyllis White, Franklin Hampshire Career Center

DHCD Update: Due to the snow storms and the continued shut-down of the Boston area, Bonnie Caldwell could not make it to this meeting. The central office is creating an emergency system to deal with shelter placement during this shut-down.

For Families update: Faith Lafayette could not attend but relayed the following update via email:
FOR Families has re-entered the Days/Holyoke to provide intensive outreach services, and the initial meeting took place with DHCD, DCF, NEFWC and CHD on 2/4/15.  Referrals from that meeting total approximately 1/3 of the hotel population (as of 2/3/15 the total population was 36 families).  The handful of remaining families at Days/Chicopee have been transferred across the street to QI/Chicopee and the remaining family at QI/WS has been transferred to the Holyoke Hotel/Holyoke.  This leaves 7 active EA hotels in Western MA.  At this time FF is providing outreach services to 6 of these, totaling 105 of the 256 hotel EA families.

Efforts to expand the new FF role is happening statewide, with the SE having just embarked, and 1 hotel in the NE operating similarly.  This new role has allowed for more intensive family work to be conducted, resulting in increased coordination with DCF, medical and MH providers (local and out of region) as well as school systems.  The coordination has supported family engagement with community providers, follow through with service plan goals, and management of truancy related issues to a much greater degree.  FF continues to submit ADA requests and childcare referrals with and for families on our caseload.

Lauren Voyer noted that For Families’ focus on families at risk is working very well.

Secure Jobs update:

Pamela shared the Network congratulations on a successful event last Friday (2/6) when almost 20 legislators, 7 mayors and 150 others came together to celebrate the success of Secure Jobs and its program participants and business partners. We made an excellent case for continued funding next fiscal year.

Co-sheltering discussion:
In light of the media coverage around the placement of homeless families in Springfield, we discussed the situation. DHCD’s co-sheltering policy has also been a topic of public discussion and Lauren Voyer of HAPHousing ane Jane Banks of CHD offered their experience with the model. Continue reading

Family Services Meeting Minute – 12/9/14

Family Services Meeting Committee Minutes
December 9, 2014

In attendance: Shannon Barry, Springfield Public Schools, Toni Bator, HAPHousing, Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, Catholic Charities, Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Jamie Chazan, Valley Opportunity Council, Sarah Cloutier, YWCA, Charity Day, Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Harry Duchesne, New England Farm Workers Council, Brenda Douglas, Square One ,Jill Fijal, Chicopee Public Schools, Donna Harris, Franklin Hampshire Career Center, Sean Hemingway, Center for Human Development, Faith Lafayette, DPH FOR Families, Jane Lindfors, DTA DV unit, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Janet Mock, Square One, jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schoos, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners, Liza Rios, YWCA, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Lauren Voyer, HAPHousing

DHCD Update (Bonnie Caldwell):

Families in hotels: 1,720 statewide, continuing to decline. For Western Mass., we are down from 500 to 345 families living in hotels. This decline Is due to a number of factors: increased diversion at the front door; increased shelter capacity statewide, allowing families to back to their communities of origin.

Additional support staff in hotels is making a difference. Great coordination among all providers – HAPHousing, CHD, NEFWC, ServiceNet.

Diversion from shelter at DHCD’s front door is up from 5 per cent to 15 per cent. This is due to the placement of 2 full-time CHD staff in the DHCD office. The staff are fantastic at what they do and the model of being AT the DHCD office works.

Towards the Network goal of becoming more data-driven in our outcomes, we discussed the utility of establishing a standard DHCD template of informative data to review each month.   We brainstormed this possible list of monthly data:

# of shelter entries/denials (by DHCD office)
# diverted (by DHCD office)
# of families experiencing domestic violence
# of exits from shelters and hotels
#s of families re-entering shelter
# of families out of community of origin

Bonnie will bring this back to DHCD and report back about what is available at our next meeting.

New Family Permanent Supportive Housing Available

Valley Opportunity Council announced that they are now taking referrals for their new scattered site PSH for chronically homeless families. 8 units available for 20 people total, including 4 disabled adults over age 24, 4 disabled adults between 18 and 24 and 12 unaccompanied non-disabled children under the age of 18. Families must meet a minimum score on the family VI-SPDAT (assessment tool). A ½ time case manager will be available for support services.

Click here for more information, or contact Jamie Chazan at VOC at jchazan@valleyopp.com, 413-552-1554 ext. 701. Continue reading