Category Archives: Family Services Committee

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 5/8/18

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
May 8, 2018
In attendance:  Shelly Benoit, BHN, Joel Cox, PFC/NEFWC, Hillary Cronin, VA HUD VASH, Fran LeMay, ServiceNet (Greenfield Family Inn), Yeisie Matea, DCF, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Michelle Michaelian, BHN, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Steve Plummer Springfield Partners, Jenni Pothier, MHA/TPP, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Tonya Sparks, Womanshelter, Janna Tetreault, Community Action, Janette Vigo, Way Finders, Melissa White, VOCpartnership of affordable housing owners and homeless shelters – started 2012-2013 – private multi-family units – DHCD 

DHCD Data Review:  We reviewed the monthly report provided by DHCD (thanks to Andrew and Donna) and we determined the following questions that Donna will  follow-up with Andrew to discuss (thank you, Donna!):
  • Is it possible to get the number entering and exiting shelter without the internal shelter transfers included (since with them, the number tells us nothing)
  • The number of families with DV history has stayed constant at 42 for the past 4 months.  What does that tell us about the data entry?
Homelessness Resource Fair Planning
The Resource Fair is taking place on June 14, 9:30-12:30, HCC, Kittredge Center.  We have received registration forms from 101 people so far.  We have 8 workshops planned and have the opportunity to repeat 4 of them.  We agreed with the other committee input so far to repeat: how the EA system works; career services; overcoming tenant screening barriers and the opioid epidemic’s intersection with homelessness.
Anyone interested in attending the Resource Fair or having table space can simply be advised to email me at (it’s not critical to complete the registration form).  Most important is to have names of who is attending and organizations who want to have table space.
New Lease for Homeless Families – presentation by Tom Plihcik, executive director
contact info:, 857-233-5821
Special thanks to Tom for making the trip from Eastern MA to share an overview of New Lease and its work in Western MA.  Below are some highlights from his talk and the discussion:
  • New Lease is a non-profit organization that came into existence as a pilot project, initially through the inspiration and funding of affordable housing development owners seeking a better system for ensuring stable tenancies and fewer vacancies.  It is now funded by a combination of state dollars through DHCD, owners’ contributions and other traditional fundraising efforts.It is housed at CHAPA offices in Boston with a staff of 3.
  • New Lease offers affordable housing owners a way to utilize preferences (as approved by HUD) – in this instance a homelessness preference as defined by EA – to fill vacancies.  It partners with EA shelters to create a waiting list so tenants are at the ready, pre-qualified, paper work complete, and ready to move in when a vacancy occurs.  Owners decide how many units to allocate to this preference – could be every one, could be every other, or ever 5 – completely up to the owner.  It is also possible to implement other preferences, e.g, elderly, veterans – as allowed by HUD – which New Lease can help facilitate as well.
  • New Lease now works within 50 buildings across the state – 9 larger affordable housing owners – and partners with 16 shelter providers. Biggest regions are Boston and Springfield.
  • In Western MA, New Lease has 8 properties in Springfield, Palmer, Greenfield and Pittsfield. Working to get one in Holyoke.  Tom will send us a more detailed list of buildings in our region.
  • They have been housing people since 2013. 98% retention rate. The success also fuels the challenge of gaining more units (with such high retention, moving families in requires adding more units).
  • The program also offers a “mitigation process” for families who are rejected from tenancies due to credit or landlord histories.  New Lease creates housing success for one-third of the families who first time “fail” in their applications (98% success rate). They work with the longest shelter stayers to get them housed.
  • New Lease works with the shelter stabilization workers over the 12 months but then continues to provide support as needed.  They have created a flexible fund to deal with tenancy crises, e.g., rent arrearages.  They have just hired a staff person devoted to stabilization services.
  • If we have any contacts with affordable housing owners, please relay to Tom. Always looking for new relationships to build.  This effort is all about partnerships!
Update on Resources for PR Evacuees: Catholic Charities has received additional housing funds targeted to house PR evacuees.  It has housed 94 families thus far and another 100 families in process.  Please contact Kathryn Buckley-Brawner at or 413-433-1007 for additional information.
Next meeting date: We agreed to meet the week following the Resource Fair to debrief (as opposed to our usual 2nd Tuesday which would put us 2 days before the Resource Fair).  We will meet next on: Tues., June 19, 1 pm – 2:30 pm, Location TBD.

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 3/28/18

Family Services Meeting Minutes
March 28, 2018
In attendance:  Shelly Benoit, BHN, Project FIT, Joel Cox, NEFWC, Dawn DiSefano, Square One, Emily English, Gandara Center, Tavar Jones, Arise for Social Justice, Jane Lindfors, DTA Domestic Violence Unit, Fran Lemay, Greenfield Family Inn/ServiceNet, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Aisha Pizarro, YWCA, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Tj Steele, Springfield Partners, Janna Tetreault, Community Action, Janette Vigo, Way Finders, Melissa White, Valley Opportunity Council
Resource Fair Planning:
We reviewed the survey feedback on workshop interest.  In addition to the sub-population workshops on families (how the EA system works), youth, veterans, chronically homeless, DV services, career services, we will add two additional workshops: the opioid epidemic’s intersection with homelessness and overcoming tenant screening barriers.
On the opioid topic, it was suggested to reach out to Dr. Roose through Doreen Fadus of Mercy Medical Center who has done some training on how to assist with harm reduction while awaiting a treatment bed.  Tavar Jones of Arise also offered to connect us to their harm reduction task force.
We also agreed it would be important to get info out around needle exchange services.
On overcoming tenant screening barriers, it was suggested to reach out to Jen Dieringer of Community Legal Aid; Arise also may be able to assist.  Pamela will reach out to both.
On the EA workshop: Janette Vigo and Donna Nadeau will work together to offer this.
Re: marketing and flyer: Donna Nadeau kindly volunteered to enlist her daughter who produces fliers like this.  Pamela will give her the info.
Homelessness data review (click here and here):
We reviewed the data provided by DHCD – one template produced by Andrew Pape of DHCD and data provided by Donna via her providers re: placements out of homelessness. It was noted that the # of families entering homelessness is greater than the number exiting and the vast majority of those exiting are going into market rate housing (via HomeBASE).  This points to the challenge of increasing the number of placements and to the lack of public and subsidized housing.
We discussed the need to enlist housing authorities in prioritizing units for homeless families.  We also discussed interest in an update from the New Lease program.  How is that program going in the Western part of the state?  Pamela will follow-up.
We also need to add the diversion number to the template and ask Andrew if he can match the format of Donna’s data with our monthly data so we can see the trend over months.
Hampden County Coordinated entry update
Gerry provided a summary of the effort to implement Coordinated Entry for chronically homeless families.  Right now, CHD, VOC, Springfield Housing Authority and Gandara Community Housing Program offer permanent supportive units for families, totaling roughly 40-50 units.  The VI-SPDAT assessment tool is being used to assess families’ vulnerability and placement on the priority list for a unit. Currently roughly 30 families have been assessed with the tool.  All housing providers are relying on the coordinated entry group waiting list to allocate an available unit.  It is important to assess all chronically homeless families so there can be an accurate accounting of the housing need and understanding of the need for more units.
Hampden County CoC is using an online system to record the VI-SPDATs and to administer the coordinated entry system.  The CoC is currently working with the State to get a Release of Information that can be utilized to more easily share data and allow quicker referrals within the system.
Fran Lemay was not aware of anything similar happening in the Three Count region.
Community Housing Program: Emily English of Gandara Center presented on this program for families in recovery.  There are 21 units total, 17 in Holyoke, 4 in Hampshire County.  Criteria includes the head of household is in recovery from substance use (6 months into recovery) and must have children or on a reunification plan. The goal is to live a sober life, continue to work on recovery and build stability.  The length of stay is up until the youngest child is 18; average length of stay is 3-5 years.  They work with Way Finders which administers the rent payments.  There are 2 and 3 bedroom apartments
Next meeting date: Tuesday, May 8, 9:30 am, Northampton Senior Center with sub-meetings happening to continue planning for the Resource Fair.

Family Services Minutes – 2/13/18

Family services meeting minutes of 2/13/18
In attendance: Shelly Benoit, BHN, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Holly Florek, CHD, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet/Greenfield Family Inn, Jane Lindfors, DTA/DV unit, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Michelle Michaelian, BHN, Kathy Moss, BHN, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Stephen Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Jenni Pothier, MHA/TPP, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Tonya Sparks, WomanShelter, Janna Teatrault, Community Action, Janette Vigo, Way Finders, Lauren Voyer, Way Finders, Melissa White, Valley Opportunity Council

DHCD Data Report on Family Homelessness

We reviewed the data provided by DHCD (click here).  We recognized the limits of the shelter entry and exit data including all transfers (e.g., internally from shelter to scattered site) for gaining an accurate sense of the in-flow and out-flow.  Donna Nadeau offered instead to provide us her monthly report that she receives from providers that summarizes # of placements into housing.  Our family providers present also said they could easily provide the # of referrals into shelter. DV providers also agreed to provide their monthly shelter numbers as well (these are not available via DHCD but are crucial in terms of the overall view of family homelessness for the region). CHD will also provide its DHCD front door diversion numbers as well.
The group agreed that it would provide this information at the next family services meeting and we would keep evaluating what it means to acquire meaningful data in order to evaluate our progress.
Network “future course” meeting debrief:
The Network hosted a Network-wide meeting on 2/12 to review initial findings based on our consultant’s interviews of roughly 40 people and 25 organizations across the Network.  Click here for summary of findings and recommendations.  The meeting on the 12th provided a chance to further share reflections and recommendations.  Committee members who attended noted that it was a great chance to connect with the wider Network beyond the family services committee (and to register its breadth) and to have a meaningful dialogue towards how best to allocate Network resources.  Pamela reported that this meeting’s input will be utilized at the upcoming Leadership Council meeting on 2/28 where recommendations around future structure and focus will be decided upon.
Homelessness Resource Fair:
We officially launched our planning process for this region-wide Resource Fair which is scheduled to take place on Thursday, June 14, 9 am – 1 pm.  We decided upon the planning task force: Holly Florek, Jane Lindfors, Janna Teatrault, Janette Vigo.  Pamela will be in touch with them to schedule a planning call.  And we will plan to report back an initial outline for the day at our next Family Services Meeting.
Network earmark funding:
Pamela reported that the Network’s earmark of $125K was released and is being allocated equally across both CoC’s to direct financial assistance for youth and rapid re-housing. Stay tuned for an email outlining more detailed allocation of funding and who and how to contact providers to access it.
RAFT: Lauren announced that as of 3/1 there will be $250K in RAFT funding available for individuals (elderly, disabled, unaccompanied youth). Similar funding will be available in Franklin and Berkshire Counties as well. Pamela will send out a reminder notice on this immediately in advance of the 3/1 release date.
Community Action Tax Filing Assistance. Janna reminded everyone that Community Action offers tax filing help (as does Springfield Partners).  Please relay info and urge people to call ASAP to schedule appointments as they are filling up.
Due in 3 weeks.
Next meeting date: Tuesday, 3/13, 1 pm – 2:30 pm.  Kittredge Center, Room 301, Holyoke Community College

Family Services Meeting – 1/9/18

Family Services Meeting Minutes – 1/9/18
In attendance: Shelly Benoit, BHN, Yoshi Bird, YWCA, Ellen Broadhurst, West Springfield Public Schools, Doris Gonzalez, YWCA, Fran Lemay, Greenfield Family Inn, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman House, Lisandra Maysonet, YWCA, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Jenni Pothier, Mental Health Association/TPP, Aisha Pizarro, YWCA, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Janette Vigo, Way Finders, Melissa White, Valley Opportunity Council
DHCD Data Review and Discussion:
Thanks to Bill Bartosch and Andrew Pape of DHCD for their assistance in responding to data requests.  Click here for the excel document provided by DHCD is a “work in progress” and allowed for additional brainstorming.  Pamela will report back to Bill and Andrew these follow-up questions:
  • For where families applied (the breakdown among Greenfield, Pittsfield and Springfield), we would like to also understand the town of origin for the families applying (i.e., there may be some discrepancy between where the application is filed and where the family is from).
  • The family transfer number is not useful without more context (transfers within a program are also included in that number). The group is interested in the # of families from Western MA placed out of the region and the number of families from outside of Western MA placed within the region; they would also like to pull out transfers that occurred based on domestic violence.
  • It was noted that the number of active families with DV history had to be wildly underreported (59 was the number drawn from HMIS – out of 600 beds – the group consensus is that this is nowhere close to accurate).  The question was raised about whether it was possible to add to HMIS a question when the family is exiting shelter re: “has the family member experienced DV either before or since the date of entry?” (recognizing that many people may not feel comfortable reporting DV at the initial intake). We discussed the barriers of data entry insofar as “new” DV cannot be captured in HMIS – beyond a “touch point” (aka case note) – without going into the initial assessment and changing the data – this is extremely cumbersome for case workers and contributes to missed reporting.
  • Housing status upon exit: the group would like to add this data set to the monthly template.
At the next meeting, we will hope to have a more formalized template in an easier-to-distribute format.
Puerto Rico evacuees:  We were not able to obtain updated data to share.  We know families are still arriving and FEMA is expiring imminently; it is anticipated that this will place a huge demand on the EA system.  MEMA, DHCD and other state agencies are meeting regularly.
State budget update: Youth funding has been released by the Governor but it’s unclear how it will be distributed (via an RFP?).  RAFT funds for individuals has also been released although it’s not yet at Way Finders.
Network Evaluation project: Pamela provided an update on the consultant working with the Network to help evaluate the best use of the Network going forward. She distributed the interview questions and encouraged everyone to provide their input.   She will send the information electronically as well.  She encouraged people to attend the Network meeting on 2/12, 1-4 pm, Kittredge Center, HCC, to further engage in this effort to help shape the Network going forward.
Coordinated entry discussion with DV and shelter providers: Gerry McCafferty hosted a meeting for the Hampden County CoC DV providers and EA shelter providers to begin to tackle the challenge of connecting both systems to create a coordinated entry process.  The first step is for the DV providers to assess how many of their population meet the criteria for chronically homeless (and therefore eligible for permanent supportive housing).
Homelessness Resource Fair – June 14.  We agreed we would start our planning process for this event at our next meeting in Feb.
Next meeting date: Tuesday, Feb. 13, 9:30-11 am, Northampton Senior Center.