Category Archives: Family Services Committee

Family Services Meeting Minutes – 6/9/15

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
June 9, 2015

 In attendance: Jason Allen, VA Leeds, Jane Banks, Center for Human Development, Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Kathleen Cinquegrara, Amherst Community Connections, Sarah Cloutier, YWCA, Hillary Cronin, VA Leeds, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Heidi Gold, Simtech Solutions, Hwei-Ling Greeney, Amherst Community Connections, Julia Guazzo, CFCE, Sean Hemingway, Center for Human Development, Cheryl LaChance, HAPHousing, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Jane Lindfors, DTA DV Unit, Luz Marcano, VA-Springfield Outpatient Clinic, Justin Maynard, VA Leeds, Betty Miller, Valley Opportunity Council, Janet Mock, Square One, Sundarii, Moreira, Amherst Community Connections, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Dorothy Pink, Valley Opportunity Council, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Anna Quan, Amherst Community Connections, Hilda Santa, Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Sarah Slautterback, DESE, Rachel Trant, DCF, Arelis Whitaker, Springfield Partners

FY15 State Budget Update:

HAPHousing: HCEC almost out of FEMA funds. Next prevention funds available will be new RAFT money as of 7/1/15.

FY16 State Budget Update:

Pamela reported on Network FY16 budget priorities in relation to current budget process. The budget is in Conference Committee where they are ironing out differences between the House and Senate budgets. On Network priorities:

  • Secure Jobs was funded for $750,000 in Senate budget, better than $500,000 in House. Senate version also includes language directing agencies to seek other sources of funding (possibly Housing Stabilization Trust Fund). Since $2 million is necessary to level fund the program statewide, there will clearly be some changes as of 7/1. Donna reported that if the total continues to be $750,000, the contracts will have to be re-procured. We will stay tuned.
  • Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs) received requested funding (restored to FY14 levels) in House budget; only level funded in Senate. Will continue to advocate for House version.
  • Unaccompanied Homeless Youth received $2 million for housing and wraparound services in Senate budget; nothing in House. Will advocate for Senate version.
  • Network received earmark funding to continue coordination and implement Opening Doors Plan in House budget; nothing in Senate. Will advocate for House version.

Pamela urged all committee members to contact their legislators to urge support of these priorities to Conference Committee members (even better if your rep happens to be HWM Assistant Vice Chair Stephen Kulik). Go here to find your legislators.

Donna reported that DHCD will be funding shelters based on 8 month contracts (similar to last year as well). There will also be an increase in stabilization staff, aiming to get to a 1:30 staff/family ratio. The goal is to increase diversion to 30% at the front door (now at 20%).

DHCD data update:

Thanks to Bonnie Caldwell for bringing data report. Click here and here for reports.

Comments: motel numbers continue to go down (now below 1,300 statewide). It was noted by Jane Lindfors that DV count appears lower than reality because many families who became homeless due to DV are counted as “doubled-up” (and not as DV) by the time they enter the shelter system.

The consequences of early retirement were also noted. DHCD is losing 6 staff from central office and 24 from the field offices. DTA at the Liberty Street office in Springfield is also losing significant staff, as well as DCF. These are big numbers and it is unclear how this will impact service delivery and case load management. Concerning.

Western MA Opening Doors Plan Review and Discussion – click here for the draft Plan

Pamela provided a summary of what was learned at the Systems Design Clinic offered last week by the National Alliance to End Homelessness (see day 2 powerpoint attached). Then Pamela pulled out pages of Plan pertaining to famiy services, sharing the current big-picture data and the couple of strategies the Plan poses thus far. Pamela welcomed input around additional strategies and concerns.

Below is a summary of suggested strategies:

  • The value of a housing registry so that case managers can be coordinated in their outreach to landlords and can know where there are available units. Pamela pointed out the Network’s creation of the Housing Options Tool (by Andrea Miller) that offers some version of this electronic matching system. While the tool is on the Network website, it is not being maintained or updated due to lack of resources right now. This is something to revisit if the Network receives additional funding next fiscal year.
  • Lack of housing supply for families – issues of enough space, accessibility. We should look at abandoned, boarded up buildings in Hampden County (Springfield, Holyoke) as housing opportunities.
  • Lack of DV attention in Plan. Right now the only way DV families can access the EA system is if they are evicted from shelter. The DV shelters receive nominal re-housing funds. We need to incorporate the needs of these families into the Plan.
  • Concern over Amherst/Northampton area and cost of housing. Impossible to move to less expensive surrounding towns due to lack of transportation.
  • In view of state funding challenges to Secure Jobs program, we should be careful to ensure that the term “Secure Jobs” pertains to all workforce development efforts that will continue beyond any immediate funding loss.
  • Consider how to engage landlords as part of the rehousing solution
  • Consider prioritization list for families who need Permanent Supportive Housing
  • Consider how to deal with confidentiality issues pertaining to rehousing DV families
  • Expand diversion efforts
  • Consider value of “peer support,” a model that has met with great success in serving homeless veterans

Pamela will resend the Plan to invite additional feedback.

Next meeting: July 14, 9:30-11, Northampton location to be determined

Family Services Meeting Minutes – 5/12/15

Family Services Committee
May 12, 2015

In Attendance: Jason Allen, VA CWM HCS, Jane Banks, CHD, Sarah Cloutier, YWCA, Hillary Cronin, VA, Charity Day, Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Harry Duchesne, NEFWC, Anthia Elliot, Safe Passage Lindsay Errichetto, Family Life Support Center, Jill Fijal, Chicopee Public Schools, Erin Forbush, ServiceNet, Donna Harris, Franklin Hampshire Career Center, Sean Hemingway, CHD, Mary Johnson, Central West Justice Center, Fran LeMay, ServiceNet, Jane Lindfors, DTA DV Unit, Luz Marcano, VA Springfield Clinic, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners, Ramona Rivera, HAPHousing, Stephen Roussel, Community Action, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Sarah Slautterback, DESE, Janna Tetreault, Community Action, Jennifer Wands, Springfield Public Schools, Arelis Whitaker, Springfield Partners, Andrea Zurrin, ServiceNet,

Hampden County Point in Time Count:

Gerry McCafferty presented on the Point in Time Count results for Hampden County (Three County PIT count results will be provided by next meeting). Click here for detailed results.

88% of all homeless people were families; the number of homeless families increased by 12% compared to 2014; 35% increase between 2013 and 2015

756 homeless families – equals roughly 2,700 people, including children; 62 families met the definition of chronically homeless (head of household has a disability and homeless for year or longer or 4 more or times in the last 3 years)

Typical homeless person is latina child in shelter with family. Biggest number of people homeless were children under 18. More Hispanics than non-Hispanics. People of color are disproportionately represented. 58% are latino even though only 21% of population.

Trends:
Individuals: mostly decreasing (there was a spike last year but this was due to an erroneous count of pregnant women)

Slight declines in chronically homeless individuals and unsheltered individuals.

Comments:

As the state has moved away from motels, it has greatly increased shelter capacity.

In order to better understand what is happening and what reforms are needed, we need to track how many people are entering homelessness, how long people are staying in shelter and how many people are exiting the system into permanent housing. The Network recognizes the need for this data in the context of drafting its Opening Doors Plan to End Homelessness but DHCD is currently not permitting access to it. Conversations are underway between DHCD and HUD to resolve this problem.

Sarah Slautterback of DESE pointed out that in the 2013-14 school year, the number of homeless students increased by 12% over the previous year. There is an equal number of doubled up (which the PIT does not count) and sheltered students.

Continuum of Care New HUD Funding Round

Gerry announced that HUD is beginning its new funding round. The Hampden County CoC is expecting to have the ability to apply for new funds. Two funding categories exist: (1) rapid rehousing assistance – subsidies for up to 2 years; and (2) Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) for chronically homeless families. Gerry noted there are a few PSH projects that have been in existence and sometimes these programs have had trouble locating chronically homeless families. The question is at least partially the need for intensive services vs. the need for rental units and whether 2 years of rental assistance could make a bigger difference in getting a family closer to housing stability.

The consensus – Jane Banks, Harry Duchesne and Lizzy Ortiz all spoke – was to prioritize PSH; that they have the hardest time finding housing for those families with very complex needs who need supportive services.

Gerry noted that once the NOFA (Notice of Funding Application) is issued (in the next month), the CoC will know how much money is available and the conversation will continue.

FY16 Budget Update

Pamela noted that the House passed its budget a couple of weeks ago and the Senate Ways and Means Committee is releasing its budget later today. In the House Budget, relative to Network priorities the following occurred:

  • Secure Jobs was level funded at $500,000 (consistent with Governor’s budget), which is $1.5 million short of what is actually needed to maintain the program statewide (will continue to seek more in Senate budget).
  • Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCEC) received full funding, restored to FY!4 levels. This is great news!
  • Unaccompanied Homeless Youth services were not funded in the House (or Gov) budget. Will continue to seek funding in Senate budget

Pamela noted that everyone should stay tuned for upcoming Senate budget advocacy updates.

Systems Design Clinic

The Network has retained the National Alliance to End Homelessness to conduct its “Systems Design Clinic” on June 3-4 in Springfield (UMass – 1500 Main Street) to bring to everyone the national framework for preventing and ending homelessness. It promises to be instructive and energizing as we move forward in our own work. Please consider attending so we can bring back the framework together and have it inform our work as the family services committee.

Announcements

Jane Banks: CHD has job openings at Grace House, a family therapist and program director position. Go to CHD website for more information.

CHD was awarded money from Northampton Housing Partnership to do case management work to help stabilize at-risk tenants. It is hiring case manager now. All agreed it would be interesting to track the data of this intervention.

Luz Marcano: the VA has positions available for social work. Got to http://usajobs.gov for more information.

Anthia Elliot: Safe Passage has many job openings – go to website to learn more. http://safepass.org

Next meeting: June 9, 1:00-2:30 pm, New England Farm Workers Council, 225 High Street, Holyoke

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