Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
November 17, 2015
In attendance: Jane Banks, CHD, Yoshi Bird, CHD, Sarah Cloutier, YWCA, Hillary Cronin, VA Medical Center, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Sean Hemingway, CHD, Faith Lafayette, FOR Families, Fran LeMay, ServiceNet – Greenfield Family Inn, Jane Lindfors, DTA-DV unit, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Sherondia McKenzie Elliott, DTA/DV, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Jordana O’Connell, CHD, Vanessa Otero, NEFWC, Jenni Pothier, TPP, Stephen Plummer, Partners for Community Action, Evelyn Rivera, WomanShelter, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Taijhia Steel, Springfield Partners, Rachel Trant, DCF, Luz Vega, Woman Shelter, Lauren Voyer, HAPHousing
Family Homelessness and Domestic Violence
Special thanks to Sarah Cloutier, Anthia Elliott, Jane Lindfors and Heather Marshall for leading us in this discussion to better understand the intersection of DV with family homelessness and how the Network can address it.
The Population: Heather shared that according to DHCD data domestic violence comprises 13% of the current EA population’s “reason for becoming homeless.” All DV providers agreed that this number is vastly underestimated. Many DV victims may have a more immediate reason for homelessness – e.g., couch surfing – that is recorded when DV is the underlying reason. Heather shared national data that indicated that between 22% and 50% of homeless women report that DV is reason.
We agreed we needed to reach out to DHCD to learn about possible ways to enhance data collection around this population.
Jane shared data from the DTA DV unit that showed that in Western MA, of the 4,581 people spoken to about DV, 2,728 reported that homelessness or housing was their biggest issue.
- No DHCD staff in Berkshire, Franklin or Hampshire Counties. The only way to process an EA application is via phone at the DTA offices. This creates a significant barrier for DV victims in a state of trauma (as well as all homeless families). The only place to go in person is at the State Street office in Springfield. The number to call for remote access is 413-627-4462.
- The only way for a DV shelter family to move to EA shelter is by being terminated from the DV program and having to newly apply for EA. This requires families to become homeless to get served. In addition to this illogic, it impacts DV shelter availability since families who may not be an imminent risk of domestic violence may stay longer because their alternative is homelessness.
[Note: HAPHousing announced it has Rapid Rehousing funds available for non-EA eligible families which could serve this population in Hampden County. All funds must be expended by the end of January. Contact HAP for more information.]
- Housing authority regulations changed several years ago to require far more stringent documentation to obtain a DV housing preference, e.g., police report, restraining order, all things that may be very difficult to obtain if the victim fled her community
- Limited DV rehousing funds. DCF provides DV shelters with $10K per year for housing stabilization funds. Maximum distributions are $1,000 per person. This amount makes it very difficult to afford an apartment with first, last and security deposit. The 10K total is almost entirely spent by all DV shelters in the region with more than half the fiscal year remaining.