Category Archives: Family Services Committee

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

Referral/Contact Resource; Family Services Minutes – 11/18

First, I wanted to pass along a housing and referral contact list  for housing and motel staff providers in the region that Andrew Morehouse, Network co-chair and executive director of the Food Bank of Western MA, compiled for use across the food bank network.  Please find it attached and please feel free to distribute to any of your networks.  Thank you, Andrew!

Family Services Committee Meeting
November 18, 2014

In attendance: Jane Banks, CHD, Toni Bator, HAPHousing, Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Cris Carl, ServiceNet Greenfield, Charity Day, FCRHA, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Erin Forbush, ServiceNet Pittsfield, Donna Harris, Franklin Hampshire Career Center, Sean Hemingway, CHD, Steve Huntley, VOC, Wendy Kane, Community Legal Aid, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet Greenfield, Betty Medina Lichtenstein, Enlace, Jane Lindfors, DTA DV Unit, Yajaira Marquez, Head Start, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Maritza Martinez, Head Start, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Gil Reynders, Salvation Army, Liza Rios, YWCA, Hilda Santa, Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Rachel Trant, DCF

DHCD Update

Motel numbers are seeing some decline, down to 1,779 as of yesterday. Families living in Greenfield motels have been moved back to their communities of origin.

DHCD just issued notice of a proposed regulatory change to equalize treatment of shelter and motel families (basis of MLRI lawsuit) under non-compliance policy so that all families will be deemed in non-compliance after 3 infractions (prior policy allowed 6 infractions for families in shelter; 2 infractions for families in motels). Settlement negotiations have been ongoing for 7 months without resolution. DHCD is now proposing this change. Pamela will forward hearing notice and details on process.

Provider Updates

CHD (Jane Banks): providing support staff at Holyoke Hotel and Days Inn (Holyoke) and Howard Johnson’s in Springfield. Providing transportation to food, doctor’s appointments, other support services. 6 staff present, 8 am to 9 pm. Manager reports are very positive. NEFWC is there to do housing placement work.

Expanding shelter capacity by 125 beds.

Also working at the front door of DHCD and seeing a 56% diversion rate. Great progress and looks forward to more.

HAPHousing (Toni Bator) – providing support staff in EconoLodge and Quality Inn Chicopee – in the process of hiring 4 full time and 4 part-time staff. Currently borrowing from other staff to provide coverage from 1 pm – 9 pm on weekdays and 5-9 pm on weekends.

Expanding shelter capacity by 100 beds.

Discussed recent issue of Springfield postmaster refusing to deliver mail to homeless families (quoted as saying such). This is stunning! Toni said MLRI is involved. Pamela will inquire further to determine if the Network can provide any additional support. We agreed we needed to learn more about current mail practices but noted that families have been receiving mail at shelters and motels without incident until now.

ServiceNet (Fran Lemay, Greenfield): providing support staff at the Days Inn and Quality Inn. Have several staff and currently hire one more. Coverage at the hotels from noon -8 pm, 7 days/week. Has office space at both hotels, which is working very well. About 80 families in both hotels. Roughly ½ from the Eastern part of the state.

Expanding shelter capacity by 15 families in Greenfield (possibly Orange and Turners Falls), 7 in Pittsfield

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