Category Archives: Family Services Committee

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 11/17/15

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.

Current Barriers:

  • 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.

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Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 10/13/15

Western MA Family Services Meeting Minutes
October 13, 2015

Attendance: Ellen Broadhurst, West Springfield Public Schools, Linnette Camacho, Springfield Public Schools, Midnedy Carrucni, YWCA of Western MA, Sarah Cloutier, YWCA, Loleta Collins, Springifeld Housing Authority, Charity Day, Franklin Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Erin Forbush, ServiceNet, Jill Fijal, Chicopee Public Schools, Lisa Goldsmith, Dial/SELF, Adam Goetz, Tenancy Preservation Project, Sean Hemingway, Center for Human Development, Steven Huntley, Valley Opportunity Council, Cheryl LaChance, HAPHousing, Bonnie LaPorte, Springfield Public Schools, Jane Lindfors, DTA Domestic Violence Unit, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Jordanna O’Connell, Center for Human Development, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Vanessa Otero, New England Farm Workers Council, Victor Pap, DHCD, Stephen Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Jenni Pothier, Tenancy Preservation Project, Stephen Roussel, Community Action, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Sarah Slautterback, DESE

We welcomed Victor Pap, new Associate Director of the Division of Housing Stabilization.

Family data update: See for the most recently available data on the DHCD website (August, 2015). Pamela updated the group that DHCD is currently working on a template of monthly data to distribute to all the CoC’s across the state to support their efforts to meet HUD requirements on performance and outcome measures. We will be able to use this for our own review and discussion at our monthly meetings as well, so please stay tuned.

Youth Homelessness Presentation:

The committee asked to learn more about youth homelessness in the community and in schools. Lisa Goldsmith, Dial/SELF and Sara Slautterback, DESE, generously offered the following presentation:

  • 19,515 children are identified as homeless in the schools in 2014-2015 according to DESE. This is up from 13,090 in the 2009-10 school year. See for the data that was distributed. The majority of homeless youth are in the lower grades with a spike in 9th
  • Almost ½ are living in shelters/hotels and almost ½ are doubled up
  • Some children are moving across 5-6 school districts in one year (it can take 4-6 months for a child to adjust to single year, i.e., kids are losing an entire year of education with multiple moves)
  • Schools are identifying 800-900 unaccompanied youth each year. This population is under-counted and difficult to identify because of their own motivation to stay unidentified (worried about repercussions).
  • The Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth will be releasing its youth count survey results of 2015 within the next month. Discussions are underway now about the 2016 count, how and what it will look like.
  • The legislature allocated $2 million in the FY16 budget for youth housing and services – a first significant investment. At the first Special Commission meeting on 10/28, more will be learned about how this money will be distributed across the state.
  • We looked at Western MA specific youth point in time data (thanks to Andrea Miller for providing this report) – please click here. 232 young adult families were identified during the 2015 point in time count, 26% of all families. The majority of young adult families (86%) were living in Hampden County. Hispanic families were over-represented among the young adult families.

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Family Services Meeting Minutes – 9/8/15

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
September 8, 2015

In attendance: Yoshi Bird, CHD, Jane Banks, CHD, Kathleen Cinquegrana, Amherst Community Connections, Liz Connor, Tenancy Preservation Project, Charity Day, Franklin Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Hillary Cronin, VA, Linda Driscoll-Sbar, CHD, Heidi Gold, Simtech Solutions, Hwei-Ling Greeney, Amherst Community Connections, Donna Harris, Franklin Hampshire Career Center, Mary E. Johnson, Central West Justice Center, Fran LeMay, ServiceNet, Jane Lindfors, DTA Domestic Violence Unit, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Julia Ortiz, Springfield Housing Authority, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Rachel Trant, DCF, Janette Vigo, HAP, Lauren Voyer, HAP

Data Review:

We reviewed and discussed the data available from DHCD. Pamela agreed to arrive at a template for this monthly review and to bring it to next month’s meeting for review and discussion.

Current numbers (not available via DHCD but via providers):

Lauren of HAP reported that currently there are roughly 80 families in motels in Hampden County; Charity of Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority reported that Greenfield motel numbers are down to about 32 families. Great progress in reducing number of hotel numbers across the region. Both areas report a significant decline in out-of-area families. DHCD is meeting with each regional housing network across the state to discuss how to close out use of hotels by December, 2016.

Pamela shared data from Sarah Slautterbach re: DESE numbers from 2014-2015:

Massachusetts schools identified 19,515 children as homeless – of which 8,629 children were living in shelters or motels, 7,620 were doubled up, 173 had no shelter at all and 861 were unaccompanied.

We will discuss this more at our next family services meeting (when Sarah can attend).

We reviewed some data provided by Simtech re: length of stay in Hampden County. Providers commented that a huge part of the challenge in having quality data over time has been the changes in the data requested, i.e., certain data is not available because it is only recently being asked for (HUD changes went into effect last October). DHCD has recently funded dedicated staff to support data entry and data quality. This is making a big impact.

We agreed it would be interesting to track the difference in lengths of stay and nature of exits among different shelter options – scattered site, congregate, co-shelter. Providers agreed in general that congregate and co-sheltering are more successful than scattered site in providing support, stabilization and incentive to move into own permanent housing. However, due to political environment, it is especially challenging to lease up multiple units in one spot. It was suggested that the Network play a role in providing support to grow the successful models.

Lauren Voyer will bring to next meeting HAP data comparing length of stay and exits from various shelter options.

Housing match efforts

Yoshi Bird of CHD described CHD’s recent coordination effort among its various teams – rehousing and stabilization – to maximize knowledge and outreach around available housing units and best matches for homeless families. Together they take stock of available housing units and families needs and make decisions together. They have had incredible results. They have one person who is especially skilled with landlord negotiations and that person is now being used across the board to facilitate landlord conversations. This model is particularly useful for harder-to-house families.

HAP, ServiceNet and HUD/VASH shared their versions of this kind of coordination within their organizations. We discussed whether we wanted to work towards coordinating across agencies and for now most felt it was too complicated and there were too many families to make broader coordination work. Pamela will follow-up with Yoshi to learn more about their work on coordinated assessment.

We discussed the use of the VI-SPDAT for PSH units for chronically homeless families. Many expressed concern about the invasiveness of the questions and whether it was in fact the best tool for determining prioritization.

Lauren distributed the beginnings of a referral flow chart (click here) around available resources for families. TPP asked to be added for prevention. We agreed we would consider what additional information would be useful, e.g., dollar amounts available for RAFT; also agreed it would be useful to have a FAQ around where to refer families who are not eligible for EA. Lauren agreed to be the contact for additional information.

Next meeting:

Tuesday, October 13
1:00 pm – 2:30 pm
CHD, Pace School
69 Capital Drive, West Springfield

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 8/18/15

 Family Services Meeting Minutes – 8/18/15

In attendance: Jane Banks, CHD, Yoshi Bird, CHD, Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Sarah Cloutier, YWCA, Hillary Cronin, VA, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Rose Evans, DHCD, Erin Forbush, ServiceNet, Julia Guazzo, CFCE, Donna Harris, Franklin Hampshire Career Center, Mary Johnson, Central West Justice Center, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Jane Lindfors, DTA DV Unit, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Luz Marcano, Dept. of Veterans Affairs, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Kristy Navarro, YWCA, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Amy Rowen, VA, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Janette Vigo, HAPHousing, Lauren Voyer, HAPHousing, Arelis Whitaker, Springfield Partners

Welcome and introductions:
We welcomed Rose Evans, DHCD Deputy Undersecretary, to the meeting. Thanks to Rose for taking the time to join our discussion.

Discussion of DHCD data regarding family homelessness:
We reviewed the Committee’s data request to DHCD, including the request for breakdowns of W. Mass. families in shelters, motels; the number of applications and entries into EA; the number of exits and diversions, the breakdown of family composition, etc. Rose referred us to the DHCD website link with publicly available information –

We compared what was available with what the Network had requested. Rose offered greater context and background to the discussion:

DHCD has invested millions of dollars in the last 1.5 years to upgrade its HMIS and data compliance systems.  They are moving rapidly towards “one family, one record.”  Providers can now get into the system and see family history – where they have been, whether shelter or hotels, compliance issues  Providers are currently getting up to speed in using it.  DHCD is also working across agencies – meeting regularly with secretaries from DCF, DPH, DTA, DMH – to break through the data silos so they can go “horizontal” – across agency – instead of just “vertical.”

Providers have access to all the info they need to rehouse families quickly and well (e.g., number of kids, ages, towns of origin, all the things the Network asked for).  Rose noted that there is no need for that data to be more broadly disseminated since it raises privacy issues (at least 13% of families in system suffer DV – privacy and safety are vital concerns) and access to this data more widely is not necessary to serve the rehousing goal.

Rose noted that the state is not permitted to spend state EA funds on meeting federal data requirements and that HUD’s requirements are not mandatory to the state program.  She noted that MA is in a unique position due to being the only state with a right to shelter law (as a state we spend far more on family homelessness than the federal government does in MA). DHCD is continuing to work on meeting the HUD data requirements so there is uniformity and since doing so enhances CoC funding applications (and we all agreed the data is worthy).

We reviewed the most recent publicly available data. Western MA hotel numbers continue to drop (May – 140; June 106), along with the rest of the state (total number is 1,270 as of June).

Rose noted that Western MA is the strongest region across the state, both in placements out of shelter and in diversions from shelter. Also new shelter capacity in the region and across the state is a significant contributing factor to the reduction of families in hotels.

There is currently a 13% return rate to shelter statewide (number not available for Western MA). 20% is the national norm. Reasons are largely income-based (average income is less than $500/month) but other social factors are extremely relevant, e.g., race, ethnicity.

Data on reasons for homelessness is also available statewide statewide, but not for Western MA.

The average length of stay in shelter is 7 months statewide (data not available for Western MA).

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