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 – http://www.mass.gov/hed/housing/stabilization/emergency-assistance.html –
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).