Category Archives: Family Services Committee

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 6/14/16

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
June 14, 2016

In attendance: Steven Acevedo, NEFWC, Jane Banks, CHD, Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Hillary Cronin, VA, Jose Cruz, CHD, Juan Cruz, NEFWC, Yahaira Diaz, VOC, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Jessica Garces, CHD, Allie Haber, Network, Jill Fijal, Chicopee Public Schools, Sean Hemingway, CHD, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman House, Betty Miller, Valley Opportunity Council, Ita Mullarkey, DHCD, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Stephen Plummer, Springfield Partners, Jenni Pothier, TPP, Marisol Quinone, VOC, Jessica Quintana, WomanShelter, Liza Rios, YWCA, Josean Roldan, NEFWC, Eimy Santiago, VOC, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Twjana Williams, DHCD, Linda Vega, VOC, Luz Vega, WomanShelter, Lyia Vega, CHD, Janette Vigo, HAP, Lauren Voyer, HAP, Jennifer Wands, Springfield Public Schools, Erica Zayas, VOC

 Congratulations to Western MA Partners!

We devoted this meeting primarily to a celebration of the significant progress made this year in ending family homelessness in Western Massachusetts and statewide. Click here and here for data from DHCD (thanks to Deputy Undersecretary Rose Evans) that captures that progress: in Western MA, family homelessness in motels dropped 84% since last year (from 127 to 20 families today). We also welcomed from DHCD Ita Mullarky, Associate Director of the Division of Housing Stabilization, who shared more impact information resulting from this year’s innovations, including targeted funds for hard-to-house families and focus on the diversion effort at the front door. A year ago, the diversion rate hovered around 5-6%; by this year’s end, the diversion rate is 25% (and even higher in Western MA). She applauded the diversion and re-housing effort in Western MA, and in particular the thoughtful, skilled approach to understanding and meeting each family’s housing needs.

Ita shared that last year the state was contracting with 49 motels statewide; that number is down to 22 now and DHCD is looking to end all motels over this next year. Ita also noted that 100% of families entering the EA system in Springfield are staying in Springfield and that statewide 80% of families are placed within 20 miles of their community of origin. This is also a significant advance from last year.

Ita shared that DHCD is looking at implementing a pilot project in Brockton and Boston to focus on additional targeting of prevention resources. It will provide an opportunity to track the effectiveness of strategic interventions around prevention.

We also took time to hear personal stories of providers’ experiences working with families and what it meant to support them on their path to housing. Thanks to all who shared and inspired!

A special thanks to Jane Banks and Center for Human Development for their incredibly generous hosting, including a celebratory cake for all!here

FY17 State Budget Update:

Pamela provided an update on the FY17 state budget process: the budget is currently in Conference Committee with differences being hammered out between the House and Senate budgets. Relevant updates include:

  • Both budgets include the expansion of HomeBASE to include families living in domestic violence shelters, which means it will be included in the final budget. This is a huge victory! And our collaborative effort between DV and homelessness providers contributed to the success.
  • Secure Jobs is funded at 3x higher in the Senate budget ($1.5 million vs. $500,000). The group noted the remarkable success of the Western MA Secure Jobs program (more than doubled its FY16 goal of job placements!) and how important continued funding is to maintain this success. Advocate for the Senate provision!
  • The Local Consortiums are funded at $1 million in the Senate and not funded in the House. We need to advocate for the Senate version!
  • Unaccompanied Homeless Youth funding received $2 million in the Senate and $1 million in the House.

To learn more, go to the blog post at:


Please contact your legislators and urge them to advocate with the Conference Committee for the Network priorities. To find your legislator go to:


Next meeting date:

Due to summer vacation schedules (in particular Pamela’s), we will not be meeting in July. We will meet next on: Tuesday, August 9, 1:00 – 2:30 pm, CHD, 51 Capitol Drive, West Springfield

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 5/10/16

Family Services Meeting
May 10, 2016

In attendance: Jesus Arce, City of Springfield, Yoshi Bird, CHD, Clare Deucher, SOAR, Dawn DiStefano, Square One, Anthia Elliot, Safe Passage, Erin Forbush, ServivceNet, Sean Hemingway, CHD, Fran LeMay, ServiceNet, Jane Lindfors, DTA-DV Unit, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Carmen Navarro, NEFWC, Jenni Pothier, Tenancy Preservation Project, Josean Roldan, NEFWC, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Jodi Smith, Home City Housing, TJ Steele, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Janette Vigo, HAPHousing, Lauren Voyer, HAPHousing, Mandy Winalski, Community Legal Aid, Chris Zabik, DMH

 Family Data Update

We reviewed the data presented at the Network Leadership Meeting (April 28) by the Hampden County and Three County CoCs regarding the final point in time count (conducted Jan. 27) and the significant drop in family homelessness that has occurred across the region over the last 5 years (especially from last year to this year). Click here for the 3 County report and here for the Hampden County report.

We discussed the contributing factors: an intensive diversion effort at the front door supported by DHCD (our region has one of the highest diversion rates statewide at 35%); use of HomeBASE to both divert families from homelessness and re-house families, resulting in a drastic decrease in families living in hotels; additional resources from DHCD to target the longest shelter stayers; the creation of Permanent Supporting Housing for chronically homeless families.

Hampden County now is down to 20 families in motels; Franklin County down to 2. Fantastic work across the region! We will celebrate this excellent work at our June Family Services meeting.

More on permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless families:   10 families are in the process of being housed at CHD (3 in Chicopee, 2 in Westfield, 1 in Springfield, 1 in Ware; others pending); additional families housed via VOC. The model is working very well, addressing the needs of families with multiple medical and/or mental health conditions.

Berkshire County: noted the challenge of families being denied EA eligibility, both DV and non-DV families.   For non-DV: denials have occurred due to claims of not having a birth certificate or other verification (despite advocacy intervention). For DV families, denials have occurred due to demands for TROs or eviction summons. Jane Lindfors pointed out that these DV denials are not appropriate under current regulation and that there needs to be some clarification on current policy. Jane will follow-up with Bonnie Caldwell of DHCD and loop back to Anthia and Heather. Bonnie is extremely responsive to issues that arise and providers should contact her in the face of challenges such as these. We will check back in on this process at our next meeting.

FY17 State Budget Update:

Pamela updated the group on the current status of the family related Network priorities:

  • Secure Jobs was funded at $500,000 in the House budget ($750,000 in the Governor’s budget). $2 million is necessary to keep the program level-funded statewide. We will pursue that funding level in the Senate budget.
  • Consortium and prevention funding (via EOHHS, new programs just starting up) was not funded at all in the House budget; $1.5m in the Governor’s budget. We are working to obtain the Governor’s level in the Senate budget.
  • Youth funding: Funded $1m in the House; $2m in the Governor’s budget. We will pursue at least $2m in the Senate budget.
  • Expansion of HomeBASE eligibility to include DV families: in both the House and Senate budget. We will seek inclusion in the Senate budget as well.

Pamela stressed the importance of communicating with your senator when the Senate Ways and Means budget is released (5/17). Please stay tuned for action updates next week

Special Presentation on SOAR, Clare Deucher:
Thanks to Clare Deucher for presenting to our group regarding SOAR – SSI/SSDI Outreach Access and Recovery Program. Clare is working under a one year SAMHSA grant to expand use of SOAR in MA. It is a program that trains staff to become better equipped to successfully apply for SSI/SSDI on behalf of their clients. The SOAR program significantly increases the likelihood of approval of applications (65% allowance rate with SOAR; 22% allowance rate without it).

SOAR offers a free on-line course that takes 16 hours (or more) and grants 16 CEUs. The training can make a defining difference in the capacity to navigate the application process to success for the client.

Clare is seeking people who will get trained as well as a local leader and veteran leader who can act as point people for SOAR here in the region. Please contact Clare if you are interested in learning more:

To obtain more SOAR materials, please visit this blog post here.

We discussed the challenge of organizations allocating staff time to become trained. Tenancy Preservation Project is interested in having a staff person become trained as well as Safe Passage and a few other provider agencies. Others expressed interest but reservations about capacity. We agreed that since the state gets reimbursements from the federal government for those deemed SSI/SSDI eligible, it is in the state’s interest to promote this training. We expressed our hope that the state would become the engine for this initiative.   Clare offered the calculation that for each person allowed SSI/SSDI benefits, $3,500 comes back to the state. With 42% of eligible people not receiving this benefit, that adds up to $1.2 million left on the table for a quarter year.

Other ways SOAR has received funding in other states (also worthy of additional consideration)

PATH funding
Using an AmeriCorps worker or College Intern
Acquiring funds for a peer support specialist
Collaborating with a hospital to recover uncompensated care costs
State funding (through the $ that DTA gets paid back from the feds once SSI kicks in)
Using Medicaid $ earmarked for homeless services

Next meeting (and party!): Tuesday, June 14, 1-2:30 pm, Center for Human Development

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 4/11/16

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
April 11, 2016

In attendance: Yoshi Bird, CHD, Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Wendy Coco, CCA, Hillary Cronin, VAMC, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Erin Forbush, ServiceNet (Berkshires), Sean Hemingway, CHD, Jamal Jacobs, Community Action, Cheryl LaChance, HAP, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet (Greenfield), Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freemen Center, Cris Merrill, CHD, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Janette Vigo, HAP, Lauren Voyer, HAP

Family Homelessness Data Review
Special thanks to Deputy Undersecretary Rose Evans who provided this summary data:

EA Caseload:

  • Hotels/Motels
    601 as of Friday April 8, 2016 – 56% reduction from same time last year, 62% reduction since January 2015; lower than when the system came over from DTA in 2009
  • State Contracted Beds:
    3279 as of Friday April 8, 2016
  • Statewide Caseload: 3880 as of Friday April 8, 2016 – 14% reduction since January 2015

Diversion: As of March 2016: 25% Diversion for the month of March2016

HomeBASE: All numbers are as of February 29, 2016

  • 1445 exits from shelter with HomeBASE (49%)
  • 521 exits from hotels/motels with HomeBASE (18%)
  • 980 families diverted with HomeBASE (33%)
  • Western MA specifically – 368 families have utilized HomeBASE; 253 exits from shelter; 47 exits from hotels/motels; 68 diversions

Lauren Voyer announced that only 29 families remain in motels in Hampden CountyFran Lemay announced that only 3 families in remain in motels in Franklin County

Congratulations on the tremendous work across the region, and thanks to DHCD’s support to make it possible. We agreed we will plan a little celebration to mark this progress.

Bassuk Center Report: Services Matter: How Housing and Services Can End Family Homelessness

 Thanks to Lauren Voyer’s initiative, HAPHousing hosted a forum that featured the Bassuk Center’s recently released report on family homelessness and specifically focused on the importance of combined housing and support services in making a lasting difference.

The report is available at

 The report emphasizes the critical importance of trauma-informed care in the provision of services. We discussed the Network’s recent sponsorship of a very successful training on Trauma Informed Care (by T3, Center for Social Innovation) and our desire to focus on this approach and embed it in an entire organization’s staff (the forum stressed the importance of a whole organizational embrace of this approach for it to be effective).

We discussed and shared the Bassuk Center’s tools such as the “TICometer” – an in-house tool to take stock of an organization’s use of trauma informed care. More detail is available at:

And we discussed the Center’s assessment tool check list – available at:

We agreed that at our next meeting we will look at that check list in relation to the HUD assessment tool that must be done when a family enters the front door. Lauren and Janette will prepare to facilitate the conversation.

The Bassuk Center is also asking organizations to sign on as supporters of this report. Everyone is encouraged to bring this back to their organizations and consider signing on. The sign-on link can be found on the bottom of the main page of the report.

We agreed to use our meetings to further the study of this shift to a trauma informed care approach and use the committee to support the effort.

Continue reading

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 3/9/16

Family Services Meeting
March 9, 2016

In attendance: Jesus Arce, City of Springfield, Jane Banks, CHD, Yoshi Bird, CHD, Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Hilary Cronin, VA, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Erin Forbush, ServiceNet, Jane Lindfors, DTA/DV unit, Luz Marcano, VA, Liza Rios, YWCA, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Tj Steele, Network Partners, Janette Vigo, HAPHousing, Lauren Voyer, HAPHousing

March 4 Progress Report Event Debrief:

Everyone agreed that the personal stories from people who experienced the journey from homelessness to housing defined the event and its powerful impact. We discussed the balance of even more stories within the whole of the program and the desire to have a youth speaker as well. Pamela explained that youth providers conducted outreach but that speaking in front of so many people was a difficult challenge for them. Lisa Goldsmith suggested the possibility of a video with more time to prepare and we all agreed that this was something to consider next year for integrating more stories in general.

Hampden County Family Point in Time Count 2016: Gerry provided a draft analysis of the Hampden County’s Family PIT 2016 which can be found here. Once the data is finalized, this report and all reports will be posted on the Network blog.

The group discussed the disproportionate number of homeless families in Springfield.  It was pointed out that this is largely because most of the families are in fact from Springfield and also because of the significant reduction of the use of motels in Holyoke and Chicopee.

Information was requested about the breakdown of shelter units among co-shelter, scattered site and congregate. Lauren Voyer said she could get that for our next meeting.

The group discussed the referral of any veteran families in shelter to veterans services and confirmed the current practice in shelters of assessing veteran status upon entry and referring as appropriate.

Lauren Voyer of HAP shared about DHCD’s monthly visits to assist with meeting the barriers of hard-to-house families (larger numbers or other issues) in helping them move from motels to congregate shelters (or housing). This targeted effort is showing success.

Yoshi Bird of CHD shared about its extremely successful diversion program (diverting 36% at the front door of shelter). They have adopted a “business model approach” where they devise a detailed budget for the family to demonstrate to prospective landlords what it will take for them to pay their full rent in a timely fashion and then negotiate with the landlord to adjust the rent accordingly. The budget includes a savings plan. They are finding tremendous success with this approach as it gives landlords the security they need and empowers the tenants. This model is being shared across the state.

Permanent Supportive Housing update:
CHD reported that of the 10 PSH units, 4 have been filled to date but they are currently working with families that would fill every remaining unit. There are 34 families on the chronically homeless list.

VOC was not able to attend but they have 8 PSH units as well and are participating in the coordinated entry list.

Berkshire Update:
Erin Forbush of ServiceNet provided an update on Berkshire families (6 beds at Our Friend’s House in Pittsfield; 12 additional beds through shelter expansion, 2 scattered site, the remainder co-shelter units). She is seeing an increasing number of families who are seeking shelter but found ineligible for EA. They only have 2 “community beds” so they are now holding a wait list for them.

Upcoming trainings:

There are a number of upcoming trainings regarding employment (our Network series), Rapid Rehousing, on the CORI law, NE Fair Housoing and Civil Rights Conference and the Network’s Trauma Informed Care and Critical Time Intervention trainings. Pamela will send a separate email that contains all the links to the current offerings.

HAPHousing has a new allocation of RAFT funds for Hampden and Hampshire County families available through the end of the year. Contact HAP for more information.

Next meeting dates:
Due to our employment training on April 12 and hosting John Rio from AHP that day, we agreed to reschedule our family services meeting to Monday, April 11, 1-2:30 pm at CHD.

Due to a conflict for Pamela for the usual May 10 morning time, we will meet on our regular date, Tuesday, May 10 in Northampton but at 1:00-2:30 pm (not our usual morning time).

Re: the upcoming DV/family homelessness meeting with Rose Evans and Robyn Kennedy on Wed., 3/16, 11 am at CHD: Jane Banks has generously offered to provide lunch. Needs a head count. Pamela will send out a reminder notice to all to RSVP.