Category Archives: Family Services Committee

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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Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 10/14/14

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
October 14, 2014

In attendance: Jane Banks, Center for Human Development, Ashley Brehm, HAPHousing, Melissa Brown, YWCA, Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Cris Carl, ServiceNet, Claudia Catalano, DPH, Susan Colwell, DCF, Pat Duffy, Rep. Vega’s office, Harry Duchesne, New England Farm Workers Council, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Rose Evans, DHCD, John Fister, HAPHousing, Julia Guazzo, CFCE, Eryka Haase, Tenancy Preservation Proejct, Flo Haves, EEC, Donna Harris, Franklin Hampshire Career Center, Steve Huntley, Valley Opportunity Council, Faith Lafayette, DPH – FOR Families, Lisa Lapierre, Secure Jobs (CPM), Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Jane Lindfors, DTA DV Unit, Ses Lopez, CareerPoint/SJC, Ashley Mann, New Lease, Melissa Mateus, Springfield Partners, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Janet Mock, Square One, Darlene Morse, CareerPoint/SJC, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Halie Nicolosi, Harvard Catalyst, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Tom Pilcik, New Lease, Dorothy Pink, Valley Opportunity Council/WIC, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners, Liza Rios, YWCA,  Hilda Santa, Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Robin Sherman, Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Sarah Slautterback, DESE, Rachel Trant, DCF, Holyoke State Representative Aaron Vega, Janette Vigo, HAPHousing, Lauren Voyer, HAPHousing, Abigail Williams, Harvard Catalyst, Phyllis White, Franklin Hampshire Career Center, Alicia Zoeller, Holyoke Community Development

Pamela welcomed special guests Representative Aaron Vegan, Rose Evans, DHCD Associate Director of Division of Housing Stabilization and Abigail Williams of Harvard Catalyst.

General update from Rose Evans, DHCD Associate Director of Division of Housing Stabilization:

Rose noted FY2014 highlights: 1,000 new households with MRVP subsidies; expansion of state investment in Secure Jobs statewide by $1.5 million; funding for 3,000 units of Permanent Supportive Housing through Housing Stabilization Trust Fund; increase of Household Assistance from $4K to $6K (continuing initiative into FY 2015). The Commonwealth reached a milestone of producing over 20,000 units since 2007.

Regarding shelter capacity: The Commonwealth expanded capacity in FY14, ending the year with an increase of over 700 beds. This effort continues into FY15 as the demand for shelter increases. Shelter capacity will increase by an additional 800 beds in FY15 with 200-300 in Western Mass.

The shelter system has not been “resized” since 2009. An increase in shelter beds is the most appropriate course in view of the continued demand and the desire to decrease reliance on motels and provide more comprehensive services to families.

The FY15 budget includes an increase in Household Assistance upon exiting shelter from $6K to $8K. This has enhanced families’ capacity to become rehoused.

Rose noted the New Lease program. Tom Pilchik, the director, shared that thus far it has moved 65 families out of shelter into apartments. Very exciting initiative.

Rose also noted that DHCD has started case management services at selected hotels (where there are high numbers of families or in remote locations).   DHCD also hired for a new staff position, Felisha Bennett, to oversee operations and to supervise 3 transitional specialists (Juanita Diaz In the Western Mass office).

Rose also noted the FY15 change in MRVP language so that MRVPs are now blind to EA eligibility. Families living in motels and shelter will not have a priority. DHCD is moving to a statewide wait list for MRVPs. This will take time to implement but the process is underway. Meanwhile, housing authorities have released frozen MRVPs and regional housing authorities have been issued new MRVP’s.

Rose provided a breakdown of the 450 families currently living in motels in Western Mass:
242 from Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin Counties
10 Greenfield
39 Holyoke
133 Springfield
22 Chicopee
Other 50% not from W. Mass. DHCD is working very hard to relocate families back to their communities of origin but they have faced the additional challenge of several “extended stay” hotels in Boston area discontinuing business with the Commonwealth. This has resulted in the loss of 233 shelter beds.

Gerry McCafferty posed the question of whether DHCD is considering use of a screening tool (similar to VI-SPDAT that is being implemented for homeless individuals) to prioritize housing resources?

Rose offered that DHCD can get to certain indicators through HUD assessments; can “drill down” based on certain critiera. She will look into that. Continue reading

Family Services Committee Minutes – 9/9/14

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
September 9, 2014

In attendance: Luz Alvarado, HAP, Jane Banks, Center for Human Development, Arelia Barrios, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Shannon Barry, Springfield Public Schools, Alvina Brevard, DHCD, Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Elizabeth Connor, TPP, Charity Day, FRHRA, Jenni Delmonte, TPP, Anthia Eliott, Safe Passage, Erin Forbush, ServiceNet, Brenda Douglas, Square One, Sean Hemingway, Center for Human Development, Steve Huntley, Valley Opportunity Council, Lisa Lapierre, CPM/Secure Jobs Connect, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Jane Lindfors, DTA/DV, Janet Mock, Square One, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners, Hilda Santa, Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity, Lourdes Sariol, DHCD, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Sarah Slautterback, DESE, Rachel Trant, DCF, Janette Vigo, HAP

DHCD update: Alvina Brevard, statewide field director, introduced Bonnie Caldwell (formerly of HAP) as new regional director of field operations for Western and Central Mass. Bonnie will provide her contact info to Pamela who will send it out to this list. We welcomed Bonnie to her new position. We are so glad she is there!

Alvina provided approximate numbers of homeless families statewide: Just over 5,000 families in the EA system, 3,000 in shelter; 2,200 in motels. In Western Mass., we have roughly 350 families living in hotels/motels. Alvina expressed her appreciation for all the providers’ tremendous work in the face of tremendous demand.

Alvina noted that approximately 32 families enter the shelter system per day statewide. Approximately 37 families seek EA each day at the Western Mass. office (in Boston, about 50).

DHCD responses: HomeBASE re-housing funds have increased, now offering $8,000 upon exiting shelter/motels ($6,000 at the front door). DHCD has contracted for substantial increase of congregate shelter beds to help move homeless families out of the hotels.

DHCD Undersecretary Gornstein has met with community leaders in Chicopee, Greenfield and West Springfield regarding their high numbers of homeless families in hotels. Some changes are underway, including the assignment of more intensive case management 7 days/week, 2 pm -11 pm.   Contracts are in process with current housing stabilization providers.

Jane Lindfors of DTA/DV unit expressed her desire to be part of the discussion regarding DV issues and how best to respond to DV situations in hotels.

Lourdes Sariol of DHCD noted that we need to look closely at building capacity among neighborhood agencies so necessary support such as job development and child care can be provided to help maintain families’ housing stability and prevent homelessness.

Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke public school homelessness liaison, expressed the need for more support at the Holyoke hotels. They are in need of greater case management support.

Charity Day of Franklin Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority shared that there are now 84 homeless families living in 2 hotels in Greenfield. ServiceNet (via Fran Lemay) will be providing some intensive case management support.

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Family Services Meeting Minutes – 5/13/14

Family Services Committee
May 13, 2014

 In attendance: Shannon Barry, Springfield Public Schools, Melissa Brown, YWCA of Western Mass., Cris Carl, Family Inn, Greenfield, Charity Day, Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Ken Demers, New England Farm Workers Council, Brenda Douglas, Square One, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Faith Lafayette, FOR Families, Janet Mock, Square One, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Shannon Mumblo, Christina’s House, Maria Perez, New North Community Council, Shannon Porter, HAPHousing, Hilda Santa, Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action,

Report out on HAPHousing “summit” on family homelessness (Ken Demers and Shannon Porter): As part of its strategic planning process, HAP convened a meeting of shelter providers, advocates, researchers, state agency representatives, and the Network, to discuss strategies and direction around family homelessness. Discussion focused significantly on trauma-based care, and the impact of this approach and staff relationships (and staff care) on achieving stabilization.   The role of collaboration among partners and sharing resources were also featured prominently. There was general agreement that shelter is shifting more towards a transitional housing model so that support services are built into the system. These supports are key to moving out of shelter into permanent housing.

Christina’s House, new transitional housing for homeless women and children: Shannon Mumblo, director of Christina’s House, attended her first family services meeting to share information about a newly created transitional housing resource in Springfield. The home, just recently renovated and preparing to officially open in the next month, will provide housing to homeless or at-risk women with children. It is a faith-based non-profit organization that has raised its funding entirely through private fundraising. The home will offer multiple services, including access to child care, employment and training, mental health treatment and personal mentors. The typical stay will be 2 years, although flexible to go longer if appropriate. It is not referral based but encourages interested women to contact the organization directly. Eligibility criteria includes: (1) must have custody of the children (DCF involvement does not disqualify), legal US resident; not in a current domestic violence relationship; not currently using drugs or alcohol; faith-oriented and willing to participate in religious study (it is a Christian organization but all faiths are welcome); 30% of person’s income is the program fee. For more information, contact Shannon Mumblo at info@christinashouse.org or 413-297-5552.

State FY 15 Budget Update:

Senate Ways and Means about to release its budget. Will provide updates to committee as soon as available.

Discussed the House budget cut to HCEC (Housing Consumer Education) of $900,000, which will dramatically impact the regional housing authorities’ capacity to administer the RAFT program (since it relies on HCEC funding to do so).  Hopeful that the Senate budget will restore the program to level funding.

Discussed policy issue of expanding EA eligibility to families at imminent risk of homelessness. The amendment being sought by MLRI and Mass. Coalition for the Homeless (which the Network supports) did not make it into the House Budget. Waiting to hear on Senate. Meanwhile, Rose Evans, director of Housing Stabilization for DHCD, called Pamela to ask if the committee would like to have a conference call on the issue of EA presumptive eligibility (one of the means for ensuring no family is placed in an unsafe situation). All agreed we would like to move forward on this; Pamela will follow-up with Rose and let the committee know of the call date and time. Continue reading