Category Archives: Family Services Committee


Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 5/14/19

In attendance:  Isatu Barrie, NEFWC, Asia Bradford, YWCA, Theresa Cooper-Gordon, NEFWC, Evelyn Garrafo, NEFWC, Radame Jusino, NEFWC, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Jane Lindfors, DTA DV Unit, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Lizzy Ortiz, Mercy Medical, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Sabrina Swinton, NEFWC, Janna Tetreault, Community Action,  Norayma Vazquez, Janette Vigo, Way Finders, Erica Zayas, VOC

State Budget Update: Senate Budget Advocacy WeekPamela reported out on the Senate Ways and Means Committee budget which was released last week.  There are several significant advances, including increased funding for unaccompanied homeless youth, Secure Jobs and Alternative Housing Voucher Program. There is also more work to do through the budget amendment process, to increase funding for RAFT, HCECs and more.  Please see this Network blog post that summarizes the Network’s priority amendments and how to request Senate co-sponsorships.  Your agency or personal contact of your senator this week will make a big difference. 

Training debriefsWe checked in on the recent child care voucher/Head Start training that was held at HCC a April 30.  People who attended felt it was well-done and worthwhile.  It was noted that the lack of Head Start or any equivalent over the summer months is a huge challenge for families. 

We also checked in on the racial equity training – we completed the second in a three part series on April 25.  The consensus is that the trainer, Marc Dones, is excellent and the content is extremely important.  We also agreed that this kind of work never stops; and that there is interest in continuing it after the last session on June 6.  We agreed that the next step must include organizational buy-in from the highest level.  And it was also suggested we needed to bring this work to the young adult population as well. 

Training possibilities for next yearWe had a preliminary brainstorm on trainings for next year, including:

  • Immigration training (how to best assist undocumented people experiencing homelessness and other issues related to immigration status
  • Coordinated Entry – what is it, how does it work (coordinate with CoCs)
  • Racial equity (continuing the work)
  • EA training (repeat)
  • Tenant screening barriers (repeat)

Pamela will compile a list of all trainings offered this year and provide a brief analysis as a foundation for a more deliberate discussion at our next meeting. 

Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project (YHDP): Both the Springfield-Hampden and Three County CoCs are preparing to submit their HUD funded YHDP applications (due May 15) that would provide a significant influx of resources if awarded.  The Three County CoC is applying as a rural region for Franklin County only.  This is their first application.  For Springfield-Hampden, it is their 3rd application and much progress and learning has occurred through the process. This effort is very relevant to our family work because a large number of homeless youth ages 18-24 are pregnant/parenting and in the family shelter system. 

Additionally, there are a number of unaccompanied homeless youth who have left their family while the family is in the shelter system, and finally, with this additional support, we may want to flag homeless families in shelter with older teenagers to help identify the supports they need or help connect them to young adult services outside the family. Awards will be announced in August. 

Three County CoC Update:
Community Action has hired its CoC Program Coordinator, Keleigh (pronounced “Kelly”) Pereira.  She started a week ago and will be connecting to our meetings in the near future. 

Family cap repealed!  We had a moment of celebration around this very significant policy change that ended the penalty for having additional children while on TAFDC.  DTA is now working extremely hard to adjust cash assistance levels based on a complete count of children in the family.  Thanks to everyone involved in the hard work to make this change happen.

Network Housing/Homelessness Resource Fair: June 10.  We have 60 providers from across every sector and every county signed up to share information and roughly 130 people planning to attend.  Approximately 15 Western MA state legislators will be present from 9:30-10:00 am to be publicly thanked.  Stay tuned for more logistical information.

Next meeting date: Tuesday, June 11, 11 am – 12:30 pm, Frost Building, Room 309

Accessing Child Care Vouchers/Head Start: Read On!

On Tuesday, April 30, the Network sponsored a training for over 60 famly shelter and other case managers at Holyoke Community College to learn about recent policy changes impacting (and improving) families’ access to MA child care vouchers. Special thanks to Sara Garvin of New England Farm Workers Council and Dawn DiStefano of Square One for their expertise. You can see the Powerpoint presentation that details the state child care system; the “Quick sheet” for initial intake questions and contact names and numbers; and the actual Wait List Initial Intake Form.

We also heard from Head Start leaders Nicole Blais and June Lynds about how to best access Head Start. Their contact information is here:

Holyoke/Chicopee Head Start Contacts
Maggie Sexton, Enrollment Coordinator,
Audra Dias, Enrollment Supervisor
Head Start Locator/Resources website: 

Head Start Community Action Pioneer Valley
For enrolling at CAPV Head Start & Early Learning Programs in Western Hampden (including West Springfield, Agawam and Westfield), Hampshire and Franklin Counties: 413-387-1250 or (Families can apply online or programs can download our referral form under the Head Start heading.

And finally, we heard from Rebecca Burgos and Christine Zaskey-Cullen of Coordinated Family Care and Engagement (CFCE) programs, detailing the support available in each community through this programs. You can find the CFCE contact person in your community by going here.

3 County Individual Services Meeting Minutes – 4/8/19

In attendance: Yoshi Bird, YWCA, Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Sara Cunningham, Community Action, Eleanor Dodson, ServiceNet, Erin Forbush, ServiceNet, Lisa Goldsmith, Community Action, Jade Lovett, Craig’s Doors, Elizabeth Mansfield, Tapestry,  Danielle McColgan, CHD, Katie Miernecki, ServiceNet, Theresa Nicholson, CHD, Aidan Novo, Craig’s Doors, Aisha Pizarro, YWCA, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Kate Shapiro, DMH, Michael Trembley, ServiceNet

SSI/SSDI Training: Big thanks to Caitlyn Thomas, a Social Security disability advocate, for volunteering her incredible time and energy to organizing and leading a training of roughly 75 Network partners this morning at Holyoke Public Library on SS/SSDI.  The feedback was excellent across the board and the only “complaint” was wanting more!  Pamela will discuss with Caitlyn any possibility for supplemental training and/or distribution of the presentation.

Built for Zero Update: Pamela updated the group on her attendance at the Built For Zero Learning Session in Atlanta, GA in late March as part of the Hampden County CoC team. This is a very exciting initiative – over 70 CoCs and communities represented with 500 people from across the country – working as part of a national initiative (led by the national organization Community Solutions) in collaboration with HUD, VA and the US Interagency on Homelessness. Its first focus is to end veteran homelessness (several communities have celebrated this milestone; Hampden County has set June 30 for its goal!).  “Ending” means reaching “functional zero” where the number of people experiencing homelessness each month is less than the average number of people who are rehoused (i.e., the “outflow” is larger than the “inflow”). After achieving veteran homelessness, the initiative will focus its efforts on ending chronic homelessness and then all forms of homelessness (youth and family).

Built for Zero considers itself a movement for social change, anchored in fundamental grassroots organizing principles (there is no such thing as doing “for” only “with”), entirely data-driven and using that data to make highly measurable progress.  It is positively inspiring to be a part of it!
Pamela shared this information with the new 3 County CoC lead – Community Action – and they are participating in a webinar on 4/9 about how new communities can join.  We will all stay tuned.  The next national convening will be in October and meanwhile the work in Hampden County continues with the countdown to ending veteran homelessness by June 30.  

Discussion of 3 county assessment tool:  The group began to revisit the question of the 3 County CoC’s assessment tool for its coordinated entry system. All Built for Zero communities use the VI-SPDAT, which was previously rejected by the 3 County CoC in favor of the AZ Matrix Tool. Pamela suggested the group take another look since the VI-SPDAT allows for a common language, more training resources and comparison with the other CoC’s across the nation (as well as the Hampden County CoC).  It was agreed that this was an appropriate issue for the Coordinated Entry work group to take up.  Pamela will just give a heads-up on the question (and what she took away from the Built for Zero session) at the CoC Board meeting on Wed. 

Update on PSH transition: Theresa Nicholson of CHD gave a report on its acquisition of ServiceNet’s PSH contract and her search for new units.  She has a promising lead on a complex in Millers Falls, although we discussed access to public transportation as a possible barrier. She will examine other transpo options. At this point, CHD will be taking over ServiceNet’s 26 units for PSH (and will add 28-30 more).  If CHD can enter into a sub-contract with ServiceNet (for its remaining dollars), some of these units could come on line in May; otherwise it will be in July when CHD takes over the full contract.

Shelter Plus Care conversations: We reported out on the initial meeting with DMH and ACCS (ServiceNet) regarding implementation of system changes to ease the eligibility and housing process.  The group will meet again in May and will keep this group updated.

MA Youth Count: April 12 – May 12 – go here for surveys and related information – please spread the word and participate!

Shelter Update:  Shelters are full as usual. We agreed to reframe this topic on the monthly agenda to address questions/issues ripe for discussion – Pamela will check in with Erin, Katie and Jade prior to meeting to see if there is something they want to discuss.

FY20 State Budget Update: Pamela, in combination with various Network partners, has been leading meetings with Western MA state legislators regarding the Network’s FY20 budget priorities.  On April 8, Network partners got an audience with Senate President Spilka who joined a planned meeting with Senator Anne Gobi (from Ware and Palmer), a fabulous opportunity to bring Western MA needs to the highest levels of state government!

Register for the Resource Fair!Monday, June 10, 9 am – 12 noon, Holyoke Community College. 

 To register to attend: go here

To register to request table space to share resources: go here (note: if you’re having a table but have additional staff attending, please register on the general attendance link as well).

Next meeting date: Monday, May 13, 1 pm, ServiceNet, 296 Nonotuck St, Northampton

Family Services Committee Minutes – 3/12/19

In attendance: Nicole Blais, Head Start – HCS (Holyoke, Chicopee, Springfield), Marianne Bouthilette Community Action Head Start, Rebecca Burgos, West Springfield Public Schools, Christine Cullen, Holyoke Chicopee Family and Community Program (CFCE), Sara Cummings, Community Action, Dawn DiStefano, Square One, Rosemary Fiedler, HCC, Jennifer Gonzalez-Morales, Holyoke Public Schools, Brenda Garcia, BHN Holyoke FIT, Ryan Howard, HCS Head Start, Jane Lindfors, DTA-DV unit, June Lynds, Community Action Head Start, Luz Marcano, VA, Yeisie Mateo, DCF, Emily Magnifico, Hilltown Community Health Center, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Jocelyn Martinez, WomanShelter, Theresa Nicholson, CHD, Marilyn Nunez, VOC, Colleen O’Brien, BHN Early Intervention, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners, Pamela Schwartz, Network,  Janna Tetrault, Community Action, Janette Vigo, Way Finders, Erica Zayas, VOC

Sign up for the 3rd Annual Housing and Homelessness Resource Fair for Providers on Monday, June 10, 9 am – 12:30 pm, Holyoke Community College. To register to attend: go here. To register to request table space to share resources: go here. 
Note: Western MA Legislators will be invited to attend from 9:30 to 10 am for welcoming comments.

Point in Time Count Update: Please click here for a summary of the Hampden County 2019 PIT data and here for additional breakdown on family data.   The Three County CoC data is in process (delayed due to transition between CoC leads, from Hilltown CDC to Community Action).

Racial Equity in Ending Homelessness training: Pamela reported out on the first of a 3 part training that took place on March 7.  About 100 Network partners participated.  The trainer, Marc Dones, was extremely well-received and the feedback has been excellent.  The presentation can be found by going to this link.

There are 2 other sessions in April and June and Pamela reported the Network’s commitment to continue this work for the duration of the Network. The next 2 sessions will address more concrete actions we can take.  Pamela will continue to report back. 

Head Start and child care discussion:Thanks to our Head Start partners in the region for attending to let us know about their programs and their prioritization process for children experiencing homelessness.  The national group Schoolhouse Connections has launched a campaign to engage with Head Start programs around enrolling more children and families experiencing homelessness.
We learned the following: 

  • homelessness receives a priority for all Head Start programs
  • Holyoke/Chicopee/Springfield Head Start (covers 15 communities) tries to reserve 3% for homeless families; Community Action Head Start (covers from Ware to Turners Falls to West Springfield to Northampton and Amherst) has a point system to determine priority status and just changed their policies to provide more points when homeless
  • infant/todder programs are likely to have longer wait lists.  Otherwise, frequently openings on a rolling basis
  • They address transportation challenges and will do home visits at shelters
  • They will get data on # of children experiencing homelessness in their program for next meeting
  • Square One is not a Head Start program – only offers state vouchers, but the programs work closely together. They are always full but they refer to each other.
  • Recent policy changes – as of March 1 –  in state child care voucher are significant! (1) for “homelessness vouchers” DHCD referral for voucher is no longer required. DHCD and DCF – DV –  funded shelters can refer directly – this is a huge advance in streamlining paperwork; and (2) for “income eligible” vouchers homelessness itself is now considered a “service need” for purposes of establishing eligibility  (where previously a family had to demonstrate 30 hours of other activity)

The group agreed it would be useful to hold a training for front line staff on these state regulatory changes and Head Start.  Pamela will follow-up in the coming weeks.

Coordinated Family and Community Engagement Grants (CFCE): We also discussed this state-funded program that exists in every city and town in the Commonwealth.  The grant is held by different entities, most commonly in schools, sometimes in Head Start programs. The goal is to strength all families and child development for children from birth to age 8.  The group agreed that family shelters could benefit from support in better connecting to this resource. 
Pamela will follow-up with regional CFCE coordinator to pursue a meeting opportunity. 

Other announcements: Network FY20 Budget and Legislative Priorities: Please click here for the Network’s budget priorities and here for the Network’s legislative priorities that will be discussed with legislators and Network partners over the coming weeks.  Please contact Pamela if you are interested in participating or have any questions. 

Supplemental Security Income training – Monday, April 8, 9 am -12:30 pm, Holyoke Public Library, 250 Chestnut Street, Holyoke. Pamela reminded all of this upcoming training about how to access SSI to help end homelessness and how the benefit relates to eligibility for other resources.  Caitlin Thomas, an SSI disability expert, is leading the training, along with other partners.  Please email Caitlin directly at to RSVP. 

Opioid Prevention and Treatment training: Wed., April 10, 9 am – 3 pm, Sheraton Springfield Hotel, Springfield, sponsored by the statewide Health Resources in Action. Promising policies and practices will be shared around the topic of opioid overdoes prevention, responses and postvention. Register  here

Next meeting date: Tuesday, April 9, 11-12:30, Frost Building, Room 309, Holyoke Community College

Family RFI Response Submitted!

The Western MA Network to End Homelessness is pleased to report its submission to DHCD’s Family Homelessness System Request for Information (RFI). Please see the Network response here.

By way of context, copied below is the Network’s “background information” for this response:
The Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness is the collaborative vehicle for preventing and ending homelessness in the four counties of Western Massachusetts with a Housing First approach. This RFI response is an outgrowth of a series of meetings through the Network’s Family Services Committee, a committee comprised of over 100 members, including a broad cross-section of all housing and shelter providers, and partners in health care, substance addiction and mental health, domestic violence, child care, education, and workforce development, as well as state agency representatives from DHCD, DPH, DCF and DMH. This Committee selected a targeted number of questions that it felt would best reflect the region’s proposed vision to ending family homelessness. The Network’s Family Services Committee seeks DHCD’s adoption of its recommendations, and looks forward to continuing the work in partnership with each other and DHCD to prevent and end homelessness in Western Massachusetts and the Commonwealth as a whole.

Congratulations to all for the excellent work and the amazing partnership!

Family Services Meeting Minutes – 1/8/18

Note: Please note the next meeting to discuss the coordinated response to the RFI for the Family Homelessness System will take place on Thursday, Jan. 17, 9 am -11 am, Kittredge Center, Room 303, Holyoke Community College.

Summary Minutes of 1/8/18 Family Services Committee Meeting

In attendance:  Shelly Benoit, BHN, Yoshi Bird, YWCA, Ashley Brehm, Way Finders, Tracy Caisse, BHN, Joel Cox, NEFWC, Hillary Cronin, VA, Dawn DiStefano, Square One, Anthia Elliott, BHN, Gus Erskine, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Fran Lemary, ServiceNet, Jane Lindfors, DTA DV unit, Andrea Marion, VOC, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield/CoC, Michelle Michaelian, BHN, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Theresa Nicholson, CHD, Yajaira Ramos, BHN, Jolanta Rumierz, DCF, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Janna Teatrault, Community Action,  Janette Vigo, Way Finders, Melissa White, VOC, Erica Zayas, VOC

Review of DHCD’s RFI for the Family Homelessness System (To access the RFI, go to:, go to “contract and bid search” link at bottom page and insert BID SOLICITATION NUMBER: BD-19-1076-OCDDE-OCD01-34305)

The group reviewed each question of the RFI and agreed on the questions that were potentially appropriate for a coordinated response. 
We identified some of the major areas we know we want to flesh out:

  • mental health services – greater integration and coordination (see Project FIT as a model)
  • domestic violence services – greater integration and coordination
  • substance use treatment – greater integration and coordination
  • permanent supportive housing – more of it for families with chronic barriers
  • earlier assessment of families with complex barriers while accounting for the fact that it can take time before the full needs are known (tricky!)
  • creating a shelter system that acknowledges every family has unique needs
  • sufficient stabilization resources to provide the support necessary for long-term stability
  • undocumented immigrant families: a response system that addresses their particular challenges to obtain housing, employment, etc.
  • better coordination between EOHHS programs and DHCD
  • better coordination with DCF
  • more units that accommodate families with physical disabilities
  • “right sizing” each community’s shelter system so families do not need to move out their community of origin
  • make better use of housing authority resources

The group discussed how to continue the planning process.  One suggestion was to “start fresh” in our discussion with an outcome-oriented approach: how should our system function to maximize stable housing for families at risk of or experiencing homelessness; how do we re-house families quickly and stably? We discussed retaining a professional facilitator to lead us in this exercise but then acknowledged the limited time and complexity of each agency also sorting out their responses.  Pamela agreed to continue talking one-on-one with committee members to think through the best format for our next meeting. 

Next meeting date: Thurs., Jan. 17, 9 am – 11 am, Kittredge Center, Room 303, Holyoke Community College

We agreed upon the date of Thurs., Jan. 17, 9-11 am to meet next.  Location is Kittredge, Room 303, HCC.

DHCD’s RFI Released: EA Family Homelessness Shelter System

DHCD has released its EA Family Homelessness Shelter System RFI.  Responses are due Feb. 15.  Please see below on how to access the bid.

The Family Services Committee is meeting Tuesday, Jan. 8, 11 am – 12:30 pm, at Kittredge Center, Room 303, Holyoke Community College,to begin discussions on our regional response.  All are welcome.

Please be advised that the Department of Housing and Community Development has posted a new Bid Solicitation:

BID SOLICITATION DESCRIPTION: DHCD2019-16 RFI Emergency Assistance Family Homeless Shelter System 
ENTERED DATE: 01/04/2019 05:00:00 PM

Please refer to Bid Solicitation documents for further instructions.

Purchaser Information:
Rocco Albano

All Bidders must respond within the requirements of this solicitation and its applicable procurement laws, policies and practices. All Bidders are responsible for ensuring that their responses are based on the most current version of the bid record.

Technical questions about system functionality or your account? Contact the COMMBUYS Helpdesk at

Thank you for using COMMBUYS!



If you DO NOT have a COMMBUYS Login ID and Password:

1. Go to
2. Select the “Contract & Bid Search” link and on the next page Select “Bids”
3. Enter the Bid # listed above in the Bid# field and select the “Find It” button
4. In the Results section, select the Bid# hyperlink to open and view the bid record

If you DO have a COMMBUYS Login ID and Password:

1. Go to
2. Enter your login credentials into the Login ID & Password and select Login
3. Select the Settings icon from the top right of the page, and then Advanced Search
4. In the Document Type drop down box select “Bids”, the page will refresh and offer the Advanced Search fields
5. Enter the Bid # listed above in the Bid# field and select the “Find It” button
6. In the Results section, select the Bid# hyperlink to open and view the bid record

************************************************** External bid URL :

Use this link to log on to COMMBUYS:

Family Services Meeting Minutes – 12/11/18

In attendance: Ashley Brehm, Way Finders, Ellen Broadhurst, West Springfield Schools, Joel Cox, NEFWC, Hillary Cronin, VA, Anthia Elliott, BHN, Waleska Estrada, NEFWC, Rosemary Fiedler, HCC, Lisa Goldsmith, DIAL/SELF, Libby Hayes, Homes for Families, Steve Huntley, VOC, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Jane Lindfors, DTA/DV, Andrea Marion, VOC, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Rebecca Muller, Gandara, Theresa Nicholson, CHD, Lizzy Ortiz, Mercy Medical, Aisha Pizarro, YWCA, Jenni Pothier, TPP, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Janna Tetrault, Community Action, Janette Vigo, Way Finders, Lauren Voyer, Way Finders, Melissa White, VOC, Erica Zayas, VOC

Discussion of Shelter Re-Procurement with guest Libby Hayes, Executive Director, Homes for Families

Libby summarized the main discussion points thus far based on DHCD’s listening sessions and ongoing discussions with providers statewide (click here for summary of procurement discussions and here for a summary of the Listening Sessions).

Feedback included:

  • When considering extending HomeBASE, look at criteria forextension
  • Better integrate domestic violence services to families 
  • Provide more clinical treatment for mental health and substanceuse issues
  • Address staff professional development needs and recruitmentchallenges
  • Increase systematic and coordinated stabilization to bestconnect to other supports, e.g., WIC and Head Start
  • Integrate workforce development
  • Align DHCD and DTA income and asset guidelines eligibility is consistent

Break-out groups to address stabilization question in more depth(seeRFI Discussion Q here.  Feedback included:

  • Critical Time Intervention needs more than 3-6 months to be effective
  • Intensive case management should be available as needed but a “transition worker” could be seen as intrusive to families (make available only when families are receptive)
  • Extending HomeBASE should not be based on criteria because of complexity of assessment and determinations (and potentially uneven application)
  • Should we be talking about extending HomeBASE or taking the dollars such an extension would require and allocate them to increased MRVP vouchers to actually create more permanent housing
  • Extending HomeBASE would be make landlords more amenable to accepting the resource
  • We need DATA on OUTCOMES on HomeBASE and stabilization to better determine the program’s effectiveness – right now DHCD’s EA and HB data systems are separate and do not talk to each other – efforts are being made to fix that but this is a huge gap in quantitative evaluation (beyond case notes)
  • Accountability is an important element in any program design
  • Stabilization services are coordinated in many instances; we just need to do a better job of capturing that coordination
  • Caseloads are too high and by definition preclude meaningful stabilization – must reduce!
  • Permanent supportive housing is a model that works – it’s happening in Hampden County for families and needs to be expanded – let’s make sure to feature our successes in our responses to DHCD

Next steps:

  • We will establish a flow of communication with Homes for Families and within the Network so that ideally providers statewide are responding to the RFI with coordinated goals and strategies.
  • The Request for Information (RFI) is due out by the end of this week.  We will exchange on it by email and meet again to discuss at our next regularly scheduled meeting on Jan. 8.

Announcement: Per our previous meeting discussion, the committee is hosting a training by Community Legal Aid to learn more about the resources and representation available for families facing legal challenges.  The training will take place on Wed., Jan. 23, 2:30-4:00 pm, Holyoke Public Library Community Room, 250 Chestnut Street, Holyoke

Next regularly scheduled meeting date:
Tuesday, Jan. 8
11:00 am – 12:30 pm
Kittredge Center, Room 303
Holyoke Community College