Category Archives: Family Services Committee

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 10/25/16

Family Services Committee
October 25, 2016

In attendance: Jane Banks, CHD, Elyse Bianchet, ARISE for Social Justice, Yoshi Bird, CHD, Toni Bator, HAPHousing, Michelle Booth, Springfield Housing Authority, Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Hilary Cronin, VAMC, Juan Cruz, NEFWC, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet (Greenfield Family Inn), Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman House, Gerry McCafferty, Hampden County CoC, Gemini Murray, NEFWC, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Aisha Pizarro, CHD, Kristin Peterson, YWCA of Western MA, Ismael Santos, ARISE for Social Justice, Pamela Schwartz, Network, TJ Steele, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Janna Tetrault, Community Action, Lynne Marie Wanamaker, Safe Passage, Jen Wands, Springfield Public Schools

Family Services Meeting Schedule: We discussed that DHCD releases its monthly data on the last Wed. of the month (i.e., the day after our currently scheduled monthly meeting, the 4th Tuesday of the month).  This timing results in the group missing one of the key goals of our meeting time: to evaluate the data that reflects our progress in ending family homelessness and to have the most timely information to inform our discussion and strategies moving forward.

We revisited moving the meeting date to AFTER the release of that month’s data and discovered that the original reason for moving the meeting off of the second Tuesday of the month no longer exists so the group’s consensus, subject to the opportunity for email feedback, was to return to the second Tuesday of the month.

Data Update: We noted the follow-up questions from last month’s data re: the basis for the placement/application rate (i.e., basis for denials) and the returns to homelessness. We had no additional information at that time. However, Pamela spoke with Deputy Undersecretary Rose Evans following this meeting and learned that DHCD does not publicly release data on reasons for denial and released information re: returns to homelessness on a periodic basis depending on the time period they are looking to analyze. It is unclear when that information will next be available.

Family Services Work Plan Update: Currently, the draft is for Hampden County but we agreed we could make it a regional plan. Gerry clarified that the strategy pertaining to better coordinating prevention with permanent supportive housing and shelter refers to the “no wrong door” goal, i.e., for those who do not access services through the DHCD front door, ensuring that all other relevant resources are known and available at other points of entry. We agreed that the family services work plan is less about numbers per se (for veterans and chronically homeless individuals, the strategy of by-name lists and very specific numbers applies) and more about system planning.   We agreed we would focus more time on the work plan development, potentially in a separate sub-committee meeting.

Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project and brainstorm: Gerry McCafferty announced that Hampden County was applying for HUD’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project. This decision was processed in the Network’s Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Committee. The 3 County CoC was clear that it was not in a position to apply; the Committee as a whole is supportive of this application. It is extremely competitive – 10 awards across the country – and Boston (and Worcester?) are applying as well. It targets youth, 18-24 years old, including unaccompanied minors and parenting youth. The CoC applies to be a pilot community and if chosen it has 6 months to engage in more specific planning with HUD’s technical assistance. Following the 6 month period, it can receive anywhere from $1 million to $15 million for a 2 year period and then can be part of the annual renewal process. This would be an extraordinary opportunity to build on our youth services in the region.

Gerry invited a brainstorm of the barriers facing young parents in our system. Barriers included: lack of rental history; CORI, DCF involvement, lack of financial skills (e.g., bill paying).

It was agreed that there needs to be planning for young people’s refusal of services and repeated crises before becoming stabilized; different stages of gaining independence and stability; recognition of the role of inter-generational poverty and the resulting need for wrap-around services.

Housing Search Mini-Training: Thanks to Toni Bator for providing an informative training around housing search strategies. Here is the Housing Search Guide (in English) and in Spanish  and the powerpoint that were distributed. Toni also offered HAP’s Resource Room as a regular resource for housing search.

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Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 9/27/16

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
September 27, 2016

In attendance: Jane Banks, CHD, Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Hillary Cronin, VAMC, Juan Cruz, NEFWC, Dawn DiStefano, Square One, Jill Fijal, Chicopee Public Schools, Jamal Jacobs, Community Action, Faith Lafayette, DPH, Jane Lindfors, DTA DV unit, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman House, Gemini Murray, NEFWC, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Kristin Peterson, YWCA, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Jenni Pothier, Tenancy Preservation Program, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Tanya Sparks, WomanShelter, Janna Tetreault, Community Action, Luz Vega, WomanShelter, Janette Vigo, HAP, Lauren Voyer, HAP, Amanda Watson, Franklin County Regional Housing Authority, Mandy Winalski, Community Legal Aid, MaryAnne Woodbury, ServiceNet,

Data Update

Pamela reported that the most up-to-date DHCD data will be made available on tomorrow’s statewide DHCD conference call and she will relay it to the committee after the call. We exchanged information more informally and confirmed that there are no families living in motels in Western MA right now (and statewide the number is down to 272). While this is great news, the reality continues that families are entering the system at the same rate (anecdotally reported) and the demand for affordable, decent housing remains extremely high and finding housing placements, especially for larger families with multiple challenges, continues to be very challenging.

Right now there are roughly 450 families in emergency shelter beds in Western MA and that does not include families in DV shelters or refugees (more refugees slated to arrive in Western MA in the coming months).

Donna Nadeau pointed out that the Western MA housing placement rate is among the highest in the state. Our providers are doing a fantastic job under these difficult circumstances.

Work Plan Review (Hampden County): 

Gerry produced a draft work plan for Hampden County (click here). This can also serve as a springboard for 3 County and the region as a whole. The group reviewed the work plan and agreed we would discuss in more depth at our next meeting. Questions and comments included:

  • Under 2nd strategy around coordinated entry – conduct strategy session to identify ways to better coordinate with DV services – Jane Banks provided an update on its meeting (along with Safe Passage) with Full Frame Initiative and Homes for Families to continue the dialogue on improving the response system for families experiencing domestic violence. We will stay tuned on next steps.
  • Clarification needed for action step under second strategy around coordinated entry: “conduct strategy session(s) to identify ways to better coordinate prevention and PSH with shelter” – would like to better understand what the concept is around coordination
  • There was agreement that increasing affordable housing is a linchpin to success in ending homelessness but the question is if/where the Network Committee work intersects with this goal (i.e., other entities working on this, e.g., the regional housing network and other housing development groups; also HAP’s development projects but Lauren pointed out that the process is slow – one building a year if lucky – and complex). The group agreed that the needs are different in each region, for example, here in Western MA we have more abandoned buildings that could be rehabbed (NEFWC is doing this right now with a building in Springfield); in Boston there is a far greater gap in available housing. Lauren suggested a review of HCEC’s booklet on housing search.

We agreed at our next meeting to allocate some time on our agenda to hear from HAP (Toni, Lauren) around Housing Search strategies as well as an update on RAFT’s expansion of eligibility to include individuals.   Lauren will bring findings from HAP’s survey to landlords around their barriers/incentives for renting to families who are receiving HomeBASE.

Three County CoC Update:

Janna Tetrault of Community Action updated the group that Consortium funding has been spent (all on prevention; not enough funding to hire a coordinator); youth funding is being administered through DIAL/SELF and funding still remains (contact DIAL/SELF if you are working with a parenting youth at risk of homelessness).

Updates

Faith Lafayette of FOR families noted that with the end of motel use in the region, their staff is transitioning into shelter work (4 staff in Western MA) with HAP and NEFWC shelters. Getting referrals for families who have substance use or mental health issues or otherwise difficulty functioning.

Jill Fijal of Chicopee Public Schools provided an update on McKinney-Vento: the legislation was reauthorized and included some important changes: as of Oct. 1, any student has the right to stay in their feeder school in their home district if in shelter when ending one phase of schooling, e.g, from elementary to middle school. Also as of 12/11, children in foster care are no longer covered by McKinney-Vento, which means they are not provided transportation under M-V legislation. It remains to be seen how the transportation costs will be covered (presumably some split between DCF and school disricts but unresolved). A time of great uncertainty (and anxiety) around this change.

Next meeting: Tuesday, October 25, 1-2:30 pm, CHD, 51 Capital Drive, West Springfield

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: http://westernmasshousingfirst.org/2016/06/alert-conference-committee-action-on-network-priorities/

 

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

 

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: cmdeucher@gmail.com.

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