Category Archives: Family Services Committee

Family Services Meeting Minutes – 12/12/17

Family Services Meeting Minutes

In attendance: Christina Aliengena, NEFWC, Shelly Benoit, BHN, Yoshi Bird, YWCA, Cynthia Capella, VA, Christie Cullen, CFCE, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Holly Florek, CHD, Tavar Jones, CCO, Jane Lindfors, DTA/DV unit, Luz Marcano, VA, Luis Martinez, CHD, Michelle Michaelian, BHN, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Aisha Pizarro, YWCA, Johnie Sanders, ARISE, Pamela Schwartz, Network, TJ Steele, Springfield Partners, Janna Tetreault, Community Action, Janette Vigo, Way Finders

Data discussion:
DHCD has welcomed our request to receive monthly data reports on family homelessness  to support our own review and discussion at our meetings.  In addition to the data already provided via the monthly DHCD reports re: # of families entering shelter, the group is interested in the following:

·      How many people request assistance?

·      # of families who have identified DV as reason for homelessness

·      # of families who have identified DV as part of their experience in the last 6 months (a question on the intake form),  to capture underlying reason for homelessness even if  DV is not most recent cause

·      # of families denied due to eligibility for FEMA benefits

·      # of families in Springfield shelters are from out of area

The group also expressed interest in obtaining data from other systems:

·      DPH: how many families turned away from DV shelters due to lack of capacity?

·      ARISE: how many families provided assistance due to denial of EA eligibility

Three County CoC Update:
Janna Tetreault reported that the CoC will be launching its coordinated entry system in January.  Soldier On will have an 800 number to provide referrals across the 3 counties; all providers will be using the same assessment tool to prioritize housing placements and there will be weekly case conferencing meetings to utilize the priority list to match families/individuals with available units.

A question was raised around integrating DV shelters into the coordinated entry process.  While this has been the stated goal, DV providers have not been contacted.  Janna will follow-up about this.

Hampden County CoC Update (via Gerry McCafferty email):
1. For maybe 2 years we have had a semi-reguular meeting–about once a quarter–about chronically homeless families, attendance from Way Finders, NEFW and CHD in attendence. We met a week or so ago and decided at that time to make this a monthly meeting to talk about chronic families–that is, to talk about specific clients and brainstorm solution. We are looking to start in January.  Like we do with adults, these would be families that have been assessed with a VISPDAT and have signed a release allow this inter-agency case conferencing.

2. AHAR. The total number of people in families in emergency shelter during the year has crept up a bit–it was 3679 in FY16 and is 3889 in FY17. A little worrisome–hoping it is not a trend.

3, Last year national PIT data. The federal report is out yesterday on the 2017 PIT:  Among small-city CoCs, Springfield/Hampden County is #2 in country for number of homeless people in families with children. Page 41, exhibit 3.10. Neither the state of MA or any other MA CoC is in the lists of highest for this category. Related to this, the Springfield/Hampden CoC is #10 in the country for small cities for total number of people homeless. P. 17, exhibit 1.10.

DV/EA Work Group Update:
The group sent a letter to DHCD and DPH directors regarding proposals to make more smooth the process for DV families to obtain HomeBASE.  (Click here to see the memo).  At the same time, Yoshi heard from Jane Doe – the statewide coalition of DV providers – that they are working on this issue as well and they agreed to be in touch as conversation unfolds.

The group also discussed local process issues that may assist Way Finders and the DV providers  in effectively assisting DV families.  The group will follow-up separately with Janette.

Assistance for families from Puerto Rico:
Pamela distributed DCF’s memo  that details MA resources available fro PR evacuees.  The Family Resource Centers are the points of entry. Holyoke (Enlace de familias) has an amazing system in place – Mon-Fri from 12 pm – 2 pm providers are available to provide assistance. Click here for a list of resource centers.

The end of FEMA benefits on 1/13 was discussed.  It seems inevitable that there will be a significant demand on the shelter system.  Donna noted that DHCD is meeting weekly with others from across the government to map out a response strategy.

We did not have a clear sense of the numbers in Western MA, although estimates were made of 200 families in Holyoke and 250 in Springfield.  Janette Vigo will report back on more data.

Network update: Pamela reported the good news that thanks to DHCD’s support, the Network will have funds to continue its work at least through the end of FY18. Special thanks to Assistant Undersecretary Jane Banks for her facilitation of this support. Thanks, too, to Donna Nadeau for her incredible support of the Network. The Network will continue to look at how it can best serve the region around next year’s re-procurement of the family and individual shelter systems.  Stay tuned for further information on that.

Lots of moves afoot!

  • CHD now at 184 Mill St, Springfield – where we met today.  Thanks to CHD for hosting us!
  • Safe Passage just purchased a new building in Northampton that will allow them to consolidate their 3 offices.
  • Way Finders just purchased the old Peter Pan Bus Terminal which will also allow them to consolidate offices, have more parking and be more centrally located with excellent access to public transportation.  
  • ARISE is moving up the street to 813 State Street – better located, more space.
  • WomanShelter moved recently to new space at 208 Race Street in Holyoke, near Gateway City Arts. 

Next meeting:
Tuesday, Jan 9, 12:30 – 2 pm, HCC, Frost Building 309 (unusual time and place to accommodate various schedules and meeting locations).

Family Services Meeting Minutes of 11/14/17

Family Services Committee Meeting
November 14, 2017

In attendance: Christina Aliengena, NEFWC, Jane Banks, DHCD, Shelley Benoit, BHN, Yoshi Bird, YWCA, Ellen Broadhurst, West Springfield Public Schools, Joel Cox, NEFWC, YWCA, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Steve Huntley, VOC, Jill Fijal, Chcopee Public Schools, Holly Florek, CHD, Fran Lemay, Greenfield Family Inn, Jane Lindfors, DTA-DV, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Aisha Pizarro, YWCA, Stephen Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action. Jenni Pothier, TPP, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Tonya Sparks, WomanShelter, Janna Tetreault, Community Action, Janette Vigo, Way Finders, Lauren Voyer, Way Finders, Melissa White, VOC

Jane Banks, Assistant Undersecretary, DHCD:

We welcomed Jane as our special guest!

Jane provided the following update:

  • DHCD is currently planning meetings with Western MA shelter provides to provide support for housing placement efforts;
  • Planning for the FY19 re-procurement is underway.  A consultant has been retained to support the process. A statewide summit for both individuals and families is being planned for Feb., 2018, as well as regional meetings.  Looking forward to maximizing the input and the innovation around this process.
  • DHCD is working closely in concert with MEMA and FEMA around the relocation of families from Puerto Rico. DHCD has received 174 inquiries thus far and sheltered 4 families. Now with federally declared mandatory evacuations, families will have hotel benefits paid for by FFEMA through Jan. 13.  All providers should direct families to their local Family Resource Centers for information about available resources and support. (note: our school liaisons reported these numbers for new students from PR: Springfield 220; Holyoke 82; Chicopee 26).

More on the procurement process: DHCD is looking at the prospect of a stronger congregate model with larger facilities, 24 hour staffing, more active partnerships across agencies. There will likely be a move away from both scattered sites and co-sheltering. Consider the question: what do you think the shelter system should look like? Consider a vision that includes every relevant partner from schools to CAP agencies to health care providers, etc.

Discussion of Network funding and future: 

Pamela reported on the Network’s funding status.  As a result of the Governor’s veto of Network funding, the Network’s earmark is presumed unfunded. The Network Leadership Council met a couple of weeks ago and decided to use these last 2 months of the calendar year to plan for a new iteration of the Network that did not require staffing.  While the Network’s Interim Steering Committee meets later this month, Pamela will collect feedback from Network committees around if/how they would like to see the Network continue.  This is the first opportunity for that conversation.

The group today expressed a unanimous and strong commitment to continue to the Network; they expressed the critical value of collaboration and coordination to identify and address systemic problems; the importance of offerings such as the Resource Fair and other trainings; the value of a united umbrella for legislative advocacy.  Jane Banks shared the universal recognition of the Network’s strength on a statewide level and the importance of it continuing.

There was discussion about the possibility of a rotating core group that could convene the monthly meetings. There was a clear preference to continue to meet monthly (as opposed to bi-monthly).

We agreed we would continue to meet and plan for Network continuity at next month’s meeting.

Next meeting date:
December 12
1-2:30 pm
184 Mill St Springfield

Family Services Meeting Minutes – 9/12/17

Family Services Meeting MInutes
September 12, 2017

In attendance: Christina Aliengena, NEFWC, Yoshi Bird, YWCA, Ellen Broadhurst, West Springfield Public Schools, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Holly Florek, CHD, Lindsay Hunt, Pittsfield Community Connection, Jenise Katalina, Square One, Faith Lafayette, NEFWC, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Luis Martinez CHD, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Jenni Pothier, Tenancy Preservation Project, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Sarah Slautterback, DESE, Janna Tetrault, Community Action,  Janette Vigo, Way Finders, Lauren Voyer, Way Finders

DHCD and Data Announcements:

  • Jane Banks, new Associate Director of Housing Stabilization, sends her regards and regrets at not being able to make today’s meeting but is looking forward to seeing us in October.  She reported that all is well.  Pamela will relay our regards back!
  • In view of the high level DHCD staff transition and summer schedules, there has not been the usual monthly DHCD phone call with providers where statewide and regional data is shared.  This will likely happen again at the end of this month.
  • Donna Nadeau reminded all providers that Boston Housing Authority is distributing Leading the Way Home vouchers to all families who have any ties to Boston (i.e., living out here but originally from there or worked there, etc.).  This is a fantastic opportunity for a maximally mobile voucher so be sure to review status of families to determine whether a Boston connection exists.
  • Sara Slautterback reported that there are now only 41 families living in hotels, split between Waltham and Malden.
  • Sara also reported that schools reported over 21,000 homeless students in the system last year.  While this number is similar to years past, there is a large increase in doubled up families.  There were especially significant increases in New Bedford (near Amazon’s new offices) and Lowell (home of UMass Lowell).
  • CHD reported that its “front door team” diverted over 30 families into housing this past month.
  • Ellen Broadhurst of West Springfield Public Schools reported that she has seen a number of families being forced to pay for hotels themselves to avoid homelessness.

We will look forward to a more complete DHCD data update at our October meeting.

Domestic Violence/EA Work Group Report:

Yoshi Bird of the YWCA reported on behalf of the work group, which has met twice since our family services committee last met.  It includes DV providers from across all four counties as well as DTA/DV representation.  The goal is to create a workplan that will result in improved coordination between the systems (specifically integrating the work into the coordinated entry systems of each sub-region) and improved outcomes.  This requires establishing baseline measurements and creating indicators for progress, strategies for getting there and outcome measures. For example, one measure is to increase the number of families experiencing DV who access HomeBASE; another is to improve access and quality of data around families in our region who are experiencing DV.  We know we need to do better at identifying when DV is the originating reason for homelessness (and accessing EA).  We also know we need to do better at improving communication between the systems so families are not inadvertently placed near their abusers.

Jenni of TPP noted that they are working on the prevention side to collect data on their intake to track DV experience in relation to housing instability.  They are finding a very high correlation. Yoshi will follow-up to learn more about their data collection.

Yoshi and Gerry McCafferty are working together to produce a draft work plan for the working group, which is meeting again on 10/3.  We will bring a draft for this committee’s review to our next meeting on 10/10.

Override Update

The group discussed that the Legislature is taking up override votes on the Governor’s vetoes in the next couple of days.  The HCEC funding cut is especially concerning for families as is the cut to Horizons Play Spaces  which provides play spaces and child care for children in shelters. Pamela will send out a targeted email following this email with information on the override votes and how to contact your legislator.


  • Holly Florek of CHD announced that she has taken Jane Banks’ place and Luis Martinez has taken Yoshi’s place (she was formerly at CHD).  They are getting up to speed!
  • Yoshi Bird announced that Kristin Peterson of the YWCA has left and Yoshi should now be the contact for the committee for any Y related inquiries.
  • Lauren Voyer of Way Finders announced that RAFT funds are being distributed through the HCECs.  The demand is very high. If anyone needs transportation help from Northampton to their Holyoke or Springfield offices for HCEC assessments, they should reach out to Luz Alvarado – Way Finders got its ESG funding renewed for its rapid re-housing program and for its Holyoke supportive housing program. Also, note that Way Finders has a new website: 
  • Sarah Slautterback announced that she has drafted a new RFP for school districts to encourage partnerships with housing providers. It will be released as a planning grant this Fall (to launch in Jan/Feb) as a 3 year continuation grant for roughly $75-100K per year.  School districts are eligible to apply if more than 5% of the student population is homeless. While schools must be the lead contractor, they can sub-contract with providers.
  • Janna Tatreault of Community Action reminded all that for their service area (Franklin, Hampshire, North Quabbin) their Community Resources program offers small financial assistance for utility and rent arrears, in addition to information and referrals.
  • Jenise Katalina of Square One reported on a very successful workshop for families with facilitators from Way Finders where parents were provided parenting education, housing search assistance, support in applying for SNAP and other benefits and more.  Hoping to do it again.
  • Lindsay Hunt of Pittsfield Community Connection offered a snapshot of her program: offers support services to young adults ages 17-24 years who are proven risks by virtue of being either victims or perpetrators of violent crimes or formerly incarcerated or suffering family disruption and hardship in other ways.  They are part of Berkshire Children and Families. They suffered a one-third budget cut in this last budget cycle so they had to move offices from downtown and they may lose staff.  They have 96 young people on their list and roughly 20 who are active.  She sees a lot of homelessness among the young people she serves and is glad to be connected (and the committee is glad, too).

Next meetings:

Tuesday, October 10, 1-2:30 pm, CHD

Tuesday, November 14, 9:30 am – 11:00 am, Northampton Senior Center

Tuesday, December 12, 1-2:30 pm, CHD

Domestic Violence/Emergency Assistance Work Group Meeting Minutes – 9/6/17

DV/EA Working Group
Meeting Minutes – 9/6/17
In attendance:  Yoshi Bird, YWCA, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Jane Lindfors, DTA/DV unit, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield/Hampden County CoC, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Tonya Sparks, WomanShelter
Major issues identified:
  • Releases!  How do we do the work of coordinated entry and protect confidentiality? Gerry will reach out to a HUD TA person who is designated to addresses these challenges.
  • Three County CoC: how is it addressing DV needs in its mix of funded housing solutions? Heather will raise this at its next board meeting (in Oct.); Anthia will consider attending or reaching our directly to Dave.
  • DV access to HomeBASE: why has no family accessed this resource? Is it the quid pro quo of a DHCD requirement for a DV shelter to allocate a bed to an EA family suffering DV in exchange for a DV family receiving HomeBASE? Is it too stringent income eligibility requirements? Is it concern for setting up a family for the “cliff effect” when benefit is gone? We agreed we needed to separate out the policy limitations around the benefit (the cliff effect) from the administrative barriers to accessing the benefit.  We think there is a communication gap between the leadership at DHCD/DPH and the case managers/administrators of the program.  More to understand there.
  • Must address INDIVIDUALS’ access to DV resources
  • Must address DHCD system gap in failing to adequately capture DV as the truly originating reason for becoming homeless
On the draft workplan reviewed at the meeting:
On Goals (as written in this current draft):
  • On second and third “indicators” of first goal of “improve access” we need to define what it means to successfully refer and how to measure it (perhaps these two indicators will be conflated and then fleshed out through strategies)
  • Goals of “integrate DV providers in the coordinated entry effort” and “increase collaboration between DV and EA providers” should be shifted to “strategies” to achieve the goal of “improve access to resources for DV survivors”
  • Other strategies for “improve access” include resolving the release of information challenge and gaining clarity on (3 County) CoC allocation of resources in relation to DV needs
  • Add a goal that pertains to increasing access to DV services for individuals
  • On data collection goal, add outcomes: CoC will provide data it already collects on individuals and DV (HUD requires the question on its intake); and improve accuracy of data collected (possible strategy: DV providers train non-DV providers on info collection)
  • On data collection, add ascertaining more accurate number of EA families in the system due to DV (unclear on strategies)
On Action Plans:  we agreed that the format would change so the document is one work plan with each goal containing a breakdown of strategies, indicators, outcomes – and all the columns will still fit on one page!
Next meeting date: October 3, 3:30-5:00 pm, Northampton Senior Center