Category Archives: Housing Sex Offenders

Minutes of Work Group to House People with Sex Offense Histories – 4/16/15

Meeting Minutes – 4/16/15
 
In attendance:  Carl Cignoni, Hampshire County Corrections/MA DOC Re-entry; Jen Glover, Franklin County Home Care Corporation, Ellie Harris, ServiceNet, Richard Hendrick, social worker, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS-Homeless Services, Phyllis Lutsky, VA Medical Center, Pamela Schwartz, Network
 
Planning for Statewide Commission meeting:
 
Thanks to Laurie Guidry’s assistance, the Network has been invited to speak as part of a panel on the Collateral Consequences of Sex Offense Convictions before the Commission to End Sex Offender Recidivism on May 28, from 9 am to 11 am in Boston (location to be determined).  Our panel is being coordinated by the Committee for Public Counsel Services.
We will have approximately 20 minutes to speak.  Pamela will speak on behalf of the committee and other committee members are encouraged to attend.  Pamela shared her phone conversation with Laurie prior to this meeting (she could not attend today), and we agreed on the following outline:
  • background on the history of our effort – the Network, the naming of this issue by its partners, the evolution into a work group and its goals to expand housing options for sex offenders
  • a couple of personal stories of people with sex offense histories who pose no safety threat who we are unable to get housed
  • what we have accomplished thus far, e.g., 2 educational forums to faith and other leaders; targeted outreach to housing providers with training and discussion; development of criteria for housing sex offenders
  • what we have learned: housing providers will not house this population without state policy intervention that makes it less threatening to their liability to do so, e.g., language on the SORB website that refers to sex offenders as “dangerous”
  • our recommendations: over-arching ask is change leveling system so that it is evidence-based, driven by real risk, represents a policy that supports public safety as opposed to the opposite; smaller ask is to change language on SORB website.  Pamela will follow-up with Laurie to confirm additional “medium” asks, i.e., other changes that would promote “evidence-based” practice.
Pamela will also follow-up with individual committee members (Jen, Carl, Richard, Joe, Madeline) to collect personal stories to incorporate in the talk.
Carl thinks he may be able to make it to Boston; Pamela will keep everyone informed of meeting location and other details.
Pamela will draft hand-outs for the Commission and circulate them to our group for review prior to the meeting.
Next meeting date:
Wed., 6/10, DMH Haskell building, 1:30-2:30 pm

 

Work Group to House People with Sex Offense Histories – Minutes 12/19/14

Work Group To House People with Sex Offense Histories
December 19, 2014

In attendance: Elizabeth Beinz, ServiceNet, Carl Cignoni, Hampshire County Corrections/DOC Re-entry, Laurie Guidry, MATSA, Ellis Harris, ServiceNet, Richard Hendrick, social worker, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS-Homeless Services, Pamela Schwartz, Network

We summarized our series of meetings with housing providers on the issue of housing people with sex offense histories and agreed that this engagement was a major step forward. While the Valley CDC’s board is meeting on the issue and HAP is in further discussion (Pamela will follow-up on both), the take-away message from all providers is that state policy needs to move on the issue in order for substantial movement to happen at the provider level. Tom Kegelman of Home City Housing focused in particular on the language of “dangerousness” pertaining to this population and how that language needs to be changed for housing providers to take the risk to house them. We looked further at the language and recognize there is some confusion around the use of the word in the SORB “welcome message” and leveling. However, we all agreed that precise wording aside, we need to shift public policy towards a “best practice” response to this issue and the population.

Towards that end, Laurie shared with us the work of the Reducing Sex Offender Recidivism Commission that was created last year (and began meeting this past September). Laurie was appointed to the Commission, along with SORB members, the DA, treatment centers, victim advocacy groups and others (great representation). Right now it is meeting almost monthly and hearing presentations from different constituencies to get informed. It is a promising vehicle for putting forward changes to the leveling system as well as language reform (e.g., “dangerous persons”).

We agreed that we should look first to attaching our work to the Commission’s efforts, e.g., attending public hearings (there is some discussion about holding a few across the state) and bringing to the Commission’s attention the housing crisis facing people with sex offense histories.

We also agreed that it is time to incorporate this issue and our agenda in our legislative meetings this winter/spring.

We agreed that our next step is to craft our mission statement to the Commission, laying out first who we are (the broad representation across the region) and our goals. Pamela and Laurie will work on this statement. Pamela will bring that statement to the Network Leadership Council for their review and hopeful approval, which will then provide a basis for our integration of this issue during our legislative meetings as well.

Laurie and I will draft this statement and distribute it to the work group for feedback in early January, in advance of the Leadership Council meeting on 1/21 and the Human Services Forum Legislative Breakfast on 1/23.

We agreed that we will determine our next meeting date after these two events happen and Laurie has learned more about the Commission’s meeting schedule. Pamela will communicate by the end of January to determine a February meeting date.

Work Group to House People with Sex Offense Histories – 11/19/14

Work Group to House People with Sex Offense Histories
November 19, 2014

In attendance: Patricia Bud, Hampden County Corrections, Joe Critelli, Hampden County Corrections, Richard Hendrick, social worker, Madeline Johnson, Hampden County Correction, Angel Recchia, Franklin Elder Services, Pamela Schwartz, Network

Review of 11/12/14 meeting with housing providers: HAP, Home City Housing, SMOC and Valley CDC answered our invitation to discuss housing policy for sex offenders. Executive or high level directors attended from each organization. From the work group the following members attended: Joe Critelli, Hampden County House of Corrections, Beatriz Fuentes, Hampden County Corrections intern, Ellie Harris, ServiceNet, Richard Hendrick, social worker, Madeline Johnson, Hampden County House of Corrections, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS-Homeless Services, Sgt. Anne McMahon, Northampton Police Department, Jay Sacchetti, ServiceNet, Pamela Schwartz, Network. Laurie Guidry was ill and could not attend. Our special guest Fred Smith, former program director of St. Francis House in Boston, made a special trip to Western Mass. to share his extensive experience in successfully housing people with sex offense histories. He was truly inspirational.

We discussed how this gathering, separate and apart from immediate outcomes, was a very significant step forward in engaging the broader housing community on this issue. We are grateful for their responsiveness. As a practical matter, most providers expressed the need for legislative change before they would feel comfortable housing people with sex offense histories. We offered specific, narrow criteria for consideration on a case-by-case basis. Some providers are taking it up with their board of directors, others are talking more internally and will let us know their thoughts after doing so. In general, the providers expressed concern about the already uphill battle they frequently face to locate affordable housing in communities.

Pamela will continue to follow-up with each provider separately to ascertain their positions and possible next steps.

We agreed at this meeting to explore in-depth (with Laurie’s guidance) possible legislative advocacy strategies and once we arrived at our strategy, we would invite the housing providers to join our efforts.

We also discussed pursuing the parallel strategy of engaging once again with faith leaders (we have contacts from our workshop of a couple years ago) to explore in more depth their partnership . Specifically, whether they would be willing to be part of their congregation’s education efforts on this issue and conduct outreach to congregational members who are property owners. The goal: expand housing options for sex offenders. We agreed that as part of this outreach, it would be very effective to bring the person who is seeking housing, to make that individual “real” and go past the label of sex offender.

We agreed we would explore both of these strategies – legislative advocacy and faith outreach – at our next meeting and we would plan that next meeting around Laurie Guidry’s availability. We will look at the week of 12/15. Pamela will survey Laurie for the date of Wed,. 12/17 at 11 am in Northampton but will pursue others if that does not work for her. Please stay tuned on the next meeting date!

Work Group to House People with Sex Offense Histories Meeting Minutes – 9/29/14

Work Group to House People with Sex Offense Histories Meeting Minutes
September 29, 2014

In attendance: Patricia Budd, Ludlow Jail, Bill Cawthra, Eliot CHS – Homeless Services, Carl Cignoni, Hampshire County House of Corrections/Dept of Corrections re-entry program, Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Joe Critelli, Hampden County Sheriff’s Office, David Lepore, ServiceNet, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Jay Levy, Elliot CHs – Homeless Services, Emily Notoarfrancesco, Franklin County Sheriff’s Office, Angel Recchia, Franklin County Elder Protective Services,

November 12 meeting with Housing Providers
We reviewed our last meeting with housing providers in September – Valley CDC, HAPHousing, SMOC, Home City Housing – and the quality discussion that took place regarding the challenges/concerns housing providers face in housing sex offenders. All present agreed to meet again with additional agency “decision-makers” present. That meeting will take place on November 12, and we already have commitments from the CFO/COO of HAPHousing, Executive Director of Home City Housing, Board president and property managers of Valley CDC and the housing and shelter directors of SMOC. We agreed that our goal is to provide education and data on the issue (Laurie Guidry will lead the training), share successful experiences in housing this population (Rosa Blair of Springfield and Fred Smith of Boston will be invited), and to allow ample time for discussion. We agreed that tackling this issue in regional collaboration is the best chance for progress.

We agreed we need to brainstorm all types of assistance we can offer housing providers if/when they decide to engage with this population. We already have established very narrow criteria (on probation/parole, with case management, in treatment, etc.) but what else can we do? We need to bring that question and offer to the group.

We agreed work group representatives would include: Hampden and Hampshire County Sheriff’s Offfices, Jay Levy or Richard Hendrick (social worker perspective), Sgt. McMahon of Northampton and hopefully police rep from Springfield, and ServiceNet as experienced housing provider.

Springfield Republican newspaper article on housing sex offenders
We discussed the recent article in the Springfield Republican featuring the high number of sex offenders in one building (this is the property that Rosa Blair manages). We all agreed that the headline was inflammatory and harmful to our goals, in addition to the details surrounding some of the tenants’ criminal histories. But we also agreed that if you read the whole article and actually took in the facts, the reader could register that there are NO PROBLEMS with these tenants and there have been no incidents at all! We need to do what we can to increase that focus.

We agreed it would be interesting to explore an op-ed co-signed by region’s sheriff’s departments, offering perspective and education on what it would mean to house this population. Carl Cignoni agreed to draft some initial ideas.

Franklin County Sheriff’s office – new additions to our work group! – reported that they are struggling with housing options in their sub-region. We are pleased to have them join us.

We agreed to meet next following the next regional housing provider meeting .

Next meeting date: Wed., 11/19, 11 am – 12:15 pm, Northampton Senior Center