Category Archives: Veterans


Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes 9/5/18

Veterans Committee Meeting Committee Minutes
In attendance:  Heather Cahillane, Soldier On, Janice Humason, FOH/CSO, Gerry McCafferty, Hampden County CoC, Lizzy Ortiz, Mercy Medical, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Stephanie Tonelli, FOH/CSO, Catherine Torres, FOH/CSO
Built for Zero Update – click here for the report 
note: the report is titled August but the numbers listed are through July, 2018
The numbers are creeping up a bit but the analysis suggests that that is a function of more veterans willing to self-identify as word gets around re: housing options and support. We noted how it is important to explicitly explain these upticks to the extent they are a paradoxical reflection of progress in the system.
It was also noted that there were zero placements in July and August, a reflection of the challenge in finding affordable and suitable housing (a segue to the later topic on the approval of HUD VASH vouchers for VA ineligible veterans!).
The group discussed increasing coordination with the Three County CoC to better identify veterans that are moving between the sub-regions so as to best understand veterans’ status and needed outreach/support.  Committee members will reach out to 3 County CoC to learn meeting schedule and will attend.
HUD VASH vouchers for VA ineligible veterans:  We are still experiencing an extremely frustrating challenge with HUD’s bureaucracy as the only thing standing in the way of using these vouchers for VA ineligible veterans is HUD approval. Gerry is reaching out to Bob Pulser of US ICCH for assistance. The community is at the ready to house 8-10 VA ineligible veterans as soon as the vouchers and support service plan (with ServiceNet) is approved. We will keep pushing!
Built for zero learning sessions – Gerry put the word out that the next learning session is October 10-12 in Detroit.  Expenses paid. Participants must commit to participating in improvement projects between learning sessions. Please contact Gerry if interested.
Network update:
  •  The Network was allocated its $125,000 earmark in this FY19 budget.  The Steering Committee will be meeting next week to discuss its allocation across the region and will report back.
Next meeting date:
Wednesday, October 3
2 pm – 2:30 pm (case conferencing to follow)
Friends of the Homeless,
755 Worthington Street, Springfield

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – 8/1/18

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes
August 1, 2018
In attendance: Grechar Aquino, Friends of the Homeless, Janice Humason, Friend of the Homeless, Nichole King, Friends of the Homeless, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Sabrina McGill, Soldier On, Katherine Person, Veterans Inc, Denise Rivera, Friends of the Homeless, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Kate Sweetster-Owens, VA, Stephanie Tonelli, FOH
Built for Zero Update:  Please click here for the latest numbers on veterans (19 homeless veterans as of the end of June).  Last month 3 veterans were housed.  Making progress!
VHA-Ineligible vouchers.  Many of the homeless veterans on the by-name list are VHA ineligible. We are waiting on HUD’s approval of the MOU signed by the Northampton Housing Authority and ServiceNet that would allow for the use of HUD VASH vouchers for VHA ineligible veterans. Hampden County is hoping to house 8 or 9 veterans with these vouchers.  Gerry and Steve Connor are trying hard to move along the process and we are hoping for release of the vouchers very soon.
FY19 State Budget Update:  The final budget was signed a week ago. There were many positive outcomes for homelessness and housing, including an increase in funding for RAFT ($20 million statewide!) and the availability of this resource to individuals (at least $3 million).  Another exciting development is the increase in funding for youth homelessness, $3.5 million statewide, a massive increase relative to last year’s $675,000.  Please go to the Western MA Network blog – – to get more detailed budget updates (and please subscribe to it if you haven’t already!).
Network training calendar for FY19: Pamela shared the update on the Network’s plan to schedule targeted trainings for the year, drawing on the enthusiastic interest demonstrated at the Resource Fair.  The Network Steering Committee received the committees’ feedback and agreed to support a series of topical trainings throughout the year, culminating in the Resource Fair in June. Based on the level of interest at the fair, the Network will aim to schedule the workshops “Overcoming Tenant Screening Barriers” and “Homelessness and the Opioid Epidemic” in the early part of this year.  Please stay tuned for an email inviting your additional input.
Next meeting date: Wednesday, September 5, 2 pm-2:30 pm, FOH.

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – 6/6/18

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – June 6, 2018

In attendance: Grechar Aquino, Friends of the Homeless, Heather Cahillane, Soldier, Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Craig Deraway, SoldierOn, Janice Humason, FOH, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Digno Ortiz, FOH, Lizzy Ortiz, Mercy Medical Center, Katherine Person, Veterans, Inc., Kate Sweetster-Owens, HUD-VASH, Stephanie Tonelli, FOH, Alison Wilson-Pierce, HUD VASH

Update on Non-VA Eligible HUD VASH vouchers:

Great news!  Thanks to Steve Connors’ and others’ assistance, there are now 11 HUD-VASH vouchers available through the Northampton Housing Authority for non-VA eligible veterans.  This will allow housing for some of the most long-term, chronically homeless people in Hampden County and the Three County region.  Very exciting progress.  Veterans will likely be housed over the summer.
It is possible that Northampton Housing Authority (NHA) could have additional vouchers to release to non-VA eligible veterans.  Gerry also relayed her understanding that another 5,000 HUD-VASH vouchers will be released this summer.
Built for Zero campaign:
Gerry updated all on the Built for Zero campaign, a learning community to support the effort to end homelessness for chronically homeless individuals and veterans. They have periodic gatherings through the year and Kate Sweetster-Owens is part of the local team attending the next one in Detroit.  They will focus on ending veteran homelessness which has just become more possible with the availability of non-VA eligible vouchers.
Homelessness Resource Fair – June 14:
Pamela reported on the upcoming Resource Fair next week, Thurs., 6/14 9 am – 12:30 pm at Holyoke Community College, Kittredge Center, Room 301-303. Roughly 200 people are attending with 60 organizations tabling and 8 workshops.  Thanks to the providers in the room for leading the Veterans Services workshop (twice!) during the day.  If you haven’t already, please email Pamela at if you plan to attend.
FY19 State Budget Update:
The FY19 State Budget is now in the Conference Committee.  Pamela reviewed the key provisions impacting individual homelessness as summarized in CHAPA’s attached summary. Representative Steve Kulik from our region is on the Committee and Pamela will be reaching out to summarize Network priorities.
Next meeting date:  because the usual first Wed. is July 4th, and Pamela is away the following week, the Network will convene as part of the monthly case-conferencing meeting on:
Wed., August 1
2 pm – 2:30 pm (case conferencing to follow 2:30-3:30 pm)
Friends of the Homeless
755 Worthington Street, Springfield
The next regular veterans case conferencing meeting will take place on Wed. July 11.

Veterans Committee Minutes – 4/4/18

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – April 4, 2018
In attendance: Grechar Aquino, Friends of the Homeless, Beth Barbra, Veterans Inc., Nichole Bodiford, Friends of the Homeless, Nicole Darden, Mass SAVE program, Janice Humason, Friends of the Homeless, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Katherine Person, Veterans Inc., Denise Rivera, Friends of the Homeless, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Dennis Sheehan, Friends of the Homeless, Dennis Sheehan, Friends of the Homeless, Kate Sweetster-Owens, HUD-VASH, Stephanie Tonelli, Friends of the Homeless
Federal Budget Update
Congress passed a budget that allocated an overall 10% increase to the HUD budget, including a 5% increase to homelessness programs.  This is positive news!  We did not have clarity around where the funding was at for VASH although Steve was at least certain that it was not cut.
State Commission on Veteran Homelessness Update
Steve reported that the effort to connect state correctional facilities with veteran services (to identify veterans and provide support services in anticipation of discharge) continues with outreach and a presentation by the SAVE team, the veterans service office rand others at the Gardner penitentiary next week.
Update on VHA ineligible vouchers
Gerry reported on HUD-VASH’s authorization of 25 vouchers to be used in the region for VHA-ineligible veterans.  13 have been used by Soldier On.  The remaining will be allocated between Hampden and Three County with support services by ServiceNet (3 county) and Behavioral Health Network (Hampden County).   The vouchers are administered by Northampton Housing Authority; the executive director is away until next week.  Upon her return, the relevant parties will meet to hopefully work out the support service agreements.  Gerry is also reaching out to DHCD to hopefully obtain 8-10 MRVP vouchers for ineligible veterans.
This combination of HUD VASH and MRVP for VHA ineligible veterans may provide the resources necessary to achieve the goal of “ending veteran homelessness” in Hampden County by the end of the summer per the definition by US ICH.  It will take intensive focus on the individuals who newly enter the system; to obtain VI-SPDATs immediately and facilitate rehousing.
We discussed the HUD definition of “veteran” and confirmed that it is an adult who served active duty – the length of service or type of discharge does not matter if the person entered active duty (training is not sufficient).
Steve Connor also noted that Northampton is getting close to meeting the challenge of ending veteran homelessness.
Announcement: Springfield Partners is sponsoring its Veterans Resource Festival – Stars & Stripes Day ’18 – on Tuesday, May 1, 10:30 am – 2:30 pm, Tower Square Food Court, 1500 Main Street, Springfield.
Next meeting date: Wed., May 2, 2 pm, Friends of the Homeless 

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – 1/12/18

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – January 12, 2018
In attendance: Ben Cluff, DPH-Veterans, Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Keegan Hersey, Veterans Inc, Sue Moorman, VA, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Kate Sweetster-Owens, Alison Wilson-Pierce, HUD-VASH
Discussion of new vouchers for VHA ineligible veterans: The group discussed HUD’s recent decision to allow Soldier On to convert 25 HUD VASH vouchers to use for VHA-ineligible veterans.  This is great news since many of the chronically homeless veterans are VHA ineligible.  This also raises the question of how those 25 vouchers will be allocated across the region (Soldier On has its veterans in GPD beds who need to be permanently housed and most of Hampden County’s remaining homeless vets are VHA ineligible).  The group agreed it would be useful to have a meeting across both CoC’s to discuss the allocation process and how best to collaborate.  The group agreed Pamela will reach out to: Mike Hagmaier (Soldier On), Gerry McCafferty (Hampden County CoC),  Dave Christopolis (Three County CoC) and Sue White (VA) to start scheduling (and welcome them to invite any one else).
The group also agreed that this meeting would be an opportunity to discuss sub-regional communication and coordination around each CoC’s coordinated entry efforts in light of the veteran population’s mobility up and down the Route 91 corridor.
Hampden County CoC veterans: Kate reported a meeting with After Incarcerated Support Services (AISS) to discuss housing options for sex offenders since there are several chronically homeless veterans whose sex offender status is creating a barrier to housing.  Unfortunately, the options are so limited to virtually non-existent.  Pamela shared the Network’s working group experience on this issue – and how the group has become dormant due to a lack of statewide leadership on this (a commission to address the problems of leveling and housing barriers among other problems did not produce any meaningful results).   The restriction of housing options for sex offenders on both the federal and state levels is an intractable barrier to permanent housing for this population.We agreed we should raise this  issue in the Network’s upcoming meeting with Bob Pulster of the US Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Three County CoC: Soldier On is launching its 1-800 coordinated entry phone number next week!  Stay tuned.
Nikki Riello also provided this update by email on the current CoC veterans count:
192 homeless veterans
2 on the streets
9 chronically homeless
approximately 55 moves into permanent housing from 12/1-1/10
Meeting frequency:
The group decided to experiment with meeting every other month since there are monthly CoC-based veteran meetings happening focused on the by-name lists and housing efforts.  The group agreed it would meet next as a sub-group around the Soldier On voucher issue and then pose meeting dates for March.  Pamela will poll “regulars” in the group to help land on a date when people are able to attend.
Next meeting date: to be determined.

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – 12/1/17

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – 12/1/17
In attendance: Beth Barbra, Veterans, Inc., Steve Connor, Central Hampshire Veterans Services, Pat DiGregorio, Veterans Inc., Keegan Hersey, Veterans Inc., Nikki Riello, Hilltown Community Development Corp (Three County CoC), Kate Sweetster-Owens, Ali Wilson-Pierce, HUD/VASH.
Hampden County CoC Update:  The CoC is rolling out its new online system that supports coordinated entry. Kate, Katherine and Barb have all been trained on it and are finding it easy to use; they see it as an extremely useful tool for gaining quick info on a veteran’s priority status and for understanding the most appropriate next steps to assist a veteran.  The system also provides real-time data on veterans in the family shelter system, which the CoC has never had before. This will make it easier to make sure those veteran households are connecting to veteran services soon after shelter entry.
Hampden CoC  veteran numbers continue to be low, but it is challenged by some very difficult cases, which don’t have clear paths to resolution.
Three County CoC Update: Nikki provided an update.  They are working with Sue White of the VA to get HUD/VASH updates into the overall tracking system (to keep track of who has been housed).  The current count is at 13 homeless veterans (outside of Soldier On’s system where there are a  couple hundred).   The 3 county veterans committee is continuing to meet monthly to review its by-name list.  Housing placements are happening.
Soldier On housing: The prioritization process is still being worked out between Soldier On and HUD/VASH for the new Agawam housing: Soldier On runs by a first-come, first-serve in terms of processing its applications; the VA is hoping to allocate the units based on priority need.  Conversations are underway to come to a  resolution.  There are currently roughly 20 units left in Agawam.
Responding to Puerto Rican veterans: The group discussed the complexities arising from the arrival of PR veterans in the Springfield area. The usual prioritization system does not apply and there is hope that some accommodation will be made so that these special circumstances can be taken into account, e.g., “over-assets” by virtue of owning property in PR but the property is not habitable.  Discussions with the VA are underway but it is unclear who is in a decision making position. It was recommended to contact the Holyoke VSO office (Jesus) with questions regarding PR veterans.
Statewide Update: Steve noted that at a previous meeting it was said that the Central/West region had 72 unused HUD VASH vouchers.  This was confusing and did not comport with the West’s sense of the numbers.  One theory was that this number was coming from the Worcester area.  It was also noted that HUD/VASH positions are not being filled in both Worcester and Springfield, which adds to a slow-down in the allocation process.
Network Update:  Pamela reported the good news that thanks to DHCD, the Network will be funded to continue its work through at least FY18.  The Leadership Council will still use this opportunity to retain a consultant to explore with Network partners how the Network can best meet the region’s needs in the years ahead.  Stay tuned for more on that in the new year.
  • Chapin Mansion is looking for a live-in house manager – a great opportunity for a qualified veteran
  • Hampden County got 8 new HUD/VASH vouchers – good news
Next meeting: Friday, January 26, 9 am-10:30 am, Northampton Senior Center 

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – 10/27/17

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – October 27, 2017

In attendance: Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Sue Moorman, HUD-VASH, Katherine Persons, Veterans, Inc., Pamela Schwartz, Network, Kate Sweester-Owens, HUD-VASH, Allie Wilson-Pierce, HUD-VASH 

Our discussion this meeting focused on the debrief from the Network’s Leadership Council meeting on 10/25 in which it was decided that due to the funding situation (the Network has not yet been funded this year and it is unlikely it will be), the LC will use this opportunity to review Network functions and determine (with the help of a facilitator) how best to sustain the important value of the Network.
The group discussion reached consensus on the following:
  • the Network veteran meetings are very valuable for ensuring communication up and down the 91 corridor and for providing opportunities for innovative collaboration (e.g., the implementation of new systems to identify veterans in Hampden County Corrections flowed from these meetings). Everyone in attendance felt very committed to continuing to meet (and attributed this meeting’s low attendance to known conflicts, noting high level of attendance in preceding meetings)
  • Meeting every 2 months, alternating between Springfield and Northampton would be sufficient to accomplish their goals
  • Rotating the coordination of scheduling and reminder notice/agenda creation could be accomplished by committee members
  • At our next meeting we will discuss assigning “volunteer” facilitation roles and schedule meetings for 2018
  • Pamela will relay this discussion to the Network’s interim steering Committee which is meeting on Nov. 20 to discuss next steps for Network planning.
  • Confirmed next meeting date (previously scheduled) for Friday, Dec. 1, 9:15 am, MHA