Category Archives: Veterans

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – 2/24/17

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes

In attendance: Ben Cluff, DPH, Steve Connor, Hampshire Veterans Services, Chris Lizotte, West Springfield Veterans Services, Jim Mahoney, Holyoke Veterans Services, Melissa Mateus, Springfield Partners, Sue Moorman, HUD-VASH, Katherine Person, Veterans Inc., Farah Rodriguez, HAPHousing, Rick Sabellico, Soldier On, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Kate Sweetster-Owens, HUD-VASH, Sabrina Willard, Soldier On, France Wolfe, HAPHousing

Hampden County 2017 Point in Time Count

Gerry provided this summary by email:

The Hampden County PIT Count identified a total of 19 homeless veterans, as follows:

  • 2 unsheltered
  • 10 in emergency shelter – this includes 1 family headed by a veteran
  • 7 in transitional housing (BiLingual Veterans – 53 Maple Court)

The two unsheltered veterans were 1 in Holyoke and 1 in Chicopee. These are both new to us and not on our by-name list. They were identified by Eliot, which is doing follow-up with them.

We identified 1 chronically homeless veteran–it is the Family head of household, who has been in shelter for over 2 years. She is not VASH-eligible.

The 19 counted this year is a reduction from the 2016 count, where we identified 25 veterans.

Group discussion:

  • There was some confusion about why the chronically homeless family is not finding another resource for housing support, e.g., SSVF.
  • Jim Mahoney would like to find out more about the unsheltered veteran in Holyoke.
  • There was general interest in finding out which veterans among all of those identified were not VHA eligible. Sue Moorman raised the concern of the rising number of veterans who are in need of assistance who are not VHA eligible while there is a large pool of HUD VASH vouchers not being used (anecdotally at last meeting, Sue said roughly one-third of veterans being seen were not VHA-eligible). We agreed we would devote more time to this topic at our next meeting. Is there some advocacy we can do with VA/HUD?   We need to turn VA eligible vouchers into non-VA eligible vouchers.
  • At the same time, there was confusion around the number of referrals in relation to the number of unused vouchers. Kate pointed out the slow-down in the Springfield office due to lack of staffing – case manager being hired now. There are veterans in the pool who are lacking case managers and therefore not moving as quickly as they would otherwise. Improvement on this is in process.
  • It was also noted that Soldier On’s opening up of 88 beds is having a positive impact in housing veterans.
  • Pamela will invite Mike Hagmaier of Soldier On to a meeting with committee members to discuss the issue of referrals/non-VHA eligible veterans.

Hampden County Sheriff Roundtable Planning Effort:

Steve Connor obtained a letter from the DVS Commissioner supporting the roundtable effort that he will provide to Dan Boyea to present to the Sheriff.

As to the sample MOU Dan is looking for, Steve has not been able to reach Carl at the Hampshire County Sheriff’s Office. Pamela will reach out as well.

Veterans NOFA

Steve raised the question of the NOFA and how discussions are happening around the state around funding requests for different bed types (there are 5 options). The group agreed it wanted to have more dialogue locally around the types and number of beds for which funding is being sought. Pamela will reach out to Sue White, Mike Hagmaier, Sara Polidore, and Jim Seney to invite them to a meeting to discuss this. This is time sensitive because the application is due at the end of March!

Network update:

Due to current funding arrangement – Hampden County CoC paying for Network meetings in this phase of limited Network funding – the veterans committee will meet exclusively in Hampden County (at MHA) until further notice. 3County participants are always welcome and encouraged to attend!

Announcements:

  • Veterans Inc has opened a clinical stabilization services in Shrewsbury for post detox. Length of stay between 10 and 21 days.
  • VOC has 10 SRO rooms currently available in Chapin Mansion – must be sober for 6 months.

Next meeting date: (we meet regularly on 4th Friday of the month): March 24 9:15- 10:30 am, Mental Health Association, 995 Worthington Street, Springfield

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – 1/13/17

Veterans Committee
January 13, 2017

In attendance: Beth Barbra, Veterans Inc., Nina Blokkin, HAPHousing, Cynthia Capella, HUD-VASH, Ben Cluff, DPH, Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Jim Mahoney, Holyoke Veterans Services, Vanessa Martinez, Springfield Partners, Melissa Mateus, Springfield Partners, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield/Hampden CoC, Chris Montemayor, HAPHousing, Digno Oritz, Friends of the Homeless, Sarah Polidore, Soldier On, Farah Rodriguez, HAPHousing, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Eric Segundo, Ludlow Veterans Services, Kate Sweetster-Owens, HUD-VASH

HAPHousing presented on its HUD-VASH program:
Thanks to Chris, Ben, Nina, France and Farah for attending this meeting to provide both background information on HAP and program information on its HUD-VASH program. The Committee had invited HAP to attend to learn more in general and in particular to follow-up around HAP’s unit inspection procedures.

Per our discussion, Chris provided this follow-up summary of the information shared at the meeting:

  1. HAP staff – Contact information for the VASH vouchers
    France Wolfe – VASH – Housing Counselors – 413-233-1525 – Fwolfe@haphousing.org (leaving position end of March)
    Nina Blokhin – VASH  – Housing Counselor – 413 -233 -1508  – Nblokhin@haphousing.org   (taking over France’s position)
    Farah Rodriguez – RA Compliance Manager – 413 – 233-1575 – Frodriguez@haphousing.org     
  1. HAP’s Initial Inspection procedures for VASH vouchers: upon receipt of a Request for Tenant Approval (RFTA) from a case manager, the Inspection Administrative Assistants will schedule an inspection date that is agreeable to the Property Owner.  Every effort will be made to schedule a date that is no more than two business days out from the date of receiving the RFTA.

Should the unit fail at initial inspection, HAP will not reschedule a re-inspection date until the owner has called and indicated that all violations have been corrected and he/she is requesting a new inspection.  Once the request is made by the property owner, HAP will schedule a new inspection date no more than two business days out from request by owner.

Finally, Chris will reach out to David Failey, who works as a Residential Coordinator at HAP in our Property Management Division about attending future meetings.

Discussion of provider-based unit repair system: Steve Connor shared his successful experience of pulling together volunteers from the field to complete necessary unit repairs to meet code requirements. They had great success. Committee members interested in following up to create a system for a quick repair system: Steve Connor, Jim Mahoney, Sarah Polidore, Beth Barbra, Katherine Person, Cynthia Capella, Ben Cluff. Pamela will connect them all by email.

Point in Time Count: It is taking place Jan. 25. Dave Havens and MHA coordinates outreach to the population living outside in Springfield; Jay Levy for the rest of Hampden County. Gerry will follow-up with Chris Lizotte of West Springfield Veterans Services who is interested in doing outreach on Jan. 25 as well. Gerry is looking for volunteers to interview guests at the Rescue Mission.

Hampden County CoC: About 20 active veterans on their case conference list; bi-monthly meetings are continuing, veterans moving into permanent and transitional housing.

Three County CoC: Also meeting bi-monthly (once by Skype) and reviewing veterans’ list. Roughly 180 veterans on the list have been processed. Soldier On has now changed its system to have an intake process that includes a housing offer. The VA’s changes are happening from the GPD program to distinct transitional housing categories (e.g., bridge housing, mental health, prison release/diversion, Safe Haven).   Steve noted that Soldier On has 10 non-VA eligible vouchers. It’s unclear precisely where they are coming from and the basis for their distribution (Hampden County interested, too!). More will be learned.

Hampden County Sheriff/VA provider meeting: On Jan. 11, the Network facilitated the convening of Hampden County Sheriff Dept. staff and veteran providers to discuss further collaboration around discharge planning. It was agreed that an adaptation of Hampshire County roundtable’s model (monthly convening at the jail with discharge staff and providers to discuss discharge plans in general and housing in particular) would be very useful in Hampden County as well. It was noted that the difference in numbers (Hampden County so much larger) would necessitate further adaptation. The Sheriff Dept. staff will follow-up with the incoming Sheriff to discuss this possibility. Steve Connor will facilitate a letter from the Veterans Services Secretary underscoring the priority of this roundtable approach. The staff is also interested in screening every single person entering the jail to verify veteran status. They are waiting on an additional “user name” to utilize SQUARES (the screening tool), which Gerry will provide ASAP.

Announcement: Springfield Partners is holding a blood drive on Feb. 24. It is also sponsoring a clothing contribution effort to female veterans and female active service members and spouses of veterans blood drive on Friday, Jan. 20, 11 – 1 pm at Springfield Partners, 721 State Street.

Next meeting date:
Friday, 2/24, 9-10:30 am, Northampton Senior Center (to be confirmed)
We agreed to return to our regular meeting day of the 4th Friday of the month.
Agenda items: Point in Time Count report; invite Northampton Housing Authority (Lisa Felty) to discuss its HUD-VASH program

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – 9/23/16

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes
September 23, 2016

In attendance: Beth Barbra, Veterans Inc., Steve Connor, VSO Hampshire County, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS-Homeless Services, Chris Lizotte, VSO West Springfield, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Sue Moorman, VA HUD-VASH, Katherine Person, Veterans Inc., Sarah Polidore, Soldier On, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Sabrina Willard, Soldier On

Statewide Veterans Commission Update (Steve Connor):

Steve shared the new PROPOSED PROTOCOL FOR SECURING RE-ENTRY SUPPORT AND SERVICES FOR NON VA ELIGIBLE VETERANS LEAVING THE CORRECTIONAL SYSTEM (click  here), a product of collaboration among DHCD, DOC, DVS, DPH, and DMH, among others. The protocol will be distributed through the CoC’s.   Steve Connor and Steve Como of Soldier On have been directly involved in the development of the protocol and Western MA has served as a model for what is being proposed statewide, e.g., monthly roundtables at Hampshire County Corrections that include the Veterans Service Officer and SSVF brainstorming housing options for incarcerated veterans.   There are 17 Houses of Correction and the goal is to have a similar panel in place at each one.

We agreed on the following outreach plan for our region (and Gerry added it to the workplan):

  • Hampden County (Ludlow): Steve Connor
  • Franklin County: Sabrina Willard will reach out to VSO Tim Niejadlik
  • Bekshire County: Sarah Polidore will reach out to VSO Jim Clark 

Steve also provided an update about the Veteran Community Engagement Board, a national initiative under the auspices of the VA to bring together VA and community partners to advise the VA in respective areas. For our region, the Board is located in Boston, includes the directors of all VA hospitals in MA, the VA director of benefits and cemetery director. It is responsible for 2 forums each year and the first is on October 22 in Fall River. The general discussion topic will be presentation of the housing plan for homeless veterans, how the statewide system is working and a brainstorm on how we ensure veterans stay housed. There will be another forum in the Spring and the topic will be determined after this October forum occurs and the next focus (e.g., employment) becomes more clear.

Three County CoC Update (Steve Connor):

The 3 County CoC is hosting a training for community leaders and providers – police, shelter and food pantry providers, e.g., – on how to collaborate to end veteran homelessness. It is taking place on October 20, 3-4:30 pm, at the Northampton Senior Center and at Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority (with a satellite location TBD in Franklin County).

Steve will send the notice to Pamela who will post it on the Network blog and send out to all Network committees.

The 3 County CoC is also continuing to make progress on its by-name list.

West Springfield Update:

Chris Lizotte, West Springfield VSO, provided an update regarding the possible rehabilitation of a nursing home in West Springfield to provide a “Graduated Housing Program” that would be available to people who are homeless or at risk. The facility would offer two primary tracks for assistance: one for those who need permanent supportive housing and the other for those who need short-term assistance to help get back on their feet. The latter would be “fast-tracked” for condo homeownership. The Mayor of West Springfield is interested in pursuing this idea – consistent with urban revitalization and transforming blighted properties – and a Steering Committee is being created to further discussion. Grants and access to subsidies will be key to any success. Gerry suggested he get in touch to discuss more with the Hampden County CoC and Pamela offered the Network’s support in whatever way would be useful.

Hampden County CoC Update (Gerry McCafferty):

Gerry provided an update regarding the progress on their by-name list (approximately 20 people), zeroing in on those who are VA eligible – connecting them to VASH – and those who are not – searching out other available resources (SSVF if possible).   The outreach partnership with BHN and police is excellent and the flow of identifying veterans, determining eligibility, and making appropriate referrals is increasingly refined. One of the biggest challenges is veterans who may be in shelter for 3 or 4 days and then “disappear.” By having a good tracking record at each interaction, there is greater possibility of swift intervention when the veteran reappears. Steady progress is underway.

Work Plan Review (draft for Hampden County) (click here)
Proposed changes:

  • Add as first strategy: locating homeless veterans (e.g., via correctional facilitates and streets)
  • Include Chapter 115 benefits in Strategy 2
  • Outreach to VSO reps who are not currently engaged (Pamela will reach out to Ludlow, Franklin and Berkshire VSOs and invite them to join email list/committee) Eric Segundo, esegundo@ludlow.ma.us; Tim Niejadlik TimothyN@greenfield-ma.gov; Kimberly babin – kbabin@chicopeema.gov and see above for local provider outreach

We agreed all would review the plan in more detail and provide any additional comments via email and plan for in-depth review at our October meeting.

Amherst Homelessness Networking Group: Jay Levy provided an update regarding the town of Amherst’s (through Health Director Julie Federman) effort to bring together a local coalition of providers and leaders (shelter, police, fire, veterans, etc.) to improve the response system to homelessness in Amherst. The first meeting was held this week (Steve, Jay and Pamela attended) and it was very successful. Everyone expressed their commitment to continue meeting monthly, and the next meeting is already scheduled in October. They also committed to joining the 3 County CoC pilot of the AZ Matrix tool as an assessment tool. Jay reviewed the tool with the committee. All agreed it will be interesting to see the findings from the tool’s implementation.

Next meeting: October 28, 9:15 am, Mental Health Association

 

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – 6/24/16

Veterans Committee Meeting
June 24, 2016

In attendance: Beth Barbra, Veterans Inc., Toni Dolan, Veterans Services, Allie Haber, Network, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Katherine Person, Veterans Inc., Denise Rivera, Friends of the Homeless, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Kate Sweetster-Owens, VA, Sabrina Willard, Springfield Partners Inc., DonYbarra, Springfield Partners

Action Camp Summary

The group discussed the Hampden County CoC’s Action Camp through the Zero 2016 campaign to address veteran and chronic homelessness. The Camp took place over 2 days, from 6/20-6/21, and it was a huge step towards developing a very concrete work plan. Areas of focus included:

  • Completing VI-SPDATs for 50 chronically homeless people and 10 veterans
  • Outreach: identifying gaps and making a plan to close them
  • Case Conferencing: how to structure REACH and other meetings (rotating complex cases with general housing match meetings)
  • Housing Navigators: how to sort out the assignment process and organizational buy-in (Gerry is meeting with executive directors)

The Hampden County CoC is implementing the tool Homelink to assist with tracking individuals on a by-name list and providing coordinated entry – tracking assessments, collecting documents and following their path from homelessness to housing through a housing navigator.

We discussed the specific challenges of serving veterans through this system. In view of the relatively small number, we agreed that providers would determine which meetings to attend on a case-by-case basis (when a veteran was involved). We agreed that the focus would be on veterans on the street or in shelter (as opposed to doubled-up).

Three County Coc:

The 3 County Coc met just yesterday to review their by-name list.   Meetings of providers are happening bi-weekly and substantial progress is being made.

VA Privacy Guidance on Authority to Make Disclosures:  We discussed the most recent notice from the VA regarding the capacity to discuss individual cases with community partners in the context of solving housing crises.  Please click here for the guidance.

Next meeting:
Friday, September 23
9 am – 10:30 am
Northampton Senior Center
67 Conz Street, Northampton

We will discuss at this meeting whether we move to a quarterly schedule to check-in on policy matters and overall regional progress; that now that CoC’s are developing their by-name lists, most of the work is taking place on a sub-regional level. We want to make sure we are not duplicating meeting time and effort. This evolution is a reflection of great progress in each CoC. Congratulations to all for the great work.