Category Archives: Veterans

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – 4/28/17

Veterans Committee
April 28, 2017

In attendance: Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Melissa Mateus, Springfield Partners, Sue Moorman, VA, Digno Ortiz, Friends of the Homeless, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Stephanie Tonelli, Friends of the Homeless 

Hampden County update: Springfield Partners hosted its Wellness to Work event earlier this week.  It was very successful, with a turn-out of 60-70 veterans, mostly from the Springfield area.  A great range of resources were available. We discussed using the Network’s veterans committee email list to spread the word on these types of events to ensure maximum awareness.

Stephanie noted the high number of homeless individuals needing a mass ID or birth certificate and not having any funds to pay for them.  We agreed I would bring this question to the individual services committee to learn more about any resources to pay for these items.

Three County Point in Time Data Review:  Please on Annual Point in Time Count to see the summary data along with visuals.  We reviewed veterans data, which reflected current knowledge and assumptions.  Steve noted that with the new Veterans NOFA pending, the breakdown of the GPD beds will be dramatically changing and it is still unclear how that will impact the Point in Time count in the future (i.e., what will be considered transitional vs. permanent housing beds).  Funding decisions will likely be released in August.

Holyoke Soldiers Home: Steve noted a recent study about the Holyoke and Chelsea Veterans Homes.  We discussed the lack of connection/relationship between the Holyoke Veterans Home and the Network and all agreed it would be useful to gain a better understanding and explore greater collaboration.  Steve will send a link to the report to us and follow-up around best contacts for planning a meeting.

Family Homelessness Resource Fair: We discussed the upcoming Family Homelessness Resource Fair on June 8, 9 am – 12 noon, Holyoke Community College Kittredge Center and the presence of veterans services providers.  All have committed to participating and also to planning a 15-20 minute break-out group that focuses on veterans services and homeless families.  Pamela will put everyone on the same email with Hillary Cronin of the VA who has volunteered to be the point person (she attends the family services meetings) and will include: Beth Barbra, Steve Connor, Melissa Mateus, Katherine Person, Sarah Polidore and Sabrina Willard.

Next meeting date:
Friday, May 26
9:15 am – 10:30 am
Mental Health Association
995 Worthington Street, Springfield

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes –

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes
March 24, 2017

In attendance: Beth Barbra, Veterans Inc., Dan Boyea, Hampden County Sheriff’s Dept.,Steve Connor, Hampshire County Veterans Services, Lillian Gray, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Mike Hagmaier, Soldier On, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS Homeless Services, Chris Lizotte, West Springfield Veterans Services, Jim Mahoney, Holyoke Veterans Services, Melissa Mateus, Springfield Partners, Gerry McCafferty, Hampden County CoC/City of Springfield,  Katherine Person, Veterans Inc., Sarah Polidore, SoldierOn, Farah Rodriguez, HAPHousing, Stephanie Tonelli, Friends of the Homeless, France Wolfe, HAPHousing, Susan White, VAMC, Sabrina Willard, Soldier On 

Point in Time Count Update:
Gerry reported that HUD’s definition of “veteran” for purpose of the count is defined as “at least one day of service” in the military (“service” only begins post training and being on active duty). This clarification requires revisiting those counted since that was not the definition used. She knows that at least 5 of the 19 counted on 1/25 would not qualify as veteran and they are still in the process of determining the status of several others. These individuals would still be counted in the individual homeless count, but not as veterans.

Discussion of VHA vs. non-VHA eligible veterans:
We revisited the discussion from our last meeting on gaining a better understanding of the number of veterans who are not VHA eligible (and therefore not eligible for HUD-VASH vouchers). Gerry reported that the number of non-VHA eligible veterans is significant (among the recent count of homeless veterans it was unusual for any to be VHA eligible). At the same time, having a pool of HUD-VASH vouchers at the ready (currently there are 37 in the region) is important since the engagement process with eligible veterans is ongoing and can take time and it is hard to predict when they will become “ready” to accept a voucher (i.e., housing).

The prospect of converting vouchers to non-VHA eligible is made complicated by the fact that with that conversion comes the loss of the HUD-VASH aspect, i.e., they become traditional Section 8 vouchers without case management services (which everyone agrees is extremely important). It is theoretically possible for a housing provider to attach its support services to these vouchers (with other funding) but that takes resources!

It was also noted that last year DHCD made available Mass Rental Vouchers for veterans, requiring case management services in conjunction with them. It was difficult then to ascertain need but now with the by-name list in use, there is greater potential to utilize this resource.

Mike noted that Soldier On’s veteran housing in Agawam will be ready in early August. There will be 51 units, 49 for low-income, 21 for market rate (providing housing for 100% service connected veterans).

Sue White agreed to return to the next meeting with a breakdown of VHA eligible and non-eligible veterans.

Update on Veterans NOFA application:
Mike Hagmaier provided an extensive summary of Soldier On’s Veteran funding application and their proposed allocation of beds per the VA’s new guidelines around Grant Per Diem (GPD) beds:

  • Bridge housing (32 beds) – provided in conjunction with SSVF, must offer veterans housing and have housing in place
  • Clinical treatment (57 beds) – for veterans with mental health or substance use diagnosis who want to receive treatment, provides life skills program
  • Transitional housing (116 beds) – these are typical GPD beds, providing service intensive transitional beds with a housing path on a maximum 2 year timeline
  • Hospital to Housing (8 beds) – VHA eligible veterans, in collaboration with VA hospital (and other local hospitals)

The new rules also allow 15% variance to increase or decrease beds in each category, depending on demand. The application is due on 4/4, with program to start on 10/1.

The total beds will be 28 fewer GPD beds at Soldier On than currently exist (from 241 to 213).

Update on Hampden County Sheriff outreach with veterans:
Dan Boyea updated the group about the progress being made on using SQUARES data system to check on veteran status for every offender. It’s happening now for men and will be happening next week for women. In early April, there is a Sheriff Dept/provider meeting to map out collaboration around identifying veterans, linking them with services and coordinating re-housing effort upon release. Dan especially thanked Steve Connor for the assistance in obtaining the letter in support of this effort from the DVS Commissioner.

Announcements:
Jim Mahoney announced that the funeral events for CPL Jules Haunterman Jr. (fought in the Korean War, being returned to his home now) is taking place 3/29-3/31. Calling hours are Thurs 3/30, 4-6 pm at Barry Farrell’s Funeral Home, 2049 Northampton St., Holyoke. Friday, 3/31, 8:45-9:15 are final respects at Funeral Home; 10:00 Mass at Blessed Sacrament Church 1945 Northampton St. Burial at approx.. 11 am at St. Jerome Cemetery, 1666 Northampton Street.

Springfield Partners: 3rd annual Wellness to Work – Veterans Health and Career Fair, Tuesday, 4/25, 10:30 am – 2:30 pm, Christ Church Cathedral, 35 Chestnut Street, Springfield, MA

Recommended podcast (thanks Mike Hagmaier) – a novel approach to using Medicaid funds to pay for housing for chronically homeless people :

http://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2017/03/09/hawaii-homelessness-medical

Next meeting: Friday, 4/28, 9:00-10:30 Northampton Senior Center

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