Category Archives: Veterans

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Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – 5/16/19

In attendance:  Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Craig Deraway, Soldier On, Bryan Dixon, Veterans, Inc., Mike Hagmaier, Soldier On, Phyllis Lutsky, VA, Justin Maynard, VA, Gerry McCafferty, Springfield-Hampden CoC, Jesus Pereira, Holyoke Veterans Services, Katherine Person, Veterans Inc., Pamela Schwartz, Network, Stephanie Shaw, Chicopee Veterans Services

State Senate Budget Update:The Senate Ways and Means Committee released its proposed budget next week.  This week is the week for filing amendments and next week the Senate debate will begin. To connect to Network advocacy on our priority amendments, please go to our blog post here

Network Housing/Homelessness Resource Fair – June 10:The Network’s Fair currently has over 60 providers signed up to share information (and about 130 registered attendees).  We also have roughly 15 legislators planning to attend from 9:30-10:00 am for a Network welcome.  HCC President Christina Royal will also welcome, as well as DHCD Assistant Undersecretary Jane Banks.  If you have not yet registered but plan to attend, please register  here(but don’t further spread the word – we are essentially at room capacity!).

Three County CoC Update:We discussed the transition that is underway in 3 County CoC administration.  Community Action recently hired a new CoC Program Coordinator Keleigh (pronounced “Kelly”) Pereira.  We look forward to welcoming her at our next meeting.  And Community Action is also currently hiring for their HMIS data analyst. This will be key to bringing the veterans by-name list meetings back on line for the 3 county region. 

Coordinated Entry update re: Soldier On/VA: Mike and Phyllis reported good progress on creating a work flow between Soldier On and the VA to ensure prioritization based on vulnerability assessments.  There was a good first meeting and a subsequent one scheduled for 5/20. Mike reported Soldier On is creating a google form to track applications and vulnerability scores.  Gerry suggested this could be incorporated into the Green River data warehouse system.  Gerry will follow-up to bring Mike and Green River together for a meeting to discuss further.


Built for Zero Update for Springfield-Hampden CoC: The by-name list has roughly 14-16 veterans on it at this point with a housing plan in place for most of them; several who were not thought to be VHA eligible are in fact eligible (a special shout-out to Jesus Pereira for his knowledge and expertise with the DPRIS data system that makes verification more readily available – see https://www.dpris.dod.mil/#!?side=accessinfo for more information). 
The HUD-VASH vouchers that we have been waiting on for non-VHA eligible veterans are once again very close to being authorized for use – latest word from US ICH is “imminent.”


Community Solutions expert Eddie Turner visiting Western MA on 5/21: Eddie Turner, a leader at Community Solutions, the parent organization for the Built for Zero campaign, is making a special visit to Western MA next Tuesday and Gerry is hosting a special veterans meeting with him from 10 am – 11:30 am at Union Station in Springfield.  We discussed the topics to address, e.g., how to build access to programs that have been harder to reach; how to fill units quickly and ensure good outcomes; how to make our outreach more effective so we connect with every single veteran who is unsheltered. Steve will invite all VSO’s to Tuesday’s meeting.


Next meeting date:
Thursday, July 18, 9:30 am – 11:00 am, Frost Building, Room 309, HCC.

Veterans Committee Minutes – 3/14/19

In attendance: Steve Connor, Central Hampshire Veterans Services, Craig Deraway, Soldier On, Mike Hagmaier, Soldier On, Justin Maynard, VA, Gerry McCafferty, Hampden CoC, Emmanuel Owusu, Springfield veterans services, Jesus Pereira, Holyoke VSO, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Stephanie Shaw, Chicopee VSO, Kate Sweetseter-Owens, HUD-VASH, Susan White, VA, Ali Wilson-Pierce, HUD-VASH

Racial Equity in Ending Homelessness training: Pamela reported out on the first of a 3 part training that took place on March 7.  About 100 Network partners participated.  The trainer, Marc Dones, was extremely well-received and the feedback has been excellent.  The two other sessions will take place on April 25 and June 6. The presentation can be found by going to this link.

Network FY20 Budget and Legislative Priorities: Please click here for the Network budget priorities and here for the legislative priorities. Please contact Pamela if you are interested in participating or have any questions. 

Point in Time Count –
Update Hampden County: The 2019 Point in Time Count took place at the end of January.  25 veterans were identified as homeless, an increase from 19 last year (although the general analysis is the increase is a function of random circumstances that particular night since the number dropped to its previous year’s number shortly after the count). There were 4 veterans identified in the family system; otherwise most were in shelters and a small number unsheltered. There was great participation with the VSOs, police departments and Tapestry (especially notable was new partnerships in Holyoke).  

Springfield/Hampden CoC Built for Zero update:  There is a real focus on veterans to demonstrated that getting to “functional zero” is possible.  The largest remaining challenge is housing non-VA eligible veterans. The CoC is continuing to await final VA approval of the Memorandum that will allow the use of HUD-VASH vouchers for 13 non-VA eligible veterans. Meanwhile, systems for quick identification of veteran status and referral at emergency shelters continue to improve and get further refined. A long-term chronically homeless veteran (lived on the streets over 10 years) was just housed at Soldier On.  

There will be a cross-check between the PIT count and the by-name list to see where veterans exist on one list but not the other, and will try to close the gap.
 
3 County CoC Point in Time Count Update
22 unsheltered individuals identified
1 veteran among them
Due to the transition taking place between the CoC lead – from Hilltown CDC to Community Action – there are data systems in transition as well, so more complete data on the PIT count is delayed. 

Integrating veterans into coordinated entry:
We discussed the conversation between CoC leads and DHCD regarding the process and allowability for changing tenant selection plans from first come-first serve to vulnerability based (and therefore capable of being incorporated into coordinated entry).  We got this guidance from DHCD:
DHCD, and CEDAC would both be open to amendments of tenant selection plans that would allow already existing properties with homeless units and with HIF and Home (and maybe others?) to utilize Coordinated Entry.  The process seems pretty straight forward – simply submit the amendment language to start the process. Owner(s) of the affordable housing project(s) should call DHCD and CEDAC first to discuss before putting in any labor revising their Tenant Selection Plan.  This is exciting progress and also only the start of figuring out the complexities of implementing coordinated entry with all veterans at Soldier On and elsewhere. We agreed we would have a follow-up meeting to flesh out some of the challenges. Pamela will reach out to Mike, Sue, Kate, Steve, Ali, Phyllis, Gerry and Sara to coordinate a convenient meeting date. 

VSO’s at Housing Courts: Steve Connor reported that VSO’s are going to housing courts and district courts across the region to be available with resources and support for veterans facing eviction. Good results! 

Other announcements:
Supplemental Security Income training – Monday, April 8, 9 am -12:30 pm, Holyoke Public Library, 250 Chestnut Street, Holyoke. Pamela reminded all of this upcoming training about how to access SSI to help end homelessness and how the benefit relates to eligibility for other resources.  Caitlin Thomas, an SSI disability expert, is leading the training, along with other partners.  Please email Caitlin directly at caitlinthomas@comcast.net to RSVP. 

Opioid Prevention and Treatment training: Wed., April 10, 9 am – 3 pm, Sheraton Springfield Hotel, Springfield, sponsored by the statewide Health Resources in Action. Promising policies and practices will be shared around the topic of opioid overdoes prevention, responses and postvention. Register  here

SAVE THE DATE: The Network’s 3rd Annual Housing/Homelessness Resource Fair for Providers – Monday, June 10, 9 am – 12:30 pm, Holyoke Community College.  We will be inviting our Western MA legislative delegation to attend from 9:30 am – 10:00 am for a welcome and acknowledgment of their support of our efforts. To register to attend: go here. To register to request table space to share resources: go here
Next meeting date: Thursday May 16, 9:30-11 am, Frost 309, HCC

Veterans Committee Minutes – 1/29/19

n attendance: Kate Bavelock, 3 county CoC, Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Craig Deroaway, SoldierOn, Erin Forbush, ServiceNet, Mike Hagmaier, SoldierOn, Phyllis Lutsky, HUD/VASH, Gerry McCafferty (via phone), Hampden CoC, Katie Miernecki, ServiceNet, Jesus Pereira, Holyoke VSO, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Jim Seney, VAMC, Kate Sweetser-Owens, HUD/VASH, Sue White, HUD/VASH, Allie Wilson-Pierce, HUD/VASH 

Reviewed current status:
Three County CoC is in transition with leadership moving to Community Action (HMIS and Coordinated Entry contract will move by 2/1; the remainder beginning by 6/1). There were a lot of setbacks in the creation of data systems but now work is underway with the consultant Green River (Gerry reported the great success Hampden CoC has had using Green River to create by-name lists, including pulling from HMIS)

Goals
One of our goals is not losing track of veterans as they travel across both CoC’s so we can provide as much continual service as possible. This requires data sharing and that capacity is possible!  

Another goal is to ensure all systems (VA/Soldier On/community) are on the same page around prioritization of units. Right now veterans in GPD beds are not on the by-name list – there was concern that the numbers in GPD would bog down real movement on the list; Gerry shared their experience of NOT talking about each veteran at each meeting but that having them all on the same list allows for comparing across the system who has the highest needs. 

If both on-the-street veterans and Soldier On veterans share a list, it would allow the region to have a global view of the challenge and to cross-reference on needs and services. Assessments could be done only on those veterans in GPD who are chronic, have the highest acuity and/or cycle in and out of homelessness.  This way the region could work from one list. 

Housing unit prioritization
In terms of prioritization of units, Soldier On shared that they are awaiting clarification on whether it is allowable to shift their wait lists from first-come first-serve to acuity-based (in relation to funding based on agreed upon tenant selection plans). Gerry noted that HUD readily gave approval for this kind of switch but there is not yet clarity on the state level. 
Meanwhile, Sue and Steve will continue the work of ensuring veterans’ paperwork and other procedures are in order for when the presumed approval for the shift comes.

Tracking vacancies in non-HUD funded properties:The group discussed the challenge of engaging non-HUD funded property managers in the coordinated entry process (frequently openings are discovered later than necessary). Gerry pointed out that the Green River data system allows for quick identification of vacancies and tracking of occupancy – this requires getting housing orgs to use this tool. We need DHCD’s help to make this happen.

Next steps

  • stand by (and support as needed) Community Action’s hires and acquisition of Green River software ASAP
  • HUD/VASH will start screening processes so ready to go when get approval to prioritize based on acuity
  • Pamela will reach out to DHCD Assistant Undersecretary Jane Banks to meet (with CoC leads) to discuss how DHCD can better support the prioritization process (clear mandate to funded entities to adopt tenant selection plans on that basis).

Announcements

  • In addition to VSO coverage in Housing Court on Mondays in Northampton, now VSOs are in Springfield Housing Court on Thursdays – providing support when veteran identified
  • Good news!  2 non-VA eligible veterans who have been homeless for 5-10 years were recently housed!  One at Soldier On’s housing in Agawam, another through a Springfield mainstream voucher.  A huge team effort – congratulations everyone!

Next meeting date:Thursday, March 14, 9:30 am – 11 am, Frost Building, Room 309, HCC

Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes 9/5/18

Veterans Committee Meeting Committee Minutes
9/5/18
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 – http://westernmasshousingfirst.org – 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 pschwartz77@gmail.com 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.