Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – 7/18/19

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In attendance: Steve Connor, Western/Central Veterans Services, Craig Deraway, Soldier On, Bryan Dixon, Veterans Inc., Mike Hagmaier, Soldier On, Justin Maynard, VA, Jesus Pereira, Holyoke Veterans Services, Keleigh Pereira, 3 County CoC/Community Action, Katherine Person, Veterans Inc., Pamela Schwartz, Network, Stephanie Shaw, Chicopee Veterans Services Kate Sweetster-Owens, VA

Continuum Vouchers (reported by Gerry McCafferty via email)
We FINALLY have the Continuum vouchers (for non-VA-eligible veterans). The 2 CoCs met on Monday to figure out how to prioritize for them. We identified the first priority as chronically homeless veterans who had some active duty. There are 10 veterans that meet this criteria—5 from each CoC—and these folks have been referred. There will be 1 voucher remaining. We are doing a little research before we decide how to prioritize next.

Discussion: The group discussed the question of eligibility criteria, e.g., Guard/Reserve eligibility and question of active duty or only threshold is not having a dishonorable discharge.  Steve Connor will be seeking clarification. 

Built for Zero  (reported by Gerry McCafferty via email)
We are continuing our push  to end veteran homelessness, and just made some great progress by recently housing two long-time chronically homeless veteran households. Another chronically homeless veteran family that has been in the family shelter system for 4 years is currently waiting for her unit inspection and then they will be housed.

The Hampden County number is still 15, because we’ve had some new veterans enter out system. The Continuum vouchers will help us with the chronic folks on our list, but we will need to keep working hard to manage steady inflow and continue to be able to house new people quickly. We still have a couple barriers to doing that: 1) Two of the new people are at Samaritan Inn, and it’s always hard to connect with folks there; and 2) VOC’s Chapin Mansion, which should be a great resource for veterans, is still a challenge. There are still 7 empty SRO units and we have not been able to get anyone in there.

Data/HMIS (reported by Gerry McCafferty via email)
The Springfield/Hampden County CoC has received an HMIS Capacity Building Grant. Through the application process, we needed to identify each of our areas of weakness. One of them was lack of permanent housing beds in HMIS. We recently worked with Soldier On to get the Agawam and Chicopee programs into the system. The CoC and the VA are now working together to figure out the strategy to get VASH units in. The combined number of Soldier On and VASH units is pretty large, so this is a big help to the CoC for increasing our coverage rate.

3 County Update
Keleigh reported the 3 county CoC is working on obtaining its by-name list (in transition due to the turnover in admin lead from the Hilltown CDC).  Community Action (the new CoC lead agency) has purchased a new data system (Social Solutions Enterprise), and is in the process of setting up this system.  It is the same system as Hampden County which will afford data evaluation across the region. Three County will be starting up coordinated entry meetings again over the next month. The CoC is hiring a program specialist who will be responsible for coordinated entry (along with other fiscal responsibilities).

The 3 County CoC is planning its Annual Meeting for September 20, 10 am – 4 pm at Greenfield Community College.  The morning will be for the general public to learn more about the CoC and its structure.  The afternoon will be geared towards providers and training on systems. 

New Mainstream Vouchers
We discussed the availability of new mainstream vouchers for non-elderly disabled individuals.  Housing authorities must apply.  Keleigh has reached out to Franklin Regional and Amherst HA (both applying) and is talking to Greenfield HA next week. Pamela will inquire of Gerry about Hampden County HA status on this.

There was discussion about the challenge of finding units under the FMR limits and the no-greater-than-40%-of-income rule (which is no longer being overlooked).  We discussed the use of HUD’s “small market FMR” exception and whether our housing authorities are seeking that to increase the FMR level. 

Network FY20 training discussion:We reviewed the list thus far (from last year and other committee discussions) of our proposed training calendar:

  • EA/HomeBASE system overview (fall)
  • Overcoming tenant screening barriers (fall)
  • legal services training (winter)
  • child care voucher system overview (spring)
  • SSI/SSDI systems overview (fall)
  • Advocacy: how a bill gets passed; how to advocate (winter)
  • Mental health/substance us systems overview (sub-group working on this)
  • DV best practices training around safety planning for DV survivors and use of VAWA (Sept.) 
  • Employment trainings (per HUD NOFA requirements, done by 9/30) – will discuss further at 7/22 career services meeting 
  • Human trafficking
  • Accessing DDS and Mass Rehab (traumatic brain injury)
  • Racial equity continued (in discussion with Marc Dones) 

This group suggested adding:

  • problem gambling (use MGM as a resource)
  • how to seal or expunge a CORI (referred to Dan Bahls of CLA)
  • how to reduce leveling under the SORI (Pamela reaching out to Laurie Guidry)

It was also suggested to reach out to Human Services Forum for info on their advocacy training.

Other Updates:
There is no longer a VSO in West Springfield (Chris Lizotte left his position earlier this week).  This could pose great challenges around W. Springfield veterans getting their payments and other services. Steve Connor and others following up to assist. 

VSO coverage at Hampshire County Housing Court continues regularly and Hampden County housing court to some degree.  VSO intervention with direction to resources is saving tenancies and preventing homelessness. 

Next meeting date: Thursday, 9/26, 9:30 – 11 am, Holyoke Community College, Frost Building 309