Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 9/3/19

In attendance: Yoshi Bird, consultant, Waleska Estrada, NEFWC, Jill Fijal, Chicopee Public Schools, Holly Florek, CHD, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Andrea Marion, VOC, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Gerry McCafferty, Hampden CoC, Michelle Michaelian, BHN, Tony Motyl, CHD consultant, Marisabel Perez, CHD, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Janna Tetreault, Community Action, Anthony Thomas, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Janette Vigo, Way Finders, Lauren Voyer, Way Finders, Melissa White, VOC

Announcement of Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project (and how it may relate to the EA RFR):

Gerry McCafferty announced HUD’s award of $2.4 million to the Hampden CoC and $1.9 million to the Three County CoC (for Franklin County) to address youth homelessness (ages 18-24).  This is an extraordinary accomplishment for our region!  It is part of HUD’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project (YHDP) which will fund a combination of permanent supportive housing, transitional housing and rapid rehousing.  Rapid rehousing can include staffing and financial support for at least 2 years and with waivers up to 3.  The planning process is underway now with an initial draft due to HUD by 12/29, then time to finalize with HUD, so program funding expected to start by next summer.   It will total roughly $1.2 million yearly over the next 2 years – and then the funding gets incorporated into the renewal fund process within the CoC.

Parenting youth ages 18-24 will comprise a target population of this grant and could intersect directly with planning around the state’s RFR. Gerry will be reaching out to family shelter providers to participate in the planning process for the grant and this resource can be incorporated into our innovation planning as well.

Discussion of EA RFR Innovation Section:
DHCD’s RFR includes a request for “innovations.”  It is allocating $2 million statewide for this pool of funding and may include innovative proposals to reduce length of stay, reduce returns to homelessness and improve family stability.  DHCD’s examples include landlord mitigation funds, flexible funds and increased case management where appropriate to maintain stability.

Our region currently has 5 EA providers – Way Finders, NEFWC, CHD, VOC and ServiceNet – and all 5 affirmed their desire to collaborate on a joint proposal if possible.
We brainstormed the following ideas:

  • use coordinated entry – a shared assessment tool and by-name list across each sub-region – to target long staying families and determine how best to allocate additional funds to extend housing subsidies past the one year HomeBASE period (through YHDP and/or other CoC funds) 
  • establish a landlord mitigation/incentive fund that would be utilized to preserve and obtain tenancies
  • extend the Secure Jobs model by funding an outreach worker to reach out to families across the system (via every provider) and establishing a flex fund pool to support the path to employment

Also considered was how the “system navigator” (new position in the RFR) may fit into these innovations and whether the housing search component could be shared (e.g., a “realtor” equivalent staff person that would do new landlord recruitment across the sub-region)

The group discussed the allocation of funding across the region and whether it would make the most sense to divide the total amount sought among the providers so each provider would have a portion to manage in a coordinated fashion.

The group agreed to return to their organizations with these ideas and talk further internally.  We agreed on a next meeting date on this topic only: Tuesday, September 24, 11 am – 12:30 pm, Frost Building, 309, HCC. 

Other training updates:

Next regularly scheduled meeting: Tuesday, October 8, 11 am – 12:30 pm, Frost Building, Room 309, Holyoke Community College

Exciting News on Ending Youth Homelessness!

Thrilling news to report: the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded the Western MA region over $4.3 million to end youth homelessness as part of its Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project!  The Springfield/Hampden Continuum of Care (CoC) was awarded $2.4 million for Hampden County; the Three County CoC received $1.9 million for Franklin County.

CONGRATULATIONS to everyone and especially to our Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Committee partners – Gerry McCafferty of the Springfield/Hampden CoC/City of Springfield and Lisa Goldsmith of Three County CoC/Community Action in particular –  who led the way on making this extraordinary investment possible. 

The grant lays out the next four months for planning time with youth and community partners to develop the plan to end youth homelessness. We will continue what is already well underway and plan with the promise of resources to make the plan happen.  How positively thrilling!

Yesterday, a press conference was held at Springfield City Hall.  You can see the coverage on MassLive and the Greenfield Recorder  and read more from the HUD announcement here.  Young leaders from both regions who participated in this grant planning were in the room for the press conference and received the kudos they richly deserved. We look forward to following their lead in the months and years ahead!

Congratulations once again.  A remarkable step forward for our entire community and for our young people and their futures most of all.

At the press conference at Springfield City Hall announcing the grant. At the podium: Clare Higgins, Executive Director, Community Action Pioneer Valley. From left: David Tille, HUD New England Regional Administrator, Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno, Gerry McCafferty, Springfield Housing Director and Springfield/Hampden CoC Administrator and Lisa Goldsmith, Community Action Director of Youth Services.

 

Three County CoC Individual Services Minutes – 7/29/19

In attendance: Elizabeth Bienz, ServiceNet, Diana Canales, CHD, Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Erin Forbush,  ServiceNet,  Chris Hughes, ServiceNet, Peg Keller, City of Northampton, Andy Klatka, ServiceNet, Jay Levy, Eliot Services,  Luis Martinez, CHD, Brendan Plante, Eliot Services, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Kate Shapiro, DMH, Susan White, LifePath, Josh Wren, ServiceNet

3 County CoC Update
Pamela reported the following updates (Keleigh, the CoC program director at Community Action, relayed her regrets):

  • Transition from Hilltown CDC as lead agency to Community Action continues with recent acquisition of new data system (Social Solution Enterprise and Green River, similar to Hamdpen County which will allow for easy data sharing)
  • HUD’s NOFA for CoC funding is out and due on 9/30.  An RFP for providers will be released soon and due back by the end of August.
  • The CoC’s annual meeting will take place on Friday, Sept. 20, 10 am- 4 pm, at Greenfield Community College. The morning will be general information and CoC structure building (ALL are welcome!); the afternoon will be for providers and focus on data system training. See the attached flyer for the meeting.
  • Erin Forbush reported on coordinated entry. There are right now 263 individuals on ServiceNet’s list.  If other providers are working with individuals, please pass on data to Erin so she can integrate into list.  Right now they are working off an excel document until the new data system is up and running.  We discussed the process that awaits around the vulnerability assessment tool (whether to shift to the VI-SPDAT, the more universal tool utilized by CoC’s).  

Update on Permanent Supportive Housing units (via CHD contract): Luis of CHD reported that there will be 19 beds available very soon in Millers Falls.  Erin will be hosting a Coordinated Entry meeting around these beds on Tuesday, August 13 at 1 pm in Greenfield (the usual time/day for Greenfield’s CE meeting; this one will be devoted to allocating these units in particular).  Providers should stay tuned for additional notice from Erin.

Section 811 Mainstream Housing Vouchers: We noted that HUD released the NOFA for Section 811 vouchers (available for non-elderly disabled individuals, targeting chronically homeless population).  Jay spoke with Amherst Housing Authority and they intend to apply.  Pamela noted that Keleigh met with them too (as well as FRHRA and Greenfield HA) and Pamela will connect Jay and Keleigh on this to maximize coordination.   We discussed the need for coordinated support services to accompany these vouchers and Erin said ServiceNet will be in conversation with Keleigh about this.

Franklin County meeting with Senator Comerford: Pamela reported on Senator Comerford’s initiation of a meeting with Franklin County providers (Community Action, ServiceNet, Town of Greenfield, etc.) and DHCD (Jane Banks) to discuss strategy and interventions to ensure emergency shelter needs are met in Franklin County this winter. It was a very productive meeting, resulting in ServiceNet submitting a request to DHCD for winter overflow funds (to complete the 2nd floor of Wells Street Shelter) for FY20 (which was supported in a letter from Senator Comerford) and a game plan for pursuing an earmark in FY21.  DHCD has reported the good news of securing some additional funding for FY20 (exact amount to be confirmed).  Big thanks to Senator Comerford for her leadership on this!

FY20 State Budget update:  Pamela reported that the Legislature adopted the Conference Committee’s proposed budget last week with very good news in it for housing/homelessness programs.  Individual shelters received the top amount recommended by the House ($53m); RAFT received additional funding of $21m; MRVP received an increase in funding to $110m along with a policy change that allows rent levels to increase to more closely match fair market rent levels.  For more detail, see the Network’s blog post here

Kate requested better understanding of how housing authorities can request “exception rates” for their rent levels and we agreed we needed to clarify how the “exception rate” differs from the “small market rents” that in theory accomplish the same thing.  We will put this on the agenda for the next meeting. 

Network training brainstorm for FY20:
We reviewed the current suggestions for Network trainings for FY20 and the group brainstormed the following additions:

  • Housing authority outreach and advocacy (how to engage and develop stronger relationships)
  • working with elders experiencing homelessness, including addressing medical needs, substance use disorders (volunteers for developing this training include: Kate – she will convene everyone – Jay, Erin, Jane, Peg, Susan White, Hayley; Pamela will send a connecting email to all)
  • Utilities discount (how to access) – referred to Dan Brown of CLA; also utility companies offer this training (Erin can refer)
  • add DMH to DDS/Mass Rehab training
  • consider SOAR trainings as part of SSI/SSDI

How/where to locate trainings in the 3 county area:  We discussed the 3 County need to locate trainings in the 3 county area (as opposed to the Network’s usual location of HCC).  There was consensus that we needed to offer double training since to place a training in the 3 county area effectively means that very few Hampden County providers will attend (just the nature of habit and orientation around travel).  We will establish a sub-group to make decisions about which trainings deserve priority and where within the 3 county area they should be located.  The group will include:  Erin Forbush, Steve Connor, Jay Levy, Jane Ralph and presumably Keleigh Pereira and Brad Gordon or Kim Borden (BCRHA).  Pamela will write an initial email inviting all to participate.  We still need to determine a point person for the group. Other announcements:

  • Kate: there are 2 shelter plus care openings.  We will put this item on the agenda for our next meeting to get an update on how things are going in general.  Will invite Dan Bussler.
  • There are 2 openings at Winslow (Life Path housing for elderly)

Very sad news:  Steve Karpovich, former director of ServiceNet’s Well Spring Shelter, passed away (injuries from a car accident).  We send our thoughts to Steve’s family and to the entire community that will greatly mourn his loss.
Next meeting dates:
Monday, September 23, 1-2:30 pm
, DMH Haskell Building, 2nd floor large conference room
Tuesday, 10/15, 1-2:30, Greenfield location to be determined
Tuesday, 11/12, 1-2:30, likely Greenfield location to be determined

FY20 State Budget is final and so is good news for housing and homelessness priorities!

Governor Baker signed into law the FY20 budget of $43.32 billion yesterday without any spending vetoes. This is great news for the Commonwealth in general and for housing and homelessness priorities in particular.  A reminder on a few of the highlights (see full breakdown here):

  • Mass Rental Voucher Program: an increase to $110 million (plus $6 million carryover from FY19), and adoption of language that allows monthly rent levels to match current fair market rents for subsidies issued after August 1, 2019
  • Individual shelter funding: $53.35 million, a $5 million increase from last year (with the gap in equitable funding for Western MA still remaining)
  • RAFT: an increase to $21 million, which will include a pilot program to help households further upstream, prior to facing eviction
  • Youth and Young Adult Homelessness: an increase to $5 million ($1.7 million above FY19) to support housing and wrap-around services for unaccompanied youth and young adults experiencing homelessness
  • Secure Jobs Initiative: an increase to $2 million for this workforce development program for families and individuals at risk of or experiencing homelessness

Regionally, Berkshire County secured $125,000 for its winter overflow shelter capacity.  And the Network itself secured $75,000 to continue its work coordinating efforts across the region.  Special thanks to Senator Jo Comerford for shepherding the Network’s funding allocation and for all of our Western MA delegation for their steadfast support of the Network and all of the priorities reflected in this budget.  We are so fortunate to have their leadership and commitment.

We look forward to seizing the opportunities this budget offers and moving ever closer to the system change that is necessary to create lasting housing stability for all.  

Onward!

Forum on Opioid Crisis in Rural Communities: 9/5, UMass

Sponsored by:

Join us on Friday, September 6, 2019 at the UMass Amherst Campus Center for a forum, “Addressing the Opioid Crisis in Small and Rural Communities in Western Massachusetts.” This forum will focus on the numerous ways in which the opioid crisis has impacted Western Massachusetts, with particular attention paid to the social and economic consequences for small and rural communities. Unique challenges and innovative solutions will be highlighted.

This work is supported through the  Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundationthe University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health SciencesRIZE Massachusetts Foundation, and Baystate Health.  The issue brief is being produced in collaboration with the Brandeis-Harvard NIDA Center to Improve System Performance of Substance Use Disorder Treatment and the Opioid Policy Research Collaborative (OPRC).

Date: Friday, September 6, 2019
Time: 8:30 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.
Location: Amherst Room (10th Floor)

Campus Center, 1 Campus Center Way, Amherst, MA 01003 

A continental breakfast will be served during registration between 8:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.

We hope that you will be able to join us. Seating is limited, so please register as soon as possible. The agenda can be found on the Massachusetts Health Policy Website. If you have any questions, please contact Ashley Osorio, Events Manager at ambrooks@brandeis.edu or (781) 736-3940.

Webinar (8/7-8/8): Ending homelessness for people with serious mental illness and substance use disorders

Please join SAMHSA’s Homeless and Housing Resource Network for a 2-day national online conversation about the most effective approaches to ending homelessness for individuals with serious mental illness and/or substance use disorders.

The Way Home: A Virtual Summit on Homelessness, Serious Mental Illness, and Substance Use Disorders will run 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (ET) on Wednesday, August 7, and Thursday, August 8.

No travel required – attend directly from your own internet-connected computer. Join us for the whole summit or drop in to only those sessions that most appeal to you.

Registration is now open. See the full agenda and more event information on the registration page.  

The program includes 30+ national experts, policy makers, and providers who will engage you in a variety of plenaries, roundtable discussions, and concurrent sessions.

Continuing education credits are available at no cost to registrants. Space is limited, soregister now.

The FY20 Conference Committee Budget: Good news!

Yesterday, the House and Senate voted to adopt the Conference Committee’s proposed FY20 budget. A resounding THANK YOU to our fabulous Western MA delegation for their leadership in making this budget possible. It contains significant steps forward in our mission to prevent and end homelessness, including many Network priorities:

  • Mass Rental Voucher Program: an increase to $110 million (plus $6 million carryover from FY19), and adoption of language that allows monthly rent levels to match current fair market rents for subsidies issued after August 1, 2019
  • RAFT: an increase to $21 million, which will include a pilot program to help households further upstream, prior to facing eviction
  • Youth and Young Adult Homelessness: an increase to $5 million ($1.7 million above FY19) to support housing and wrap-around services for unaccompanied youth and young adults experiencing homelessness
  • Secure Jobs Initiative: an increase to $2 million for this workforce development program for families and individuals at risk of or experiencing homelessness
  • Regional Transit Authorities: an increase to $90.5 million in funding for transit authorities, a meaningful step forward (with so much more to go)
  • Adult Base Education/ESOL: an increase to $41 million for this critical resource to support a path towards economic stability for people experiencing homelessness

On a regional level, our legislators also secured two earmarks specific to homelessness:

  • $125,000 for winter overflow shelter in Berkshire County
  • $75,000 for the Network itself (special thanks to Senator Jo Comerford for making that possible!)

Click here for a breakdown of additional Network priorities and funding comparisons.

Now our attention turns to the Governor’s office.  Please reach out to urge Governor Baker to support these priorities and this budget as a whole. You can do so by going here: https://www.mass.gov/orgs/governors-office-of-constituent-services

To learn more about housing and homelessness priorities, also see Mass Coalition for the Homeless’ budget update here.

Thank you for your partnership!