Family Services Committee

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

Homes for Families Envisioning Day: August 15

Please see Homes for Families invitation below:


We are excited to open up registration for Visioning Day 2019 when families and providers come together in partnership to articulate our priorities for the coming year. Strong family participation is absolutely vital! We invite families overcoming homelessness and family shelter providers across Massachusetts to have their voice heard in articulating our collective policy advocacy priorities for the year ahead. The day includes dialogue with key state agencies via a state agency panel, table discussions, breakout groups, a fun and engaging children’s program, breakfast and lunch, and of course plenty of inspiration! Check out last year’s Visioning Day report here.

The event will be at the DCU Center in Worcester, on August 15th from 9:30 am to 3:00 pm.

All groups should register using the Group Registration Form. Please submit a child pre-registration form for each child that will be attending. We have an eventbrite page with more information on the event, but please note only people registering as individuals and not coming as a group, should register via eventbrite.

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 7/9/19

In attendance: Hillary Cronin, VA, Anthia Elliott, BHN, Kelli Kefalas, NEFWC, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Andrea Marion, Valley Opportunity Council, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Michelle Michaelian, BHN, Lizzy Ortiz, Mercy Medical, Marisabel Perez, CHD, Kim Saveny, Hilltown Community Health Center, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Janna Tetrault, Community Action, Lauren Voyer, Way Finders,

Shelter system RFP update: Pamela reported that DHCD Assistant Undersecretary Jane Banks advised that the RFP is under final internal review and we can anticipate its release by the end of this month.

Legislative update: Pamela reported that the FY20 budget bill is still in conference committee (the compromises of the House and the Senate budgets) despite the new fiscal year starting on 7/1 (this is typical). Pamela will relay when the budget is released.

Meanwhile, legislative bills pertaining to homelessness that were filed at the start of the new legislative session in January are now coming up for hearings, as soon as Tuesday, July 16. Pamela reviewed these bills, including a pilot program to reduce the “cliff effect” (led by SpringfieldWorks), a data coordination bill requiring state agencies to release data pertaining to homelessness (Senator Comerford is lead sponsor), right to counsel for tenants facing evictions and eviction sealing (so tenants are not permanently penalized for evictions being filed against them).

We discussed the role of the family services committee in this legislative process and there was consensus that members would like to more actively participate in the process. We agreed that we would continue this conversation around how to prioritize bills and strategically push them forward as a committee. It was also suggested that one of our trainings this year address “how bills get made” and other tips around advocacy.

FY20 work plan discussion

Network trainings for FY20
We began by reviewing the training survey results (click here). After discussion, we agreed on the following recommendations for this year’s training calendar:

Provided by Network/state trainers, free of charge (repeats from last year):
EA/HomeBASE training
Overcoming tenant screening barriers
Legal services training
Child care voucher system
SSI/SSDI systems training
DV best practices (provided by Hampden CoC last year; Gerry is looking to repeat this year)
New proposals provided by Network/state trainers:
Advocacy: how does a bill get passed; how can we help make it happen
Mental health/substance use systems training (Michelle, Lizzy, Anthia and Yoshi agreed to be a planning sub-group for this)

Paid trainings:
Racial equity: unanimous support for continuing this work with Marc Dones
OrgCode: unlikely on trauma informed care only because other orgs are offering it; unlikely on diversion/progressive engagement; possibly on “how to run an awesome shelter” but only if modified to better address the family shelter system

We discussed the need for more targeted focus on rural needs, especially regarding transportation. We agreed that the newly forming Three County CoC (through Community Action) will be a great starting point for this conversation.

Next meeting dates:
Due to vacation and other scheduling conflicts, we are shifting our next two meetings to the first Tuesday of the month, so we will meet next on:

Tues., Aug 6
Tues, Sept. 3
11 am – 12:30 pm
Kittredge Center, Room 301
Holyoke Community College

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 5/14/19

In attendance:  Isatu Barrie, NEFWC, Asia Bradford, YWCA, Theresa Cooper-Gordon, NEFWC, Evelyn Garrafo, NEFWC, Radame Jusino, NEFWC, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Jane Lindfors, DTA DV Unit, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Lizzy Ortiz, Mercy Medical, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Sabrina Swinton, NEFWC, Janna Tetreault, Community Action,  Norayma Vazquez, Janette Vigo, Way Finders, Erica Zayas, VOC

State Budget Update: Senate Budget Advocacy WeekPamela reported out on the Senate Ways and Means Committee budget which was released last week.  There are several significant advances, including increased funding for unaccompanied homeless youth, Secure Jobs and Alternative Housing Voucher Program. There is also more work to do through the budget amendment process, to increase funding for RAFT, HCECs and more.  Please see this Network blog post that summarizes the Network’s priority amendments and how to request Senate co-sponsorships.  Your agency or personal contact of your senator this week will make a big difference. 

Training debriefsWe checked in on the recent child care voucher/Head Start training that was held at HCC a April 30.  People who attended felt it was well-done and worthwhile.  It was noted that the lack of Head Start or any equivalent over the summer months is a huge challenge for families. 

We also checked in on the racial equity training – we completed the second in a three part series on April 25.  The consensus is that the trainer, Marc Dones, is excellent and the content is extremely important.  We also agreed that this kind of work never stops; and that there is interest in continuing it after the last session on June 6.  We agreed that the next step must include organizational buy-in from the highest level.  And it was also suggested we needed to bring this work to the young adult population as well. 

Training possibilities for next yearWe had a preliminary brainstorm on trainings for next year, including:

  • Immigration training (how to best assist undocumented people experiencing homelessness and other issues related to immigration status
  • Coordinated Entry – what is it, how does it work (coordinate with CoCs)
  • Racial equity (continuing the work)
  • EA training (repeat)
  • Tenant screening barriers (repeat)

Pamela will compile a list of all trainings offered this year and provide a brief analysis as a foundation for a more deliberate discussion at our next meeting. 

Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project (YHDP): Both the Springfield-Hampden and Three County CoCs are preparing to submit their HUD funded YHDP applications (due May 15) that would provide a significant influx of resources if awarded.  The Three County CoC is applying as a rural region for Franklin County only.  This is their first application.  For Springfield-Hampden, it is their 3rd application and much progress and learning has occurred through the process. This effort is very relevant to our family work because a large number of homeless youth ages 18-24 are pregnant/parenting and in the family shelter system. 

Additionally, there are a number of unaccompanied homeless youth who have left their family while the family is in the shelter system, and finally, with this additional support, we may want to flag homeless families in shelter with older teenagers to help identify the supports they need or help connect them to young adult services outside the family. Awards will be announced in August. 

Three County CoC Update:
Community Action has hired its CoC Program Coordinator, Keleigh (pronounced “Kelly”) Pereira.  She started a week ago and will be connecting to our meetings in the near future. 

Family cap repealed!  We had a moment of celebration around this very significant policy change that ended the penalty for having additional children while on TAFDC.  DTA is now working extremely hard to adjust cash assistance levels based on a complete count of children in the family.  Thanks to everyone involved in the hard work to make this change happen.

Network Housing/Homelessness Resource Fair: June 10.  We have 60 providers from across every sector and every county signed up to share information and roughly 130 people planning to attend.  Approximately 15 Western MA state legislators will be present from 9:30-10:00 am to be publicly thanked.  Stay tuned for more logistical information.

Next meeting date: Tuesday, June 11, 11 am – 12:30 pm, Frost Building, Room 309

Accessing Child Care Vouchers/Head Start: Read On!

On Tuesday, April 30, the Network sponsored a training for over 60 famly shelter and other case managers at Holyoke Community College to learn about recent policy changes impacting (and improving) families’ access to MA child care vouchers. Special thanks to Sara Garvin of New England Farm Workers Council and Dawn DiStefano of Square One for their expertise. You can see the Powerpoint presentation that details the state child care system; the “Quick sheet” for initial intake questions and contact names and numbers; and the actual Wait List Initial Intake Form.

We also heard from Head Start leaders Nicole Blais and June Lynds about how to best access Head Start. Their contact information is here:

Holyoke/Chicopee Head Start Contacts
Maggie Sexton, Enrollment Coordinator,
Audra Dias, Enrollment Supervisor
Head Start Locator/Resources website: 

Head Start Community Action Pioneer Valley
For enrolling at CAPV Head Start & Early Learning Programs in Western Hampden (including West Springfield, Agawam and Westfield), Hampshire and Franklin Counties: 413-387-1250 or (Families can apply online or programs can download our referral form under the Head Start heading.

And finally, we heard from Rebecca Burgos and Christine Zaskey-Cullen of Coordinated Family Care and Engagement (CFCE) programs, detailing the support available in each community through this programs. You can find the CFCE contact person in your community by going here.

3 County Individual Services Meeting Minutes – 4/8/19

In attendance: Yoshi Bird, YWCA, Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Sara Cunningham, Community Action, Eleanor Dodson, ServiceNet, Erin Forbush, ServiceNet, Lisa Goldsmith, Community Action, Jade Lovett, Craig’s Doors, Elizabeth Mansfield, Tapestry,  Danielle McColgan, CHD, Katie Miernecki, ServiceNet, Theresa Nicholson, CHD, Aidan Novo, Craig’s Doors, Aisha Pizarro, YWCA, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Kate Shapiro, DMH, Michael Trembley, ServiceNet

SSI/SSDI Training: Big thanks to Caitlyn Thomas, a Social Security disability advocate, for volunteering her incredible time and energy to organizing and leading a training of roughly 75 Network partners this morning at Holyoke Public Library on SS/SSDI.  The feedback was excellent across the board and the only “complaint” was wanting more!  Pamela will discuss with Caitlyn any possibility for supplemental training and/or distribution of the presentation.

Built for Zero Update: Pamela updated the group on her attendance at the Built For Zero Learning Session in Atlanta, GA in late March as part of the Hampden County CoC team. This is a very exciting initiative – over 70 CoCs and communities represented with 500 people from across the country – working as part of a national initiative (led by the national organization Community Solutions) in collaboration with HUD, VA and the US Interagency on Homelessness. Its first focus is to end veteran homelessness (several communities have celebrated this milestone; Hampden County has set June 30 for its goal!).  “Ending” means reaching “functional zero” where the number of people experiencing homelessness each month is less than the average number of people who are rehoused (i.e., the “outflow” is larger than the “inflow”). After achieving veteran homelessness, the initiative will focus its efforts on ending chronic homelessness and then all forms of homelessness (youth and family).

Built for Zero considers itself a movement for social change, anchored in fundamental grassroots organizing principles (there is no such thing as doing “for” only “with”), entirely data-driven and using that data to make highly measurable progress.  It is positively inspiring to be a part of it!
Pamela shared this information with the new 3 County CoC lead – Community Action – and they are participating in a webinar on 4/9 about how new communities can join.  We will all stay tuned.  The next national convening will be in October and meanwhile the work in Hampden County continues with the countdown to ending veteran homelessness by June 30.  

Discussion of 3 county assessment tool:  The group began to revisit the question of the 3 County CoC’s assessment tool for its coordinated entry system. All Built for Zero communities use the VI-SPDAT, which was previously rejected by the 3 County CoC in favor of the AZ Matrix Tool. Pamela suggested the group take another look since the VI-SPDAT allows for a common language, more training resources and comparison with the other CoC’s across the nation (as well as the Hampden County CoC).  It was agreed that this was an appropriate issue for the Coordinated Entry work group to take up.  Pamela will just give a heads-up on the question (and what she took away from the Built for Zero session) at the CoC Board meeting on Wed. 

Update on PSH transition: Theresa Nicholson of CHD gave a report on its acquisition of ServiceNet’s PSH contract and her search for new units.  She has a promising lead on a complex in Millers Falls, although we discussed access to public transportation as a possible barrier. She will examine other transpo options. At this point, CHD will be taking over ServiceNet’s 26 units for PSH (and will add 28-30 more).  If CHD can enter into a sub-contract with ServiceNet (for its remaining dollars), some of these units could come on line in May; otherwise it will be in July when CHD takes over the full contract.

Shelter Plus Care conversations: We reported out on the initial meeting with DMH and ACCS (ServiceNet) regarding implementation of system changes to ease the eligibility and housing process.  The group will meet again in May and will keep this group updated.

MA Youth Count: April 12 – May 12 – go here for surveys and related information – please spread the word and participate!

Shelter Update:  Shelters are full as usual. We agreed to reframe this topic on the monthly agenda to address questions/issues ripe for discussion – Pamela will check in with Erin, Katie and Jade prior to meeting to see if there is something they want to discuss.

FY20 State Budget Update: Pamela, in combination with various Network partners, has been leading meetings with Western MA state legislators regarding the Network’s FY20 budget priorities.  On April 8, Network partners got an audience with Senate President Spilka who joined a planned meeting with Senator Anne Gobi (from Ware and Palmer), a fabulous opportunity to bring Western MA needs to the highest levels of state government!

Register for the Resource Fair!Monday, June 10, 9 am – 12 noon, Holyoke Community College. 

 To register to attend: go here

To register to request table space to share resources: go here (note: if you’re having a table but have additional staff attending, please register on the general attendance link as well).

Next meeting date: Monday, May 13, 1 pm, ServiceNet, 296 Nonotuck St, Northampton

Family Services Committee Minutes – 3/12/19

In attendance: Nicole Blais, Head Start – HCS (Holyoke, Chicopee, Springfield), Marianne Bouthilette Community Action Head Start, Rebecca Burgos, West Springfield Public Schools, Christine Cullen, Holyoke Chicopee Family and Community Program (CFCE), Sara Cummings, Community Action, Dawn DiStefano, Square One, Rosemary Fiedler, HCC, Jennifer Gonzalez-Morales, Holyoke Public Schools, Brenda Garcia, BHN Holyoke FIT, Ryan Howard, HCS Head Start, Jane Lindfors, DTA-DV unit, June Lynds, Community Action Head Start, Luz Marcano, VA, Yeisie Mateo, DCF, Emily Magnifico, Hilltown Community Health Center, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Jocelyn Martinez, WomanShelter, Theresa Nicholson, CHD, Marilyn Nunez, VOC, Colleen O’Brien, BHN Early Intervention, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners, Pamela Schwartz, Network,  Janna Tetrault, Community Action, Janette Vigo, Way Finders, Erica Zayas, VOC

Sign up for the 3rd Annual Housing and Homelessness Resource Fair for Providers on Monday, June 10, 9 am – 12:30 pm, Holyoke Community College. To register to attend: go here. To register to request table space to share resources: go here. 
Note: Western MA Legislators will be invited to attend from 9:30 to 10 am for welcoming comments.

Point in Time Count Update: Please click here for a summary of the Hampden County 2019 PIT data and here for additional breakdown on family data.   The Three County CoC data is in process (delayed due to transition between CoC leads, from Hilltown CDC to Community Action).

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 presentation can be found by going to this link.

There are 2 other sessions in April and June and Pamela reported the Network’s commitment to continue this work for the duration of the Network. The next 2 sessions will address more concrete actions we can take.  Pamela will continue to report back. 

Head Start and child care discussion:Thanks to our Head Start partners in the region for attending to let us know about their programs and their prioritization process for children experiencing homelessness.  The national group Schoolhouse Connections has launched a campaign to engage with Head Start programs around enrolling more children and families experiencing homelessness.
We learned the following: 

  • homelessness receives a priority for all Head Start programs
  • Holyoke/Chicopee/Springfield Head Start (covers 15 communities) tries to reserve 3% for homeless families; Community Action Head Start (covers from Ware to Turners Falls to West Springfield to Northampton and Amherst) has a point system to determine priority status and just changed their policies to provide more points when homeless
  • infant/todder programs are likely to have longer wait lists.  Otherwise, frequently openings on a rolling basis
  • They address transportation challenges and will do home visits at shelters
  • They will get data on # of children experiencing homelessness in their program for next meeting
  • Square One is not a Head Start program – only offers state vouchers, but the programs work closely together. They are always full but they refer to each other.
  • Recent policy changes – as of March 1 –  in state child care voucher are significant! (1) for “homelessness vouchers” DHCD referral for voucher is no longer required. DHCD and DCF – DV –  funded shelters can refer directly – this is a huge advance in streamlining paperwork; and (2) for “income eligible” vouchers homelessness itself is now considered a “service need” for purposes of establishing eligibility  (where previously a family had to demonstrate 30 hours of other activity)

The group agreed it would be useful to hold a training for front line staff on these state regulatory changes and Head Start.  Pamela will follow-up in the coming weeks.

Coordinated Family and Community Engagement Grants (CFCE): We also discussed this state-funded program that exists in every city and town in the Commonwealth.  The grant is held by different entities, most commonly in schools, sometimes in Head Start programs. The goal is to strength all families and child development for children from birth to age 8.  The group agreed that family shelters could benefit from support in better connecting to this resource. 
Pamela will follow-up with regional CFCE coordinator to pursue a meeting opportunity. 

Other announcements: Network FY20 Budget and Legislative Priorities: Please click here for the Network’s budget priorities and here for the Network’s legislative priorities that will be discussed with legislators and Network partners over the coming weeks.  Please contact Pamela if you are interested in participating or have any questions. 

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 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

Next meeting date: Tuesday, April 9, 11-12:30, Frost Building, Room 309, Holyoke Community College

Family RFI Response Submitted!

The Western MA Network to End Homelessness is pleased to report its submission to DHCD’s Family Homelessness System Request for Information (RFI). Please see the Network response here.

By way of context, copied below is the Network’s “background information” for this response:
The Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness is the collaborative vehicle for preventing and ending homelessness in the four counties of Western Massachusetts with a Housing First approach. This RFI response is an outgrowth of a series of meetings through the Network’s Family Services Committee, a committee comprised of over 100 members, including a broad cross-section of all housing and shelter providers, and partners in health care, substance addiction and mental health, domestic violence, child care, education, and workforce development, as well as state agency representatives from DHCD, DPH, DCF and DMH. This Committee selected a targeted number of questions that it felt would best reflect the region’s proposed vision to ending family homelessness. The Network’s Family Services Committee seeks DHCD’s adoption of its recommendations, and looks forward to continuing the work in partnership with each other and DHCD to prevent and end homelessness in Western Massachusetts and the Commonwealth as a whole.

Congratulations to all for the excellent work and the amazing partnership!