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