Family Services Committee Minutes – 11/15/19

In attendance: Christine Cullen, Holyoke Chicopee Family Community Program, Waleska Estrada, NEFWC, Lisa Goldsmith, Community Action, Danielle Harther, CHD, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Jane Lindfors, DTA/DV unit, Nicole Lussier, Open Pantry Teen Parent Program, Andrea Marion, VOC, Yeisie Mateo, DCF, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield/Hampden CoC, Lesley McCoy, ROCA, Matt Montanaro, ServiceNet, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Lizzy Ortiz, Mercy Medical Center, Dorothy Prieto, Community Action Head Start and Early Learning, Ana Rodriguez, Care Center, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Janna Tetreault, Community Action, Amanda Watson, FCRHRA, Melissa White, VOC, Twjana Williams, DHCD

Training updates: The Network is sponsoring a training on “State Budget and Policy-Making: How it all happens and relates to ending homelessness” on Tuesday, January 28, 9:30 am – 12 noon at HCC, Kittredge Center.  Register here.

Over the last month, the Network sponsored two trainings: (1) Overcoming Tenant Screening Barriers, thanks to Community Legal Aid Attorney Jane Edmonstone for leading; and (2) EA/HomeBASE Program Overivew, thanks to DHCD staff Bonnie Caldwell, Twjana Williams, Penny Triglio and Amy Mullen for leading.  Both trainings were attending by over 70 people from across the four counties and received excellent evaluations.  We will continue to repeat these trainings every year.

Legislative update: Pamela shared information on the two bills: Right to Counsel in Evictions and Eviction Sealing (HOMES) and requested each organization consider signing on as supporters.  To sign on to Right to Counsel go here.  To sign on to Eviction Sealing go here.  These bills are gaining momentum (and have the support of many in our Western MA legislative delegation) and if passed would make a significant impact in preventing and ending homelessness.  Please add your organizational voice to the call for passage. 

Discussion: learning more about the young parent population in the family system and the unique challenges they face 
We devoted the remainder of the meeting to the issue of young parents in the family homelessness system as part of the planning taking place for the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Programs (YHDP) underway in Hampden and Franklin Counties (HUD awarded both sub-regions this demonstration program – draft plans to HUD are due on 12/29).

First we reviewed the data:Hampden County EA shelter: 
273 families are headed by youth; average length of stay is 203 days (long!); regarding their exits, only 51% go to a permanent location; 26% to temporary; 23% to unknown location.  The population is disproportionately latina.  Teen pregnancy rates are higher than the state average in Springfield, Chicopee and Holyoke. There are 24 additional slots for teen parents outside the EA system (via Teen Living Program).

Three County EA shelter: 23 families are headed by youth; 12 are in Franklin County; average length of stay is 87 days; 33% of exits are going to permanent housing. 
No TLP slots in Three County. 

Questions the group considered:
What are the challenges for gaining access to the system?
What are the particular barriers to getting housed and to gaining self-sufficiency?
Does this population need more time than HB allows in order to give them space for education and early career?

Discussion points:

  • Many young moms are DCF-involved, requiring much of their time and effort on reunification.  Very difficult to get to other ambitions – e.g., education or employment – with this challenge.
  • Roughly 70% of young parents were DCF-involved as a child.
  • One year of stabilization is not enough to get stabilized.
  • Franklin County Healthy Families:  youth under 18 have nowhere to go, the only option is to move out completely and that’s overwhelming.  So they stay in compromising situations (e.g., abuse or neglect). For 18 and older, there are many other barriers, including ineligibility from certain resources based on previous behavior; also lack of child care is a defining barrier.  
  • Young parents are even more likely not to understand their lease or what it means to receive an eviction notice; or understanding that rent is not “billed” and must pay without receiving a bill
  • Young parents can be hard to locate because they are frequently between parental and friend locations. Their phones often frequently change which also poses a barrier for continuous contact.
  • Lack of affordable housing and lack of support in general result in young moms staying in abusive situations. 
  • Young moms will not apply for EA because of fear of being dislocated from their home communities.
  • Continuity of services is difficult if not impossible when young moms who have been placed outside of their community suddenly have the opportunity to relocate home and abruptly leave whatever support services are underway.  A whole lot of uprooting and dislocation takes place.
  • No programs of young people under 18 will take couples, so an involved dad actually means fewer resources are available for the mom
  • Need more stabilization services!
  • Important to consider how to maintain connection to young adults who turn 18 and are with DCF – they want “out” but we need to figure out how to make “out” still connected and supported – we can start building greater connections between DCF and homeless service providers now!  
  • Friends of Children in Hadley provided mentor support across all 4 counties.  Mentoring is extremely important to tis population.
  • Phones change all the time among young 
  • Support services must include some basic life skills, education re: healthy habits, etc.
  • EA family shelter system does not specifically target 18-24 year old families to address their specific developmental needs.
  • Must connect to mental health resources such as CBHI
  • Must make sure to identify and connect with resources already out there in the community (it was noted that much of what was discussed does exist in our region; we just need to better connect and develop ties to what’s out there).
  • We need to consider identifying a “navigator” for young parents in the system so that the knowledge of all the services is centralized and easily disseminated.
  • Must also address the fact that many young people are distrustful of “services” and refuse offerings – trust must be built
  • YHDP funds will largely be spent on increasing housing options, possibly duration of housing assistance; we will be relying on building community connections to all of the support services that currently exist.

Next meeting date: Tuesday, Dec. 10, 10:30-noon, Frost Building 309, Holyoke Community College