Present: Jerry Ray (MHA), Janice Humason (FOH), Laura Saponare (Catholic Charities), Dave Modzelewski (Network), Angel Middleton (HRU Lighthouse), Charlie Knight, Rebekah Wilder (Craig’s Doors), Dave Christopolis (Hilltown CDC, 3-County CoC), Bill Miller (FOH), Nicole King (FOH), Denise Rivera (FOH), Jo-Anne Ryan (HCH), Todd Koniezhny (HRU Lighthouse), Deb Aloisi (FOH), Delphine Ray (FOH), Rosemary Surdyka (HCH), Samantha Lambert (FOH), Claudia Phillips (HCH/Mercy), Patricia McDonnell (SMOC), and Gerry McCafferty (City of Springfield, Hampden County CoC).

In Pamela’s absence, the meeting was chaired by Gerry McCafferty. After everyone introduced themselves, Gerry reminded everyone that the agenda topic was coordinated assessment, a continuation of the conversation that the Individual Services committee has been having over several months of meetings. More specifically, the topic was the VI-SPDAT, an assessment tool that the committee has expressed interest in using for screening for permanent supportive housing.

Gerry reminded the group that the CoC is required to have a coordinated intake/assessment system in place, that this is something that CoCs across the country are struggling with, and that there are multiple places/types of assessment, including front-door assessment (does this person need shelter, rapid rehousing, or support to stay in place?) and back-door assessment (what kind of housing does this person need to move out of shelter or off the streets?) Our Network has been focusing on the piece that is back-door assessment.

Gerry said that there has been support at prior meetings for use of the VI-SPDAT, and some entities interested in starting to pilot it, but that there are still some concerns. The Hampden County CoC Board of Directors considered a requirement of VI-SPDAT screening prior to entry to CoC-funded PSH at its June meeting, but wanted development of policies and procedures regarding the tool prior to voting on required use. The Hampden CoC Board of Directors will next consider the requirement at its September meeting.

Gerry proposed that, as a way to go forward, the group watch a training video on the VI-SPDAT, discuss concerns about the tool, and then discuss how to move forward. Further, she told the group that she would invite guests who have worked with the VI-SPDAT and/or similar tools to the next Individual Services Committee meeting to talk through their experiences.

Implementation of VI-SPDAT

The group began a discussion prior to the video. The first question was: when will we implement the tool? For the Hampden County CoC, it depends on the Board of Directors, but there is some chance that it will be required as of Oct. 1, 2014. Gerry urged programs to begin experimenting with it now. Dave Christopolis said that the 3-county CoC does not have a set timeframe, but is working toward use of this tool for prioritization. Dave mentioned that use of the tool is a component around what is happening with conversion of units from TH to PSH.

Conversion of TH to PSH; loss of TH units

The committee had many questions about conversion, and concern with loss of TH units. Gerry and Dave provided some information about what HUD has indicated are the reasons for this shift in policy: first, data has indicated that TH is a less effective model than PSH, and second, TH is a very expensive model for people who do not have the highest service needs. Note from Gerry, after the meeting: Also, CoCs are now able to provide rapid rehousing that offers housing subsidy + supportive services for up to 24 months—this can serve the same purpose/population as transitional housing, but is more cost-effective and less likely to result in a participant needing to move at the end of the program.

Other concerns and objections about loss of TH were raised—is this just to show a reduction in homelessness? Is it a question of needing 24-hour staff? (No—some models of PSH have 24-hour staff, others do not.) Can TH providers shift to a scattered site model when they convert? (Yes, if the provider wants to do so.)

Housing First

The group discussed the Housing First model, and the fact that it is a harm reduction, low demand model. While it has now been widely in use in Springfield, it has been used less throughout the rest of Western Mass. Todd Kohniezhny mentioned the recent 60 Minutes segment on Housing First and the 100,000 Homes campaign, and urged people to watch it.

Note from Gerry: I have embedded the video, below.

Gerry mentioned that the CoCs are working together to provide a local training on Housing First. It is expected to be scheduled for October 16, 2014.

VI-SPDAT Training Video

The group watched the training video on the VI-SPDAT:

Training Video on the VI-SPDAT

VI-SPDAT (How to) from Iain De Jong on Vimeo.

Additional Concerns

Two discussion items came up following the video. First, what if people refuse to answer all questions? The group discussed that people who do so may be exceptionally vulnerable and hard-to-serve, so that we would want to prioritize them for housing. We discussed that there may be ways to address this—for example, by outreasch workers filling in what they know about the individual. We talked about the need to address this in policies and procedures.

Second, there was a concern about asking—and people’s reluctance to provide—social security numbers. We noted that this isn’t actually part of the screen, so it shouldn’t be a problem if people refuse to provide, but we also recognized that we are looking at this for a screening tool for housing, and noted that a person would be required to provide the SSN in order to take a housing placement.

Next Steps

The group ended with a discussion of next steps. One suggestion was that existing PSH providers may want to try the screening tool on people recently admitted (for example, in the last 3 months), and get a sense of what scores their current participants have. Another suggestion was that Jay Levy’s outreach workers begin using the tool—Jay has expressed interest. Jay was not at the meeting, so Gerry volunteered to talk to him. Jerry Ray offered that MHA will begin piloting for non-DMH S+C units.

Next Meeting

The next meeting of the Individual Services Committee will take place Thursday, August 7, 2014, 10:30 am – noon, in Northampton. Gerry urged everyone to come to continue this important conversation and to hear from people with familiarity with this or a similar screening tool.

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