Community Conversation: Ending Older Adult Homelessness in Hampshire County – 1/17/20

Western MA Area of the Department of Mental Health in collaboration with local partners is pleased to offer the following Community Conversation:

Ending Older Adult Homelessness in Hampshire County
Friday, January 17
1 pm – 4 pm
Northampton Senior Center
67 Conz Street, Northampton

The afternoon will include an expert panel, networking, questions and answers and sharing of resources.

If you would like to provide information at a table or have questions or need accommodations, please contact Earl Miller at Earl.C.Miller@MassMail.State.MA.US or 413-5887-6478.

Hope to see you there!

Youth and Young Adult Services Committee Minutes – 11/20/19

In attendance: Emily English, Gandara Center, Jill Fijal, Chicopee Public Schools, Leslie Fisher-Katz, Children Study Home, Lisa Goldsmith, Community Action, Ann Lentini, Domus, Amanda Lesnick, Gandara, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield/CoC, Peter Miller, City of Westfield, Nural Mohammed, CHD, Jordana O’Connell, CHD, Lizzy Ortiz, Mercy Medical Center, Stacy Parsons, North Adams Public Schools/DESE, Michael Perez, Impact Center, Mena Regan, CHD, Jean Rogers, CHD, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Tyrese Tillman, CHD, Catherine Torres, CSO/FOH

Committee Name Change! We decided that we would change our committee name to be consistent with how young people prefer to be named, i.e., “Youth and Young Adult” so our committee is now the Youth and Young Adult (YYA) Services Committee.

Training update: The Network is sponsoring a training on state budget and policy-making: how it all works.  January 28, 2020, 9:30 am – 12 noon, Kittredge Center, HCC. Please Register here.

Racial equity work:  The Network Steering Committee is allocating its training funds to racial equity work – $37,000 total, divided between the Hampden CoC ($20K) and the Three County CoC ($17K).  It will be utilized to augment the youth work that is happening through YHDP so will focus on the youth population. The MA Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) is also allocating some funds for studying racial disparity in 3 or 4 communities across the state (likely including Springfield as one).  Hampden County will be enlisting Marc Dones of National Innovation Service and Jeff Olivet, a consultant, on this work and will also be adding some of its own funds to the work.  Three County is still in the process of determining the best use of its Network funds.  The hope is that NIS will start work on the EOHHS study ASAP which could inform the work in our region.   This work will not be completed before the HUD YHDP plan is due but it will be noted that it is underway and will be useful as the work moves forward.

Discussion re: family engagement: how do we work with families to prevent homelessness and promote reunification (per YHDP planning)

The group had a general brainstorm on the challenges facing families with adolescent youth and young adults.  A bulleted summary of the observations and ideas raised is below:

  • there are instances in working with adjudicated youth where the relationship is not repairable, and it is simply not possible to reunite with families – families may not be willing to communicate anymore; DV can also be a factor – when a client hurts a parent – parents are too afraid
  • parental mental health issues are also a challenge – their issues may require the youth to take action and then the youth becomes labeled the “delinquent” 
  • substance abuse and mental health are core issues 
  • single parents who can’t afford the rents cause family rupture
  • traumatized parents are required to parent teens which is inherently difficult even without trauma;  managing youth traumatized behavior is too much, so the teen ends up in a system 
  • a best case scenario may well be for the teen to maintain connection without returning to the home
  • young adults have limited skills and education so can’t get well-paying jobs and can’t afford rent
  • lack of mentorship and guidance
  • lack of transportation is huge – can’t get to jobs – youth are forced to quit because they can’t get there
  • clients try to go for jobs that pay the most (manufacturing jobs) – outside of Springfield area – living in Spfld, trying to get to Agawam and Westfield and they can’t maintain the transportation – there are efforts to keep them local even though less pay so they can build and save and then move on
  • family support programming – reunification plans focus on kids ages 8 and under – indicates the lack of info and support on parenting adolescents 
  • we need resources to identify people most at risk and keep returning to them to check in – do we have enough info on a family to determine that they are high risk
  • “We know these families” -we throw resources at them – put families into a place where we “tsunami” them and then it’s overwhelming to them and then they can’t respond to it all and then we accuse them of failing to respond
  • should we consider using family PSH model as a model for this work – let’s find out how that system is working – explore how many were teens or became teens since funding occurred – 
  • early warning system is lack of attendance in school – how do we approach the problem – “your kid isn’t showing up” or “how are you?” 
  • Gandara: 25 PSH in recovery program – case managers touching them weekly 
  • we need targeted case management for young adults
  • Trauma informed care would be useful! Ruby Payne – Bridges Out of Poverty – important leader on this work.  Limitations on making change with big state systems.
  • Learn more about STRIVE model (out of CA, being utilized in CT)

Next meeting agenda: bring in PSH family programs – CHD, VOC and Gandara. Outreach to appropriate staff will take place (Jordana, CHD; Gerry, VOC and Gandara).  
Next meeting date: 12/18, 9:30-11 am, Frost Building, 309, HCC

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

3 County Individual Services Minutes – 11/18/19

In attendance: Sam Cunningham, ServiceNet, Allison Duddlestonm, Craig’s  Doors,  John Fisher, Way Finders, Michele LaFleur, 3 County CoC, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS Homeless Services, Katie Miernecki, ServiceNet, Brooke Murphy, 3 County CoC, Theresa Nicholson, CHD, Kevin Noonan, Craig’s Doors, Keleigh Pereira, 3 County CoC, Brendan Plante, Eliot Services, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Kate Shapiro, DMH, Hayley Wood, Hadley Council on Aging, Josh Wren, ServiceNet

Legislative Update:Pamela reported on Right to Counsel for Evictions (for low-income tenants and low-income landlords) and Eviction Sealing (HOMES).  Both bills are had a public hearing in front of the Judiciary Committee over the summer.  Now the campaigns are asking local organizations to sign on in support.  Pamela will follow-up with a targeted email with more detailed information.

Training: The Network is sponsoring a training on state budget and policy-making: how it all works.  January 28, 2020, 9:30 am – 12 noon, Kittredge Center, HCC. Please Register here.

Coordinated Entry Update:

  • Weekly meetings continuing:  Northampton – Monday; Greenfield – Tuesday; Pittsfield – Wednesday
  • building data systems to track outcomes 
  • Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) update via CHD: Millers Falls properties are still undergoing renovation (e.g., historic windows required) – hopefully 6 units will be available in the next few weeks (ultimately will be 19 there). Greenfield building 

Update on PSH housing: properties in Millers Falls are historic – windows have to be a certain size, ordered from a particular place.  Still slotted for a few weeks – 6 units; then in a few weeks, another 6 units.  Will be 19 total in Millers Falls.  One building has 4 units; other building has 11 units.  The other building in Greenfield is up and running.

Mainstream Section 811 vouchers update Great news!  All housing authorities’ applications for mainstream section 811 were successful.  The breakdown includes: Amherst (10 vouchers), Northampton (15 vouchers), Greenfield (10 vouchers), Franklin County Regional (10 vouchers). 
The CoC convened a meeting last week with providers to further develop plans for supportive services accompanying these vouchers. The Coordinated Entry by-name lists will be instrumental in the voucher allocation. MJ Adams in Greenfield is working on lining up project-based subsidies (a meeting Monday night) – hopefully a model that can be used in other communities since units are in such short supply. 
The question was raised regarding available resources for payment for first, last, security deposit – RAFT? Catholic Charities?  More to learn on this. CONGRATULATIONS to all for this meaningful addition of housing resources in the region.

Built for Zero Learning Session: Pamela reported on her attendance with Hampden County CoC at her second Built for Zero Learning Session, a national initiative sponsored by the national non-profit Community Solutions that includes 75 communities from across the country working together to end veteran and chronic homelessness and then all forms of homelessness.  It’s an inspiring and informative gathering and Pamela will relay the substantive information to the Three County CoC staff.  She is excited for the Three County CoC to join the national community and will provide connecting information ASAP.

Point in Time Count Planning: Wed., Jan. 29 is the count date.Will send out outreach letter in early January; will send out the count survey within a week of the PIT date.  Eliot Services will provide outreach for street population.  Point in Time Committee welcomes input – contact Michele LaFleur, data manager, at mlafleur@communityaction.us to join. 

Shelter updates: Northampton cot shelter: full, the annex in Easthampton opens tonight; 2 turned away so far
Policy practices: implementing lessons learned from last year’s Network training “how to run an awesome shelter” – shifting from “rules” to “expectations” – overall the shift is going very well (with some guests’ discomfort at the change). Also becoming more trauma-informed with a focus on re-housing. Sam will connect with Craig’s Doors to share experience.
Craig’s Doors: opened 11/1.  Congratulations! They have been at capacity several times already.  Still working on getting into ETO.  Have experienced a few guests in crisis situations, interested in a de-escalation team and learning how to respond to a person who needs to be sectioned. 

Warming Center in Greenfield – it’s open and being utilized (4 people the first night, more as it got colder).
We discussed creating a data template for reporting out on coordinated entry and shelter use each month.  Pamela will follow-up with a targeted inquiry about this in preparation for next month’s meeting.

3 County CoC committee updates:Brooke reported on the CoC committee development.  There are 6 CoC committees, all meet at Community Action in Greenfield, 393 Main Street, Greenfield (calling in is an option).  The committees include:

  • youth action board – youth only; one youth member participating on CoC board
  • performance and outcomes committee – quarterly meeting, next meeting Friday, 2/14, 9-10:30 am
  • equity and inclusion committee – monthly meeting – 3rd Friday, 9-10:30
  • coordinated entry committee -quarterly meeting, first meeting tomorrow, 3-4:30 pm (Tuesday afternoons)
  • data evaluation committee – monthly, first Friday, 9-10:30 am – required reporting processes
  • ranking and evaluation committee – quarterly, starting 1/24, heavy evaluation committee  – evaluates tool and evaluates projects

All CoC committees welcome consumer participation.

Announcements:

  • Community conversation on Ending Elder Homelessness: January 17, 1-4 pm, Northampton Senior Center – thanks to Earl Miller and others for making this happen
  • Fair Housing training and advice is available through John Fisher at Way Finders, contact jfisher@wayfindersma.org

Next meeting date: Monday, 12/9, 1-2:30 pm, ServiceNet, 21 Olander Street, Northampton 

New HUD Housing Vouchers Awarded to the Region!

Great news! HUD has awarded the region 83 housing vouchers that are designated to serve non-elderly, disabled individuals who are experiencing homelessness.  These “Mainstream Housing Choice Vouchers”  will be a tremendous asset in housing people who experience chronic homelessness.  Congratulations to everyone for these significant new housing resources!
All of the region’s housing authority applications were fully funded by HUD and include the following:

Hampden County:
Chicopee Housing Authority: 10 vouchers
Springfield Housing Authority – 30 vouchers
Note: Holyoke Housing Authority will also be making 15 vouchers available from a different resource as of January 1.

Three County:
Amherst Housing Authority – 10 vouchers
Franklin County Regional Housing Authority  – 10 vouchers
Greenfield Housing Authority – 8 vouchers
Northampton Housing Authority – 15 vouchers

Many thanks to our housing authorities and CoC programs for working together to bring these resources to the region.  Each CoC will be working with its Coordinated Entry systems to distribute the vouchers and with its support service providers to provide transitional and stabilization support.  Yet another testament to the extraordinary collaboration necessary to make housing a reality for those who have experienced homelessness for a very long time.  

Congratulations to all once again on making this opportunity possible!

Transportation Op-Ed in Republican Today!

I’m pleased to update you about the Springfield Republican op-ed on public transportation that was just published, co-signed by Clare Higgins of Community Action Pioneer Valley, David Gadaire of MassHire Holyoke, Jessica Collins of the Public Health Institute of Western MA, and myself on behalf of the Network. This is a powerful example of collaboration at work in tackling our region’s central challenges.

In the spirit of that collaboration, big thanks to Josh Ostroff of Transportation for Massachusetts who shepherded this op-ed to publication.

Stay tuned for possible repeat appearances in the Daily Hampshire Gazette and Greenfield Recorder (a separately written op-ed on this issue previously appeared in the Berkshire Eagle).

Also big thanks to all of our legislative leaders in this Network who are pushing this agenda forward at the State House.  We look forward to continuing the work together to create a public transportation system that makes a decent quality of life possible for all.

–Pamela Schwartz, Director
Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness

Action: Sign on to Right to Counsel and Eviction Sealing (HOMES) Bills!

The Western MA Network to End Homelessness has joined two statewide legislative campaigns that would help prevent and end homelessness: Right to Counsel in Eviction Cases and Eviction Sealing (HOMES).  A key aspect of these campaigns is to grow its list of organizational supporters.   I am relaying this information in the hopes that your organization will sign on by going here for Right to Counsel and here for Eviction Sealing.

Right to Counsel: Right now in Massachusetts, over 90% of tenants face eviction without lawyers while over 70% of landlords have legal representation. Homelessness is frequently a direct and avoidable consequence as a result of this imbalance.

Please join the growing list of organizations and municipalities supporting Right to Counsel.  

There are currently 3 bills before the Legislature that would provide a right to counsel in eviction proceedings.  The Right to Counsel Coalition has submitted a bill to the Judiciary Committee that would coalesce all three and also include access to legal representation for low-income small landlords of owner-occupied homes who rely on rent to pay their mortgages.  The Coalition’s bill also charges a Civil Justice Committee with studying and making recommendations about how to present evictions before they get to court.

The Boston Globe published an editorial on November 6, endorsing Right to Counsel in MA.  You can read it here.  One of many worthy quotes: “For renters who don’t have the financial means, the right to a court-appointed lawyer would level the playing field and offer them a better chance of success at staying in their homes”

In addition, on October 30, MA Supreme Court Chief Justice Ralph Gants endorsed a right to counsel in eviction cases in his State of the Judiciary speech.  You can read about it on MassLive

Right to counsel has been enacted in New York City, San Francisco, Newak and Cleveland. Massachusetts has the opportunity to be the first state to provide a right to counsel for tenants facing eviction.  New York’s experience, the first and therefore longest so far, demonstrates significant cost savings from preserving tenancies and avoiding costly shelter stays, not to mention the long-term trauma resulting from homelessness. 

Join the growing list of organizations and municipalities supporting Right to Counsel.  

Eviction Sealing (HOMES bill): Right now in Massachusetts, when a landlord files an eviction case, the filing is made publicly available by the Trial Court online and stays there forever.  No matter what happens next – if the case is dismissed by the landlord or the judge; if an agreement is reached; if the landlord ends up being liable for sanitary code violations conditions or other unlawful behavior, the record stays with the tenant forever.

This current law has inadvertently resulted in a screening device that frequently bars tenants from obtaining housing.  Landlords enter a tenant applicant’s name into the database and if the name pops up, before they have a chance to dig deeper into the outcome, they have moved on to the next applicant.  If the initial eviction complaint names the children in the household, their names are entered into the database, too, and this eviction tracks them into adulthood.

A prior eviction record – regardless of outcome – is one of the single greatest barriers to re-housing people who have experienced homelessness. To read more about it, please see this report  Evicted for Life.
The HOMES bill would change that.  It would automatically seal an eviction filing, to be made public only in the event of a negative judgment against the tenant.  It would also seal all eviction records after 3 years so that tenants are not marked for life.  

Please join the list of supporters for this bill. 

Thank you for your consideration.  Adding your organization to these coalitions will make an important contribution to our shared mission to prevent and end homelessness in Western Massachusetts.

CHAPA Update on State Supplemental Budget – Nov. 2019

Thanks to CHAPA for this update:

On October 24, 2019, the State Senate concluded debate on its FY2019 Supplemental Budget, S.2386, which closes out the FY2019 budget, which ended with a large revenue surplus. The House passed its supplemental budget on October 17. For information on the House budget, click here.

The Senate budget includes $10 million for the production of housing for extremely low-income (ELI) households (line item 1595-0508). These funds were also included in the House budget. CHAPA thanks Senate President Spilka and Ways & Means Chair Rodrigues for their investments in affordable housing.

The Senate did not include $10 million for a down payment assistance program for low- and moderate-income first time home buyers, which was included in the House supplemental budget. Although not adopted, CHAPA thanks Sen. Brendan Crighton for sponsoring an amendment to add this down payment assistance program to the budget. 

CHAPA also supported an amendment to add $5 million in the Senate budget to recapitalize the Get the Lead Out program to do lead-paint remediation in low- and moderate-income housing. Although not adopted, CHAPA thanks Sen. Julian Cyr for sponsoring the amendment. 

The Senate budget also did not include additional funds and authorizing language within Residential Assistance for Families in Transition (RAFT) to support a rent and mortgage arrearage program that the House included in its budget.

The House and Senate must now reconcile the differences between their respective budgets before sending it to the Governor for his signature. A conference committee is expected to be appointed to lead this reconciliation process. However, because of the way the Senate processed the House’s version of the bill, one of the two branches will need to re-vote it in order to begin a formal conference committee negotiation. This is expected to delay final budget negotiations between the House and Senate.