Great News on RAFT increase! And public hearing on Jan. 14

Please see below this exciting update from Kelly Turley of the MA Coalition for the Homeless:

We have some exciting updates to share about the Upstream RAFT/rent arrearage program, our top budget and bill priority. Early last Thursday morning, the Legislature passed the long-awaited supplemental budget to close out fiscal year 2019 (see House Bill 4246). It included language and $2.03 million in additional funding for the Upstream RAFT pilot already underway (Residential Assistance for Families in Transition, line item 7004-9316, language in Section 64 of the supplemental budget). The budget also included $2 million in additional funds for school transportation for students experiencing homelessness (line item 7035-0008). On Friday, the Governor signed most parts of the budget, including those sections.
Under the current Upstream RAFT pilot administered by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), eligible households can access up to $4,000 to assist with back rent and back mortgage payments without having to be in the midst of an eviction or foreclosure. With the passage of the supplemental budget, this cap will increase for most households; it will transition from a flat cap to up to four months of back rent or mortgage payments. This will make this upstream resource even more useful for households paying market-rate housing costs. The budget language directs DHCD to spend at least $7 million on the pilot program and also will allow DHCD to carry over the Upstream RAFT funds until the end of FY’21, in case the funds are not expended fully this fiscal year, FY’20. The budget language formalizes the program, provides greater transparency, and increases accountability through expanded tracking and reporting requirements. An updated version of our Upstream RAFT flyer is included below.
In other Upstream RAFT news, the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Housing will be taking testimony on Representative Marjorie Decker’s legislation, House Bill 1264, to move the Upstream RAFT/rent arrearage program from a pilot program into state statute at a hearing on Tuesday, January 14th between 10:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. the State House in Gardner Auditorium (closest to the Beacon Street entrance).
Hearing page | Bill fact sheet | House bill history page | Organizational endorsement form
We hope to see you at the hearing on January 14th. Please keep reading below for more details on the hearing and advocacy steps.
Thanks for your collaboration!

Way Home America Update on Recent Federal Actions – 12/19/19

Way Home America, a national organization working to end homelessness, provided this update on the impact of recent federal Administration actions on the efforts to prevent and end homelessness. An excerpt here:

“If you have been following the news about homelessness coming from DC in recent weeks, you may have heard about some of the various concerning policy developments impacting our movement. We know these developments can often be complex, difficult to piece together, and move quickly. 

We wanted to take a moment to provide you the context of what is happening in youth homelessness policy, what it means for our movement, and what A Way Home America is doing about it.

Let’s break it down:…”

Read more here.

Youth and Young Adult Services Meeting Minutes – 12/18/19

In attendance: Kim Borden, BCRHA (via phone), Emily English, Gandara, Jill  Fijal, Chicopee Public Schools, Lisa Goldsmith, Community Action, Jane Lindfors,DTA/DV unit, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Lizzy Ortiz, Mercy Medical Center, Stacy Parsons, North Adams School, Jean Rogers, CHD, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Tyrese Tilman, CHD, Rhonda Young, CHD


Point in Time Count – Jan. 29 – Hampden CountyThis year, in view of the developing work with youth and young adults, we have new opportunities to reach out with young adults in the count.  There will be outreach through the Youth Action Boards. There will also be targeted events at the Impact Center, HCC, ROCA and STCC. Surveys will also be dropped off at schools.


MA Youth Count:State Special Commission is discussing this year’s youth count.  People recognize the limits of a single date for counting and are considering whether there are any alternatives/additions to provide a more reliable measure of the population.  There will likely be a count in April but stay tuned for more detail.  


Franklin County YHDP: Draft plan was distributed this morning! All are welcome to review it (contact Lisa Goldsmith at lgoldsmith@communityaction.us) for the plan.


Training discussion:The group reviewed possible trainings that would support applicants for funding, as lead-ins to crafting proposals in response to the RFP to help them incorporate the following approaches:

  • trauma informed care
  • positive youth development
  • family engagement
  • permanent connections

Lisa and Gerry will reach out to possible trainers, e.g., C4 for Trauma Informed Care, DYS and DCF, TAC, Plummer Youth Promise. We agreed it would be ideal to offer 2 trainings total that combine 2 topics each, located at HCC to allow for both sub-regions to participate.  We will aim for scheduling mid-Feb and early March.


Next Meeting Schedule: 1/15, 10:30-noon, Room 301, Kittredge Center, HCC, 2/26, 9:30-11, Frost 309, 3/18, 9:30-11, Frost 309, HCC

Hampden County Individual Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 12/10/19

In attendance: Grechar Aquino, FOH/CSO, Jessica Dorman, Mercy Medical Center, David Havens, MHA, Janice Humason, FOH/CSO, Mark Jachym, FOH/CSO, Nichole King, FOH/CSO, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Denise Rivera-Nunez, FOH/CSO, Victor Rodriguez, SMOC/Open Pantry, Christina Ruest, FOH/CSO, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Aisa Wise, HEU Mercy Medical Center

By-name list update – The by-names meetings are moving from weekly to every other week and will be longer meetings. Currently about 90 people are on the by-name list (fyi: over 100 people have been housed in the last year; the number is a function of new people entering homelessness). With outreach to Springfield Police and work with Holyoke and Chicopee Housing Authorities, it’s likely more people experiencing long-term homelessness will be identified.   

Discussion re housing pathways for young adults with serious mental illness: Frequently, young adults with serious mental health diagnoses move from place to place and ultimately may land in PSH.  Many are having their first experience of mental illness; many have to wait a long time to be deemed chronically homeless.    How do we best meet the needs of this population? 
Brainstorm included:

  • a Safe Havens type model that builds in supportive services and community connection and flexibility in dealing with behavioral issues that arise without precipitously terminating housing
  • a transitional place for young people being discharged from institutional settings, e.g., hospitals, a “Living Room” type model that is “hostel-like” en route to more permanent housing like a Safe Havens model
  • a “Living Room” model but with beds
  • must address security and staffing challenges
  • must get DMH around the table to create better systems in responding to the youth population (no history of diagnosis to work with)
  • critically important to have a place to go during the day, a peer and community environment

The group agreed that it would be very valuable to have a cross-agency conversation – DCF, DMH, DYS – at a high level. Gerry will follow-up with Linn Torto.

Career Services Employment Assessment Tool
Green River data systems is building out a feature that will allow for inclusion of job readiness assessments.  They have suggested doing a quick trial run of an assessment tool in the next couple of weeks so they can collect feedback and make quick adjustments.  Gerry will follow-up with FOH to try this in January. 

MassHires coming to FOH: The group agreed it would be useful to request a trial run of having the MassHires come to FOH to conduct a resume training workshop; to experiment with the outreach.  All agreed that it would be more useful to have a continual, regular presence, but we would start with a first time visit.  Pamela and Gerry will discuss follow-up. 

413 cares:  413 cares is a new online resource directory database.  413 cares is sponsored by Baystate Health and is getting ready to launch at the start of 2020. Most important is for organizations to get onto the site and “claim” their site so they can have the best information available.  This will provide info for all 4 counties.

Census Outreach: Pamela shared the opportunity to apply for a grant for Census 2020 outreach work to focus on at-risk populations.  For more information, go here: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/census2020/grant-program.html

Training Update: The Network is sponsoring a budget and legislative advocacy training on January 28, 9:30 am – 12:00 noon, Kittredge Center, HCC.  This is a great opportunity to get connected on this critical component of the work to prevent and end homelessness.  Register here.

Next meeting date: Tuesday, January 28, 1-2:15 pm, Friends of the Homeless.

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 12/10/19

In attendance: Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Tamicha Colon, Womanshelter, Hilary Cronin, HUD-VASH, Fran LeMay, ServiceNet, Luz Marcano, VA HUD-VASH, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Andrea Marion, Valley Opportunity Council, Lesley McCoy, ROCA, Michelle Michaelian, Behavior Health Network, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Rylee O’Brien, Baystate Pediatrics, Maegan Pedemonti, Way Finders, Dorothy Prieto, Community Action, Martha Sager-Cutt, ROCA, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Janna Tetreault, Community Action, Janette Vigo, Way Finders, Lauren Voyer, Way Finders

Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program (YHDP) updates: Both Hampden and Franklin Counties are continuing to meet and plan for the draft plan submission to HUD approaches on 12/29. 

Hampden County  is convening an education/employment workshop this Friday12/13, 9:30-12:30, Innovation Center, 276 Bridge Street, Springfield.  Any questions or thoughts, please contact: Gerry McCafferty, gmccaffety@springfieldcityhall.com
Franklin County is convening its goal setting meeting on Monday, December 16, 1-4:30 pm, Wellness Center, 102 Main Street, Greenfield.  Any questions or thoughts, please contact:  Lisa Goldsmith, lgoldsmith@communityaciton.us

413 cares and Look4Help:  Both 413 cares and Look4Help are online resource directory databases.  413 cares is sponsored by Baystate Health and is getting ready to launch at the start of 2020. Most important is for organizations to get onto the site and “claim” their site so they can have the best information available.  It will provide info for all 4 counties but is based in Hampden County. Look4Help is a currently available online resource database run out of Community Action that serves Franklin and Hampshire Counties and the North Quabbin regions. Also critically important to keep up to date.  Please check it out!

Census Outreach: Pamela shared the opportunity to apply for a grant for Census 2020 outreach work to focus on at-risk populations.  DUE ON 12/20. For more information, go here: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/census2020/grant-program.html

Training Update: The Network is sponsoring a budget and legislative advocacy training on January 28, 9:30 am – 12:00 noon, Kittredge Center, HCC.  This is a great opportunity to get connected on this critical component of the work to prevent and end homelessness.  Register here.

Updates:

HEAD START OPENINGS FOR LOW-INCOME FAMILIES in Hampshire, Franklin and parts of Hampden County: Contact Dorothy Prieto at dprieto@communityaction.us to learn more!

DHCD news: an additional homeless coordinator is being hired in Springfield (and 2 more in Boston and Northeast); 3 new unit inspectors are being hired statewide; proposal is out for $4 million to support the creation of more ADA compliant units; Alvina Brevard is now the acting associate director; Virginia Griffin is the new director of contract compliance unit 


Way Finders: new RAFT info and flyers – English version and Spanish version. Please distribute! 

New VA HUD-VASH intake contact person: Luz Marcano is now doing intakes for Hampden and Hampshire Counties.  Contact info: 413-584-4040 ext 6114 luz.marcano@va.gov.

Behavioral Health Network: BHN has applied for funding to open a micro-family resource center in Ware.  Standing by to hear outcome by end of the month. 

Hampden County Family Coordinated Entry Training (Gerry relayed by email the following announcement): on Dec 17, 9:30 to 11 am at the Innovation Center, 276 Bridge St., Springfield. The training will teach family shelter case managers how to do the VISPDAT, to get families on the by-name list, and understanding the definition of chronic homelessness. The training is being done in advance of the release of new Mainstream vouchers in order to help family providers get their chronically homeless families ready for applying for the vouchers.

Way Finders workforce program updates:Maegan Pedemonti has been promoted to the position of director of employment and stabilization programs (congrats, Maegan!).  She also offered the following updates on their workforce development and food insecurity programs:
Secure Jobs:
 For EA families. Referrals come from HB, Shelter, or RAFT case workers.

SNAP Path to Work: SNAP only recipients. Referrals can be self-made, from DTA, or by word of mouth.

Competitive Integrated Employment Service (CIES): For TAFDC recipients. Referrals come from DTA case workers.

There is a small pool of flex funding for CIES and SJ clients to help overcome financial barriers to gaining employment.

We have bilingual case managers so Spanish is not a barrier and we also accept those without a HS diploma/GED/Hiset. Upon meeting with the client, we would establish some goals with them based on their needs and strengths to get them back on the road towards employment stability.

SNAP Outreach: We can assist anyone with applying for food stamps. We can also assist with supplying documents needed to prove income, identity, etc…

All of these are scheduled through Madeline Martinez (413)233-1737 mmartinez@wayfindersma.org. Click here for referral form.

Next meeting date:  Tuesday, Jan. 7, 9:30-11 am, Frost Building, 309, HCC

Three County Individual Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 12/9/19

Three County Individual Services Meeting Minutes – 12/9/19
In attendance: Carlyn Arnell, Eliot Services, Diana Canales, CHD, Steve Connor, Veteran Services, Sam Cunningham, ServiceNet, Erin Forbush, ServiceNet, Andy Klatka, Eliot Services, Michele LaFleur, CAPV/CoC, Jay Levy, Eliot Services, Katie Miernecki, ServiceNet, Brooke Murphy, CAPV/CoC, Kevin Noonan, Craig’s Doors, Keleigh Pereira, CAPV/CoC, Brendan Plante, Eliot Services, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Kate Shapiro, DMH, Susan White, LifePath, Chris Zabik, DMH

Decisions around regular report-outs each month: We discussed and agreed on the following standing report-outs for our monthly meetings:

  • Coordinated entry
  • Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) unit availability
  • Shelter plus care voucher availability
  • Shelter updates 

Coordinated Entry:

  • 27 new people entered the by-name list in November (not all chronically homeless)
  • 0 housing placements in November
  • Placements will be happening in December as new PSH units become available 
  • Not yet accounting for how many people removed from the list for no contact until the list itself is sufficiently reviewed
  • 313 people in total on list right now

Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) update:

  • CHD reported that the first 4 units in Millers Falls should be available imminently. Aiming for 12/20 for another 8 units and for 1/2 for another 7, although based on construction progress this is likely to be pushed back.
  • Also a unit is available in Barton’s Cove in Pittsfield.

Shelter Plus Care update:Either one or two vouchers are currently available (it is only one if Franklin County takes the other – currently unclear). Good news: 2 people graduated from shelter plus care into permanent housing. Note reminder that to be eligible for shelter plus care, the individual must be on the by-names list AND be receiving DMH services. 

Emergency shelter update: We reviewed the monthly reporting template and provided feedback, particularly around capturing consequences of extreme cold.  Michele and Pamela will follow-up with revised template. 

  • Northampton Cot Shelter: 49 unique individuals in November, at capacity
  • Craig’s Doors: 50 unique individuals in November 
  • Pittsfield seasonal shelter: 36 unique individuals in November, a few nights at capacity but more frequently in 12-15 range (more than typical Novembers). Year round shelter is at capacity with a wait list of 30.
  • Greenfield Warming Center: notably low census, from 0-5 people.  Discussed using it as overflow for when Northampton and Amherst are full – need to address transportation challenge.  Contact Wells St shelter in Greenfield to confirm openings.  Warming center located at 72 Chapman Street, Greenfield. 

We also discussed reaching out to Afiya and crisis/respite services to include them in our monthly meetings (they are frequently used as a critical resource for shelter guests in crisis).  Kate will reach out to invite them.

Request for input on individual shelter system from DHCD:As part of DHCD’s preparation for the potential additional funding in the individual shelter system (and determining whether to re-procure the system), DHCD is seeking written input following its listening sessions.  Comments are due on January 8.  Pamela sent out DHCD questions on a separate email but please contact her if you want her to resend or contact directly Adam Schaffer, the DHCD liaison on this effort, at adam.schaffer@state.ma.us.

Section 811 Mainstream vouchers update: Amherst, Greenfield, Northampton and Franklin Region all received mainstream vouchers to house non-elderly people with disabilities.  They have all agreed to use Coordinated Entry as the process for allocating the vouchers.  This requires some wait list rule changes for the housing authorities which is more complicated than anticipated.  Housing authorities are anticipating getting the vouchers out by April or May.  Meanwhile, provider meetings are being scheduled to plan for the support services that will be provided.  Brooke is working on compiling a list of available support services by each agency to help housing authorities find quick and reliable support.  We also discussed the funding gap for first, last and security deposit.  We will continue to brainstorm around that. 

Legislative Update
Sam provided an update on the work of the Pioneer Valley Workers Center’s campaign to pass a state law that would allow drivers licenses for all.  This would address the critical need for a license facing many clients who are immigrants. Sam requested organizations to consider signing on in support of this campaign. Please go here for more information on the campaign and to sign on.

Announcements:

  • Susan White of Life Path announced that there can frequently be units available at Winslow Wentworth House in Turners Falls.  Please be sure to contact her if working with an elderly (over 60) or disabled person.  swhite@lifepathma.org
  • 413Cares is a new online resource database.  Make sure your organization is on there and you “claim” it so it’s properly listed.  See attachment for more information.
  • Census funding available!  MA is offering up to $250,000 in grants to support census work.  Applications due 12/20.  Go here for more info: http://www.sec.state.ma.us/census2020/grant-program.html 
  • Elder homelessness community conversation: Friday, Jan. 17, 1-4 pm, Northampton Senior Center

Next meeting date: Monday, January 13, 1 pm – 2:30 pm, ServiceNet, 21 Olander Drive, Northampton.