Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes – 9/26/19

In attendance: Mike Hagmaier, Soldier On, Justin Maynard, VA, Julie MacPhail, VA (social worker intern), Gerry McCafferty, Hampden CoC, Jesus Pereira, Holyoke Veterans, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Kate Sweetster-Owens, VA GPD

Updates:
Kate Sweetster-Owens is shifting positions from HUD-VASH in Springfield to GPD based in Leeds. She will still be the point person for the Network/CoC and will also stay connected to Springfield’s HUD VASH program until her position is filled.

New Solider On grant from the VA: Mike reported a new grant to provide up to 6 months of case management for people who are leaving GPD who are not VASH or SSVF eligible (and also people living in the community who came out of GPD). The grant will hire 2 full-time case managers for 2 years. It is targeting people who are over-income (therefore ineligible for other resources) but still in need of support services.

Soldier On also reported successful advocacy with MHSA on a $500,000 increase in the Home and Healthy for Good line-item. $100,000 will be used for case management for women’s permanent housing program for 15 units in Pittsfield.

Built for Zero update, and getting to “functional zero”: At the end of August, the Hampden CoC was down to 10 veterans on its by-name list. September saw 4 new veterans identified so now the list is up to 14. The CoC is consulting with the BFZ coach on how to increase prevention and ultimately how to sustain functional zero. One strategy is to focus more on street outreach. It was recommended to reach out to the VA (Jim Seney) around allocating more staff to outreach. Also recommended to talk with Matt Buckley at Soldier On who oversees SSVF and outreach. Gerry will follow-up.

Three County CoC update (from Keleigh Pereira via email): Current focus is to include the veterans list in the by-names effort and to engage providers in the newly established committee structure. Committees will start meeting over the last quarter of this year and then regularly in 2020. Soldier On is working with the CoC to arrange access to its data system. Gerry will follow-up with Mike to coordinate data sharing.

Non-VHA eligible vouchers: Northampton Housing Authority got the go-ahead on the 11 vouchers in July. Hampden County has referred 8 people – some are housed, others are in housing search. Unclear on Hampshire County’s vouchers. Pamela will connect Gerry and Steve to get updated.

On filling units:
Chapin Mansion may be down to 2 available units – expanded availability beyond veterans. Some challenges around screening process. Will continue conversation with VOC.
52 Maple Court – just renovated – transitional housing – now advertising
Vikings Landing – status unclear

Mainstream Housing Voucher applications: Great progress in housing authorities applying for these vouchers in 3 County region: Amherst, Northampton, Greenfield, Franklin Regional Housing Authorities all applied for a total of 45 vouchers. Springfield and Chicopee also applied for Hampden County.

Next meeting date: December 5, 9:30-11 am, Frost building 309

3 County Individual Services Meeting Minutes – 9/23/19

In attendance: Elizabeth Bienz, ServiceNet, Erin Forbush, ServiceNet, Michele LaFleur, Three County CoC, Jay Levy, Eliot Services, Luis Martinez, CHD, Katie Miernecki, Earl Miller, DMH, ServiceNet, Brooke Murphy, 3 County CoC, Lizzy Ortiz, Mercy Medical Center, Keleigh Pereira, Community Action/CoC, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Kate Shapiro, Network, Hayley Wood, Easthampton Council on Aging, Chris Zabik, DMH

Three County CoC Update:
The CoC convened its annual meeting on 9/20, confirming its Board and committee structure. CoC staff is now in place, including Brooke Murphy who will work on coordinated entry and other support, and Michele LaFleur, who will provide data support and analysis. HUD’s NOFA (the application for all homelessness program funding) will be finalized and submitted in the next few days – congratulations to Keleigh and the entire CoC!

The CoC was awarded $1.9 million in HUD funding for its Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project (YHDP) for Franklin County. This is a monumental achievement towards the effort of preventing and ending youth homelessness in Franklin County (and eventually the other 2 counties; Franklin County was the focus this time because they applied under the “rural” category and Franklin is the most rural and offered the greatest shot at winning the funding). Congratulations to all! The funding process begins with plan development over the next 4 months, working with the leadership of young people through the Youth Action Board. That plan is due at the end of December and then feedback with HUD is slated for the next 4 months with funding for programs aiming to start by next April.

Housing Authorities apply for Mainstream Vouchers: HUD made available a new round of “mainstream vouchers” (Section 811) for non-elderly disabled individuals (a critical resource for chronically homeless individuals). With CoC and municipal support, housing authorities in Northampton, Greenfield, Amherst, and Franklin Regional all applied. If funded, this will mean 45 new vouchers for the region, which will be a huge advance for the region’s affordable housing supply.

Coordinated Entry: meetings are ongoing; right now the assessment tool is available on the CoC page on Community Action’s website although a CoC only website is in formation (due to HUD requirements).

CHD update on Permanent Supportive Housing units: Units are coming on line and being filled in Greenfield, Millers Falls and Pittsfield.

Dial/SELF also has openings for it transitional and permanent housing program – 10 CoC-funded beds in total. Available to 18-24 year olds.

Shelter plus care vouchers are tentatively taken but due to tenuous situations, always open to referrals.

Elder homelessness training discussion: A sub-committee met to plan this training. Agreed on 3 parts, including prevention, re-housing and a possible pilot program to address specific needs facing elders experiencing homelessness. Earl Miller, Director of Recovery for DMH, suggested using DMH’s structure of community events to host this discussion (regular convenings across the region of 60-100 people). The group enthusiastically agreed this was a great idea. Earl will follow-up with the sub-committee.

Craig’s Doors: Jay Levy is on the Board (thank you, Jay!) and reported that interviews are underway to hire new staff. It is unclear when exactly the shelter will reopen but presumably sometime in November. This is great news.

Franklin County Regional Network is hosting a legislative breakfast for the entire community on October 18. Pamela will forward the invitation.

Next meeting dates:

Monday, November 18
1 pm – 2 pm
DMH Haskell Building, 2nd floor large conference room

Monday, December 9
1 pm – 2 pm
ServiceNet
21 Olander Drive, Board Room, Northampton

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Meeting Minutes – 9/18/19

In attendance: Kim Borden, Berkshire Regional Housing Authority, Emily English, Gandara Center, Rosemary Fiedler, HCC, Leslie Fisher-Katz, Children’s Study Home, Lisa Goldsmith, Community Action, Charlie Knight, former consumer, Kara Knott, UMass, Amanda Lesnick, Gandara Center, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield/Hampden CoC, Spencer Moser, MCLA, Lizzy Ortiz, Mercy Medical Center, Jordan O’Connell, CHD,Aisha Pizarro, YWCA, Phil Ringwood, DIAL/SELF, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Jen Sutherland, Springfield Public Schools, Tyrese Tillman, CHD, Rhonda Young, CHD

Needs Assessments report-out:
We reviewed some central findings of both 3 County and Hampden County CoCs needs assessments on the youth population.  

For the 3 County report, please go here.
The Hampden County CoC has created a new youth homelessness website – go to http://undertheradarspringfield.org to get connected and to read its needs assessment go to: https://www.undertheradarspringfield.org/the-report


HUD awards Western MA $4.3 million for its Youth Homelessness Demonstration Projects (YHDP)! We celebrated this tremendous accomplishment for the region – out of 23 awards nationwide, Western MA got two of them!  Specifically, Hampden County received $2.4 million and Franklin County received $1.9 million. CONGRATULATIONS to all!

The first step:  each community must produce a broad, coordinated community PLAN to prevent and end youth homelessness that includes all systems (DCF, DYS, family shelter system, etc.). The draft must be presented to HUD by 12/29, then followed by a review and discussion and revisions with HUD before finalizing by the end of April. The plan will include a road map for allocating the funding to specific agencies to accomplish specific goals (e.g., rapid rehousing, PSH, transitional housing, support services).

The grants are for 2 years and the funding will be divided over that time.  Whatever goes into programming becomes part of the CoC’s renewable grants for each NOFA (forever impact!).  

A defining piece of this work is engaging youth who will lead it.  We are working WITH them, not for them. Each CoC has established a Youth Action Board (YAB) already which will provide the vehicle for youth leadership. 

The best use of this Committee to support this effort: After discussion, it was decided that the Committee meetings over the next 4 months would be utilized as a gathering point to begin or deepen important relationships and understanding around particular issues with relevant staff.  We agreed on this list of issues/agencies:

  • human trafficking (outreach at Baystate, Sheriff’s offices, YWCA?)
  • corrections (outreach at sheriff’s department, AISS, ROCA)
  • pregnant and parenting youth (will happen in Dec., after EA RFR is submitted; will reach out to: Square One, Care Center, Healthy Families, Teen Living Programs – YWCA)
  • high school/college – McKinney Vento and single point of contacts for college
  • DCF (since currently around our table, will go next round in January – will reach out further to Laurie Sullivan of DCF; will deepen discussion on how to reach out to youth who are leaving DCF and refuse continuing services)
  • workforce development – Pamela will enlist the Network’s Career Services committee to further this conversation around targeting employment paths for youth

Other issues that surfaced:

  • LGBTQ for Hampden County (Three County already has an infrastructure in place to address this)
  • Mentoring (Hampden County has a focus on this that is underway)
  • Gun violence
  • Food insecurity
  • Recovery services community 

We agreed our next committee meeting will focus on trafficking, specifically: increasing the understanding of this issue in Western MA, the challenges, the opportunities for intervention; learning from youth about what they are experiencing, how prevention can work; how to train agency staff to respond.  Pamela and Gerry will work on trainer invitations to the meeting. 

Next meeting dates: 
10/24, 9:30-11, Kittredge center  Room 303
11/20, 9:30-11, Kittredge Center, Room 303
12/18, 9:30-11 Frost 309

Hampden County Individual Services Minutes – 9/3/19

In attendance: Grechar Aquino, FOH/CSO, Linda Cruz, River Valley Counseling Center, Dave Havens, FOH/CSO, Janice Humason, FOH/CSO, Mark Jachym, FOH/CSO, Nichole King, FOH/CSO, Jay Levy, Eliot Services, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield/Hampden CoC,Denise Rivera-Nunez, FOH/CSO, Christina Ruest, FOH/CSO, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Stephanie Tonelli, FOH/CSO,Catherine Torres, FOH/CSO, Kathy West, Eliot Services

This was a brief 30 minute meeting where we focused on planning for a training between FOH staff and Springfield/Holyoke Mass Hire Career Centers.  The group brainstormed what would be useful and how to guide the Career Centers. The suggestions included:

  • providing career centers a deeper understanding of the barriers facing people experiencing homelessness (e.g., the percentage of people with employment history at entry and exit, under-employed; living on benefit income, education levels). Janice and Christina will work on this.
  • bringing Mass Hire staff to FOH and have them outreach directly.
  • stressing the value of one-on-one case management in view of the depth of barriers and limited experience for many people seeking employment
  • discussing further the possibility of bringing in Mass Rehab and Viability (and others) to build our the relationships

Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project FundingGerry McCafferty announced HUD’s award of $2.4 million to the Hampden CoC and $1.9 million to the Three County CoC (for Franklin County) to address youth homelessness (ages 18-24).  This is an extraordinary accomplishment for our region!  It is part of HUD’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project (YHDP) which will fund a combination of permanent supportive housing, transitional housing and rapid rehousing.  Rapid rehousing can include staffing and financial support for at least 2 years and with waivers up to 3.  The planning process is underway now with an initial draft due to HUD by 12/29, then time to finalize with HUD, so program funding expected to start by next summer.  It will total roughly $1.2 million yearly over the next 2 years  – and then the fundings gets  incorporated into the annual renewal fund process within the CoC. 

Training updates:

Next meeting date: 10/8, 1-2 pm, Friends of the Homeless.

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 9/3/19

In attendance: Yoshi Bird, consultant, Waleska Estrada, NEFWC, Jill Fijal, Chicopee Public Schools, Holly Florek, CHD, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Andrea Marion, VOC, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Gerry McCafferty, Hampden CoC, Michelle Michaelian, BHN, Tony Motyl, CHD consultant, Marisabel Perez, CHD, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Janna Tetreault, Community Action, Anthony Thomas, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Janette Vigo, Way Finders, Lauren Voyer, Way Finders, Melissa White, VOC

Announcement of Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project (and how it may relate to the EA RFR):

Gerry McCafferty announced HUD’s award of $2.4 million to the Hampden CoC and $1.9 million to the Three County CoC (for Franklin County) to address youth homelessness (ages 18-24).  This is an extraordinary accomplishment for our region!  It is part of HUD’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project (YHDP) which will fund a combination of permanent supportive housing, transitional housing and rapid rehousing.  Rapid rehousing can include staffing and financial support for at least 2 years and with waivers up to 3.  The planning process is underway now with an initial draft due to HUD by 12/29, then time to finalize with HUD, so program funding expected to start by next summer.   It will total roughly $1.2 million yearly over the next 2 years – and then the funding gets incorporated into the renewal fund process within the CoC.

Parenting youth ages 18-24 will comprise a target population of this grant and could intersect directly with planning around the state’s RFR. Gerry will be reaching out to family shelter providers to participate in the planning process for the grant and this resource can be incorporated into our innovation planning as well.

Discussion of EA RFR Innovation Section:
DHCD’s RFR includes a request for “innovations.”  It is allocating $2 million statewide for this pool of funding and may include innovative proposals to reduce length of stay, reduce returns to homelessness and improve family stability.  DHCD’s examples include landlord mitigation funds, flexible funds and increased case management where appropriate to maintain stability.

Our region currently has 5 EA providers – Way Finders, NEFWC, CHD, VOC and ServiceNet – and all 5 affirmed their desire to collaborate on a joint proposal if possible.
We brainstormed the following ideas:

  • use coordinated entry – a shared assessment tool and by-name list across each sub-region – to target long staying families and determine how best to allocate additional funds to extend housing subsidies past the one year HomeBASE period (through YHDP and/or other CoC funds) 
  • establish a landlord mitigation/incentive fund that would be utilized to preserve and obtain tenancies
  • extend the Secure Jobs model by funding an outreach worker to reach out to families across the system (via every provider) and establishing a flex fund pool to support the path to employment

Also considered was how the “system navigator” (new position in the RFR) may fit into these innovations and whether the housing search component could be shared (e.g., a “realtor” equivalent staff person that would do new landlord recruitment across the sub-region)

The group discussed the allocation of funding across the region and whether it would make the most sense to divide the total amount sought among the providers so each provider would have a portion to manage in a coordinated fashion.

The group agreed to return to their organizations with these ideas and talk further internally.  We agreed on a next meeting date on this topic only: Tuesday, September 24, 11 am – 12:30 pm, Frost Building, 309, HCC. 

Other training updates:

Next regularly scheduled meeting: Tuesday, October 8, 11 am – 12:30 pm, Frost Building, Room 309, Holyoke Community College

Exciting News on Ending Youth Homelessness!

Thrilling news to report: the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded the Western MA region over $4.3 million to end youth homelessness as part of its Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project!  The Springfield/Hampden Continuum of Care (CoC) was awarded $2.4 million for Hampden County; the Three County CoC received $1.9 million for Franklin County.

CONGRATULATIONS to everyone and especially to our Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Committee partners – Gerry McCafferty of the Springfield/Hampden CoC/City of Springfield and Lisa Goldsmith of Three County CoC/Community Action in particular –  who led the way on making this extraordinary investment possible. 

The grant lays out the next four months for planning time with youth and community partners to develop the plan to end youth homelessness. We will continue what is already well underway and plan with the promise of resources to make the plan happen.  How positively thrilling!

Yesterday, a press conference was held at Springfield City Hall.  You can see the coverage on MassLive and the Greenfield Recorder  and read more from the HUD announcement here.  Young leaders from both regions who participated in this grant planning were in the room for the press conference and received the kudos they richly deserved. We look forward to following their lead in the months and years ahead!

Congratulations once again.  A remarkable step forward for our entire community and for our young people and their futures most of all.

At the press conference at Springfield City Hall announcing the grant. At the podium: Clare Higgins, Executive Director, Community Action Pioneer Valley. From left: David Tille, HUD New England Regional Administrator, Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno, Gerry McCafferty, Springfield Housing Director and Springfield/Hampden CoC Administrator and Lisa Goldsmith, Community Action Director of Youth Services.

 

Three County CoC Individual Services Minutes – 7/29/19

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