Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
July 10, 2012

In Attendance:  Jane Banks, Center for Human Development, Shannon Barry, Springfield Public Schools, Tammie Butler, Community Action, Charity Day, Franklin County Regional Housing Authority, Harry Duchesne, New England Farm Workers, Cris Carl, ServiceNet, Anthia Elliot, Safe Passage, Toni Hochstadt, Community Action, Faith Lafayette, FOR Families, Jane Lindfors, DTA-DV unit, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Jim Reis, HAPHousing, Natalie Shemmanian, Community Legal Aid, Pamela Schwartz, network coordinator, Sarah Slautterback, Dept. of Secondary and Elementary Education, Denise Sortino, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Susan White, Veterans Admin Medical Center

Budget update and Discussion:

Reviewed major provisions.  Many positive steps for housing funding (RAFT, MRVP, etc.).

Waiting for DHCD administrative guidelines for RAFT, MRVP and other programs.

New RAFT is more restrictive, targets people more highly at risk through “scoring system” which is not yet established.  July likely to be transition month.

Currently, 680 families in Western Mass. either in hotels or shelters – 480 in hotels.

Re: rehousing families in motels:  Regional Housing Authorities made clear to DHCD that they cannot continue with this effort without additional staffing.  Impossible to provide assistance to families in shelter, stabilize families who have been housed AND providing housing search for families in motels.  High-level meetings with DHCD this week and next to further discuss this issue.

Discussed 8 month time limit:  family is eligible for $4,000 housing benefit if exiting shelter within 8 months.  If passed that time, the family loses eligibility for benefit.

Issue raised:  when families are residing in good, scattered site shelter apartments, why should they be motivated to exit?  Discussed the inherent disincentive to leave.  Also discussed the limits of $4,000 in one-time assistance and the frequently insurmountable challenge of sustainability for these families.  Can we move legislature to change policy on this issue?  Extremely difficult in view of fiscal constraints.

Question raised of whether a family is eligible for DTA relocation assistance if receiving HomeBASE benefit.  Cris Carl was advised that a family is not; others have direct experience of the opposite being true (receiving DTA relocation assistance to supplement HomeBASE).  Cris will seek clarification.

Discussed DV shelter/HomeBASE relationship:  family must be discharged from a DV shelter in order to be eligible for Homebase.

Under new RAFT legislation, DV families are NOT listed as a priority for RAFT.  Regional Housing Authorities have responded to this in the hopes that this priority will be added and they are now waiting to hear back from DHCD.

Discussed issue of how “infractions” of shelter/motel guidelines are treated differently depending on whether the family is residing in a motel or shelter.  For families in motels, one infraction leads to immediate non-compliance, as opposed to the shelter standards, which allows a couple of infractions before being considered in non-compliance.  Upon issuance of non-compliance, the family is ineligible for benefits for 6 months.  Providers have concern about ensuring families understand the different rules in different settings, so they are aware of the consequences.

Recognized the budgetary advances in the housing programs while still facing problematic policies and continued lack of resources that set up the both the government and families to fail.

Discussed how policy changes are especially difficult now that administrative details are now written into the legislation itself, e.g., the benefit level and duration.  Makes minor but meaningful reform and adaptation nearly impossible.

Encouraged by new leadership at DHCD.  At the same time, the Network’s advocacy as a unified voice is very important.

More discussion of RAFT: Community Action will assist HAP with implementation of the program in Hampshire County.

Discussed requirement to have writ of execution to access RAFT.  Gets in the way of actually preventing homelessness (because landlords have already had to expend meaningful funds to obtain the eviction, harder to go back).

Community Action noted that it is starting to see HomeBASE evictions – but without notice to providers.  This is a problem and we need to ensure providers are brought into the loop.

ESG funding:  Community Action received $500,000 for the region, including Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden Counties (with the exception of Springfield).  VOC and HAP will be offering services in Hampden County.

ESG will be used for prevention funds (20% for individuals).  Eligibility criteria includes: a summary process eviction or a domestic violence survivor, or history of homelessness or disability.  Maximum $4,000 assistance.

Springfield ESG:  HAP received $62,000 in “old” ESG funds that will be prioritized for rehousing in condemnation cases.  New ESG fund applications just submitted.

Domestic Violence issue:  severe abuse cases going into EA shelters.  No DV shelter space.  Women put into hotel, not even a congregant shelter.  Donna and Jim suggested calling them directly to provide assistance to move families around in shelter if necessary in order to find a DV victim shelter space (and avoid hotel).


Hampden County Motel Task Force is meeting tomorrow to take stock of effort, clarify goals and organize for next steps.

DHCD hired new supervisor for EA assistance.

HUD/VASH:  Be sure to check with families to see if they have veteran status since HUD VASH subsidies are available (Section 8 certificate) – an extraordinary resource.  25% increase in young veteran families over the last year.  Check in about veteran eligibility

Also for veterans:  Remember Chapter 115 state veterans benefit. Can provide move-in costs, security deposits, income supplements. Every town has veterans service officers (VSO).  Regulations around who is eligible.  VSO is required to take application.  Call your city/town hall to find out how to reach your VSO.

Agreed to meet in August in view of implementation of new programs and desire to discuss.

Next meeting:  Tues., 8/14, 1-2:30 pm, New England Farm Workers, 225 High Street, Holyoke

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