Family Services Committee Meeting
June 11, 2013

In attendance:  Bonnie Caldwell, HAPHousing, Harry Duschene, New England Farm Workers Council, Toni Hochstadt, Community Action, Wendy Kane, Community Legal Aid, Fran Lemay, Greenfield Family Inn, Jane Lindfors, DTA-Domestic Violence Unit, Lizzy Ortiz, City of springfield, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Tyler Rousseau, CSO Northampton, Pamela Schwartz, Network coordinator, Kate Shapiro, Tenancy Preservation Project, Denise Sortino, Elizabeth Freeman House, Luz Vega, WomanShelter/Las Companeras

FY14 Budget Discussion:

On issue of safety net for families at risk of  staying in places unfit for human habitation:
Discussed Senate budget’s expansion of RAFT and advocacy to add a provision requiring RAFT providers to place families in temporary accommodation if at risk of staying in place unfit for human habitation (current Senate language requires DHCD referral to RAFT under this circumstance).   The Network was invited to sign on to a statewide letter urging adoption of this provision among others.

Concerns were raised that removal of RAFT provider’s discretion to assess families would not be in service of best use of limited funds and maximizing alternatives to motels.  Also concern that it would convert resource into a legal battleground over qualifying for temporary assistance, and that this would create another layer of a shelter system within the current shelter system.

Consensus reached that the Network would not take a position on this proposal and instead partners would decide on an individual agency/personal basis and advocate as they see fit.

Family Services Committee agreed to support other provisions including:

  • Senate proposal to create a temporary accommodations program within RAFT and adopt the Senate’s recommended appropriation of $11.1 million
  • Senate recommendation to fund MRVP at $57.5 million, allowing the program to serve 1,000 more households with permanent housing subsidies
  • Senate proposal for HomeBASE to include additional protections for families for families set to time out of the HomeBASE rental assistance program during FY 14.
  • Senate proposal to increase funding for Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCEC) to $3 million.
  • House proposal  to support unaccompanied homeless youth with $150,000 to support demonstration projects to identify service and housing models, a pilot survey, and data analysis.
  • Senate proposal to fund Tenancy Preservation Project at $500,000.

Conference Committee is meeting NOW and the best time to call is NOW (Tues or Wed).  Pamela will get out notice ASAP to entire committee, but urged everyone to contact key legislators and their own ASAP.


HomeBASE families update

HAP is working with VOC and CareerPoint to provide additional stabilization/employment support services to families who will lose their HomeBASE subsidies in the coming year.  Additional funds available through June 30, although services will be available through August.

HAP has 932 families whose subsidies will terminate by June 2014; Franklin has less than 20.

Employment placements, trainings, financial literacy are all underway and going well.

Emergency Accommodation (HAP) update:

Placed 5 families over the last month (in contrast to no placements the month prior).   Combined stay of 15 nights, $1,035.  Total since start of program, $20,229.  Will continue this resource until the end of this fiscal year.  If new RAFT provisions pass, best case scenario is that these funds will be available beginning of August.  HAP will discuss covering gap between end of fiscal year and start of RAFT.  Will encourage landlords to “hang on” for resource and stall on possible evictions .

Motel update: 

About 230 families in motels in Hampden County.  In holding pattern.

10 families in Franklin County, down from 35 (of those 10, 2 have MRVPs and one with Section 8).
Have done a lot of diversion in HomeBASE, using rental assistance to avoid going into motels.  Locating affordable, lead safe units is huge challenge.

Announcements/Program Updates

  • Bonnie Caldwell of HAP provided the English and Spanish versions of the flyer and the information sheet developed at HAP to advise participants on their rights in regard to the new MASSACHUSETTS HOUSING RIGHTS FOR VICTIMS OF DOMESTIC VIOLENCE, RAPE, SEXUAL ASSAULT AND STALKING.  Please contact Bonnie Caldwell at [email protected] if you would like to obtain the flyers (sent previously by email and distributed at the meeting)
  • Oonagh Doherty of Mass. Justice Project requested distribution of a new resource to assist individuals and families to collect child support.  See attached flyer for more information.
  • Jane Lindfors announced a  job opening at DV unit at DTA.   Western Mass. position based in Springfield.  Contact Jane at [email protected] for more information.
  • Discussed new EOHHS secretary’s invitation for staff people to experience living on SNAP benefits for a week.  Starts tomorrow.  All agreed this sends an important and powerful message during this time of attack of these programs by Congress and others.

Due to vacation schedule and other work conflicts, we agreed to skip July meeting and meet next on: Tuesday, August 13, 9:30 am, Northampton Senior Center.

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