In attendance: Nicole Blais, Head Start – HCS (Holyoke, Chicopee, Springfield), Marianne Bouthilette Community Action Head Start, Rebecca Burgos, West Springfield Public Schools, Christine Cullen, Holyoke Chicopee Family and Community Program (CFCE), Sara Cummings, Community Action, Dawn DiStefano, Square One, Rosemary Fiedler, HCC, Jennifer Gonzalez-Morales, Holyoke Public Schools, Brenda Garcia, BHN Holyoke FIT, Ryan Howard, HCS Head Start, Jane Lindfors, DTA-DV unit, June Lynds, Community Action Head Start, Luz Marcano, VA, Yeisie Mateo, DCF, Emily Magnifico, Hilltown Community Health Center, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Jocelyn Martinez, WomanShelter, Theresa Nicholson, CHD, Marilyn Nunez, VOC, Colleen O’Brien, BHN Early Intervention, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners, Pamela Schwartz, Network,  Janna Tetrault, Community Action, Janette Vigo, Way Finders, Erica Zayas, VOC

Sign up for the 3rd Annual Housing and Homelessness Resource Fair for Providers on Monday, June 10, 9 am – 12:30 pm, Holyoke Community College. To register to attend: go here. To register to request table space to share resources: go here. 
Note: Western MA Legislators will be invited to attend from 9:30 to 10 am for welcoming comments.

Point in Time Count Update: Please click here for a summary of the Hampden County 2019 PIT data and here for additional breakdown on family data.   The Three County CoC data is in process (delayed due to transition between CoC leads, from Hilltown CDC to Community Action).

Racial Equity in Ending Homelessness training: Pamela reported out on the first of a 3 part training that took place on March 7.  About 100 Network partners participated.  The trainer, Marc Dones, was extremely well-received and the feedback has been excellent.  The presentation can be found by going to this link.

There are 2 other sessions in April and June and Pamela reported the Network’s commitment to continue this work for the duration of the Network. The next 2 sessions will address more concrete actions we can take.  Pamela will continue to report back. 

Head Start and child care discussion:Thanks to our Head Start partners in the region for attending to let us know about their programs and their prioritization process for children experiencing homelessness.  The national group Schoolhouse Connections has launched a campaign to engage with Head Start programs around enrolling more children and families experiencing homelessness.
We learned the following: 

  • homelessness receives a priority for all Head Start programs
  • Holyoke/Chicopee/Springfield Head Start (covers 15 communities) tries to reserve 3% for homeless families; Community Action Head Start (covers from Ware to Turners Falls to West Springfield to Northampton and Amherst) has a point system to determine priority status and just changed their policies to provide more points when homeless
  • infant/todder programs are likely to have longer wait lists.  Otherwise, frequently openings on a rolling basis
  • They address transportation challenges and will do home visits at shelters
  • They will get data on # of children experiencing homelessness in their program for next meeting
  • Square One is not a Head Start program – only offers state vouchers, but the programs work closely together. They are always full but they refer to each other.
  • Recent policy changes – as of March 1 –  in state child care voucher are significant! (1) for “homelessness vouchers” DHCD referral for voucher is no longer required. DHCD and DCF – DV –  funded shelters can refer directly – this is a huge advance in streamlining paperwork; and (2) for “income eligible” vouchers homelessness itself is now considered a “service need” for purposes of establishing eligibility  (where previously a family had to demonstrate 30 hours of other activity)

The group agreed it would be useful to hold a training for front line staff on these state regulatory changes and Head Start.  Pamela will follow-up in the coming weeks.

Coordinated Family and Community Engagement Grants (CFCE): We also discussed this state-funded program that exists in every city and town in the Commonwealth.  The grant is held by different entities, most commonly in schools, sometimes in Head Start programs. The goal is to strength all families and child development for children from birth to age 8.  The group agreed that family shelters could benefit from support in better connecting to this resource. 
Pamela will follow-up with regional CFCE coordinator to pursue a meeting opportunity. 

Other announcements: Network FY20 Budget and Legislative Priorities: Please click here for the Network’s budget priorities and here for the Network’s legislative priorities that will be discussed with legislators and Network partners over the coming weeks.  Please contact Pamela if you are interested in participating or have any questions. 

Supplemental Security Income training – Monday, April 8, 9 am -12:30 pm, Holyoke Public Library, 250 Chestnut Street, Holyoke. Pamela reminded all of this upcoming training about how to access SSI to help end homelessness and how the benefit relates to eligibility for other resources.  Caitlin Thomas, an SSI disability expert, is leading the training, along with other partners.  Please email Caitlin directly at [email protected] to RSVP. 

Opioid Prevention and Treatment training: Wed., April 10, 9 am – 3 pm, Sheraton Springfield Hotel, Springfield, sponsored by the statewide Health Resources in Action. Promising policies and practices will be shared around the topic of opioid overdoes prevention, responses and postvention. Register  here

Next meeting date: Tuesday, April 9, 11-12:30, Frost Building, Room 309, Holyoke Community College

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