First: Please see this updated Individual Emergency Shelters During COVID-19.

Also, please see the DHCD’s Bidders’ Conference Presentation on ESG funds ($16.4 million available statewide; no application deadline; applications are reviewed on a first-come first serve basis). 

In attendance: Lee Anderson, Manna, Sam Cunningham, ServiceNet, Shaundell Diaz, Stavros, Erin Forbush, ServiceNet, Hwei-Ling Greeney, Amherst Community Connections, Mike Hagmaier, Soldier On, John Hornik, Amherst Housing Trust, Andy Klatka, Eliot Services, Charlie Knight, former consumer, Michele LaFleur, 3 County CoC, Jay Levy, Eliot Services, Joe Mygan, Viability, Theresa Nicholson, CHD, Kevin Noonan, Craig’s Doors, Keleigh Pereira, 3 County CoC/Community Action; Kate Shapiro, DMH, Christy Torres, VOC, Susan White, Life Path, Chris Zabik, DMH

Amherst Housing Trust Update Re: Emergency Rental Assistance Program: John Hornik reported that the Town of Amherst has allocated $250,000 of its Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds to provide 60-80 families earning less than 80% of the median income (and prioritizing households with children) rental assistance for a period of at least 3 months.  Kudos to the Amherst community for this great effort.  John noted that other communities across the state are doing the same (Boston has already implemented this program).  Pamela will reach out to other Western MA communities to learn whether this is being considered elsewhere in our region. 

Shelter updates:
Pittsfield: Continuing to operate out of St. Joseph’s High School; averaging 45 guests/night; open 24/7; Soldier On is providing food.  Not yet conducted blanket testing but guests’ symptoms are being monitored and so far symptom free. 
Greenfield: Continuing to operate on two floors at Well Street; averaging 20 guests/night; open 24/7; also no blanket testing yet; things going smoothly. 
Northampton: Continuing to operate out of Northampton High School; around 45 guests/night; all guests and staff were tested (volunteers getting tested now); virtually all negative; now policy is for new guests to be tested before admission to shelter (have arranged a system that allows for quick testing and results). Roughly 1 new person arrives every couple of days.  To find out if there is space, call: 413-588-7251 (please be aware that it is the one shelter cell phone and is used for many purposes).
Amherst: Craig’s Doors closed a week ago basically on schedule (a seasonal shelter, always slated to close on May 1).  The town and church were not open to extensions.  Guests received tents, blankets, tarps, etc.  Working with Amherst Survival Center for food.  Porta-potties are still available near the shelter site.  In discussion with Community Foundation of Western MA about possible use of funds to support Amherst community needs. 

Coordinated Entry Update

Keleigh reported that case-conferencing across all 3 counties is happening on a weekly basis (moved from county-based each week due to virtual needs).  Housing is still happening (moved two new youth to DIAL/SELF housing; there are few openings for CHD’s and ServiceNet’s housing).  Vulnerability assessments are also continuing.  

Michele reported on work with veterans services providers to train them on the new data system so their assessments can be merged with coordinated entry.  

AmeriCorps volunteers are working on evaluating the 3 County coordinated entry system.  We will stay tuned on outcomes. 

Soldier On Update
Mike reported on the big increase in SSVF funding to support veterans impacted by COVID-19, allowing for emergency hotel stays, rental assistance support (without the same time limitations).  Call the SSVF hotline: 866-406-8449 with any referrals.  The Grant Per Diem (GPD) program is at 50% capacity – if veterans leave they are not allowed to return for safety reasons; instead supported with a hotel if necessary until housing is secured.  

ESG and FEMA funds – maximizing housing opportunities
Pamela shared the National Alliance to End Homelessness’ COVID-19 Framework for Homelessness Response. DHCD also issued its NOFA for Emergency Solution Grant (ESG) funds – $16.4 million to allocate statewide for emergency response for street outreach and shelter needs.  Learn more from its Bidders Conference Presentation on May 12.
Pamela will follow-up on this bigger picture discussion as more specific information emerges.

Pamela will also reach out to Way Finders to invite them to join our meeting since they are the RAFT agency for Hampshire County and also manage many housing units in Northampton.  

Racial Equity Series:  The Network is sponsoring and the Three County CoC and Hampden County CoC are offering a series of workshops on racial equity and homelessness, an issue that is especially prominent right now through this pandemic.  Dates are June 4, 11, 18, 2:30-4:30 pm.  Click here to register. The 3 County CoC will also be offering a summit in late June to zero in on what it means to apply what we have learned.  Stay tuned for more info on that.  

Mainstream Section 811 Housing Vouchers – 45 housing vouchers were awarded to housing authorities – Amherst, Northampton, Greenfield, FCRHRA.  They had been hoping for an April start date but the coronavirus has pushed that date out.  Pamela, Keleigh and Brooke will reach out to offer a meeting to discuss if/how we can help move these vouchers into the community asap.  

Annual Resource Fair converted to online legislative update: Our “4th annual Resource Fair” slated for June 5 will likely be converted to an opportunity to connect virtually with our state legislators.  

Next meeting date: June 8, 1:30 pm – Pamela will forward Zoom info. 

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