In attendance: Melissa Bissett, Square One, Ellen Broadhurst, West Springfield Public Schools, Tamicha Colon, WomanShelter/Companeras, Anthia Elliot, BHN, Waleska Estrada, New England Farm Workers Council, Kathy Keeser, Louison House, Jane Lindfors, DTA/DV unit, Michelle Michaelian, BHN, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Carmen Navarro, WomanShelter, Dorothy Prieto, Community Action Pioneer Valley, Ehra Rodriguez, WomanShelter, Janna Tetreault, Community Action Pioneer Valley, Anthony Thomas, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Janette Vigo, Way Finders, Lauren Voyer, Way Finder, Amanda Watson, FCRHRA
We agreed for this first meeting since the COVID-19 crisis began, we would spend our time connecting and updating each other. One theme emerged repeatedly: everyone – across state agencies and providers – are working tirelessly to meet the critical needs of our most vulnerable residents. The mutual appreciation and respect for the extraordinary effort traveled across the screen into our homes. Please draw on it in the days ahead.
Way Finders: Staff working remotely. Biggest challenge had been locating supplies but just received some from MEMA last week. Some scattered site apartments have been set aside for quarantine purposes. Checking in with families weekly, doing virtual walk-throughs, providing gift cards when necessary, wifi jet packs for children’s home schooling. No COVID-19 positive cases so far. Re: new RAFT COVID funding: 800 assessments since 3/31 – application fillable online. Flexiblity around documentation. and income limits. Assigned several more staff to work on RAFT to meet demand.
Valley Opportunity Council Main Street Shelter: new Interim Director Jessica King (firstname.lastname@example.org). Program is currently full. One per diem staff tested positive for COVID-19. A plan is in place to best support staff and families- it includes no visitors at the shelter and food delivered for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
Greenfield Family Inn: All residents provided masks and cleaning supplies. Staff working remotely (with some out). Going smoothly so far.
Louison House – Just moved shelter back to Adams but still have North Adams building to create social distancing. Also referring people to Pittsfield to their COVID-19 emergency shelter at St Joe’s High School.
Elizabeth Freeman House (DV shelter, Pittsfield): Providing residents 3 meals/day to avoid having to go off-site. Same staff are there all the time to reduce exposure; hotline is now off-site, remote.
Behavioral Health Network (DV program, Ware) – A community-based program only; all advocates are working remotely. Responding to basic needs. No COVID-19 cases yet.
Safe Passage (DV shelter, Northampton): Fully remote. Providing guests cleaning supplies, gift cards as needed; established quarantine space. No positive COVID-19 cases confirmed yet.
WomanShelter/Companeras : Shelter is open, no new participants. Using hotels when additional space is required.
DV discussion: State hotline calls are down but most calls are for basic information around benefits and resources to meet basic needs (food, income). SNAP applications have quadrupled since March (relaxed guidelines on documentation needed). Most importantly: remind people that DV services exist during this time – a very perilous time for people to be in “lock down” with abusers.
Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority: Working remotely. Processing RAFT applications with new COVID-19 funding allocation (with relaxed eligibility criteria).
Community Action Pioneer Valley – Working remotely. Demand on some of their services is lighter than usual due to housing court being closed and utility moratoriums, etc. They are preparing for the demand to increase substantially when things open up again. Fundraising for their community relief fund.
Community Action Pioneer Valley Head Start: Still taking applications.
Springfield Partners for Community Action – Working remotely. Also planning ahead for demands when things open up again.
Behavioral Health Network: BHN is continuing to provide most services via tele-health; crisis programs are up and running; respite programs are open; Living Room is not open and partial hospitalization and IOP programs are on hold. Overall delivering more services due to the efficiency of tele-health.
Square One: – Continuing home visit programs, focusing on family wellness and child development needs; responding to the stresses of COVID-19.
West Springfield Public Schools: Meeting each family weekly; very busy getting basic needs – food, diapers – and providing school supplies such as chromebooks. Doing all outreach remotely. Providing meals.
DHCD update: New placements are low – 10 yesterday, most days fewer than that. Now families are permitted to do extended stays away and still retain their shelter placement. Donna is working on the billing, ensuring providers are getting paid. Shelter providers are doing an amazing job!
Network Update: Pamela reported on the advocacy work regarding passing a statewide eviction and foreclosure moratorium – it’s close! Stay connected by signing on to Network blog updates – go to www.westernmasshousingfirst.org to subscribe.
Next meeting date: we will convene by Zoom for our next regularly scheduled meeting on: Tuesday, May 12, 11 am – 12 noon.