n attendance: Grechar Aquino, FOH-CSO, Richardo Avila, Eliot Services, Lynn Conway, Eliot Services, Shaundell Diaz, Stavros, Hwei-Ling Greeney, Amherst Community Connection, Laura Hudson, Positive Place, Janice Humason, FOH, Mark Jachym, FOH-CSO, Nichole King, FOH-CSO, Jay Levy, Eliot Services, Jen Lucca, Samaratin Way, Luis Martinez, CHD, Lizzy Ortiz, Mercy Medical Center, Denise Rivera-Nunez,  FOH-CSO, Keith Rhones, FOH-CSO, Stephanie Tonelli, Springfield Police, Kathy West, Eliot Services, Chris Zabik, DMH

Shelter update:  
FOH: at regular capacity of about 130, maintaining social distancing, guests are cleared of symptoms before entering (if symptoms, referred to a MEMA motel); continuing to house people 

Eliot Services – Jay reported that there are currently 5 people in the MEMA hotel in Northampton.  He is not getting many referrals from there.  He also reported he is seeing an increase in the number of people entering homelessness from institutions (hospitals, prisons).  

Update on regional task force: Pamela reported on the Network’s effort to bring together state legislators, mayors and other town officials, shelter providers and regional housing authorities to develop a coordinated response to COVID-19 related shelter and housing needs.  The group met for the 3rd time earlier this week and includes the communities of Springfield, Holyoke, Northampton, Amherst, Greenfield and Pittsfield.  The goal is to advocate for maximum and best use of the billions of federal dollars coming into MA in response to COVID-19 and in particular to ensure Western MA gets its fair share. 

One statewide advocacy effort underway – which the Network is supporting – is to urge the Baker Administration to request “expanded authorization from FEMA” for use of “non-congregate” shelter (i.e., hotels) for people who are homeless.  Models in other states have partnered these FEMA dollars with ESG dollars for rapid rehousing while awaiting for available permanent supportive housing units.  

Discussion:The group provided feedback to the statewide efforts; below is a summary of comments:

  • many people need a more supportive, congregate-type housing than what a hotel could offer, they are looking to be part of a community and need more readily available support  
  • we need more permanent supportive housing than rapid rehousing – sometimes RRH is a set-up for people; sometimes it works great, really depends on the individual’s needs and many individuals in shelter settings have more complex needs than RRH can meet
  • “Supportive services” are good but an hour or two a month is NOT that
  • purchasing a hotel would allow for it to be converted into a congregate setting – individual SRO-type rooms but support services built in
  • the assessment tool – the VI-SPDAT – has limitations.  People get “low scores” – i.e., an indicator that they can live well on their own – but this is frequently not the case.  The very fact that it is a ’21 page application” makes it an inherent barrier.

We will continue to discuss at our next meeting, with any additional updates and opportunity for feedback.

Note: Gerry was not able to attend due to a family emergency.  The Point in Time Count information will be shared at the meeting next month.

Next meeting date: Tuesday, 7/28, 1-2:15 pm Contact the Network for the Zoom link.

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