In attendance: Lynn Conway, Eliot Services, Jen Glover, Life Path, Marvin Gonzalez, Eliot Services, Dave Havens, MHA, John Fisher, Way Finders, Sarah Hills, Eliot CHS-Homeless Services, Janice Humason, FOH/CSO, Nichole King, FOH/CSO, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS-Homeless Services, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield/Hampden CoC, Bill Miller, FOH/CSO, Van Ngueyn, Springfield DMH, Keith Rhone, FOH/CSO, Denise Rivera-Nunez, FOH/CSO, Stephanie Tonellil, City of Springfield Police Dept., Kathy West, Eliot Services, Chris Zabik, DMH
Regional COVID-19 Work Group: Pamela reported the convening of the Western MA COVID-19 Task Force for Housing First that includes area legislators, local officials and shelter and housing providers from across 4 counties. The goal is to create an opportunity to update and exchange information about shelter needs during COVID-19 and to create opportunities for coordination where possible. Pamela wanted the group to be aware this is happening and will keep people posted of any updates.
State Policy and Advocacy Update: Pamela reported on the extension of the eviction moratorium until October 17. Meanwhile, there is a big push for homelessness prevention legislation to be passed before the end of the Legislative Session (slated for 7/31/20 but likely to be extended). Please be sure to sign up for the Network blog – http://westernmasshousingfirst.org – to get timely updates and action alerts. The Network’s main priorities are the Act to Guarantee Housing Stability and Right to Counsel Pilot Program. See the blog for more detail.
Emergency Solution Grant (ESG) funds brainstorm for Springfield/Hampden County: Gerry McCafferty launched a discussion about the Springfield ESG-COVID funds totaling almost $5 million, to be spent over 2 years (in typical years Springfield receives approx. $400,000 – a huge increase!). These funds are typically used for: street outreach, operating shelters, essential services for people experiencing homelessness, rapid re-housing and prevention.
The State also has ESG funds that it is allocating (total approx. $40 million statewide). There have been 2 rounds of funding (still being allocated and contracted). Friends of the Homeless is seeking funds for potential expansion of shelter and additional staffing. Catholic Charities and Mercy Medical have also applied for state funds to do increased street outreach and pay for hotel rooms for people who are otherwise on the street as a first step towards housing. Waiting to hear on state funding decision.
Gerry noted the concern around shelter capacity for the fall/winter as it is likely we will see an increase in COVID numbers. She is proposing that the ESG dollars be used to fund a “housing surge” in Sept./October, that is to use ESG Rapid Rehousing (RRH) funds to pay for housing for up to 2 years. The goal would then be to support individuals in establishing permanent housing, either Permanent Supportive Housing or other housing, as deemed appropriate). These funds would meet the needs of a broader population, not just chronically homeless individuals. Supportive services and rehousing strategies would be enlisted, similar to those provided people in shelter, but in this instance from the home base of an apartment.
In terms of finding landlords willing to rent, the goal is to help bring them back into the rental market through a well-designed program with additional incentives (e.g,. incentive payment – through private funds – or landlord mitigation fund).
Will need to ensure sufficient staffing to make this work; need to ensure effective screening for good housing matches and to ensure we are reaching those most at risk of COVID infection.
- This is a good idea for people who are living rough and cannot handle congregate living and experience multiple challenges (tri-morbid). First response of immediately housing people in hotels with strong support services is a good one (which is the model being proposed by Catholic Charities and Mercy Medical). Sufficient staffing is critical. City is considering hiring 2 outreach workers and would issue a simple RFP for the rapid rehousing program.
- In terms of who qualifies for Springfield ESG funding, if homeless in Springfield and moving out of Springfield, the individual would still qualify. Gerry is looking at state funds for other parts of Hampden County.
- We would have to be very careful to create an appropriate support structure to deal with all the transitions – from street to hotel to apt to permanent housing; we also need to figure out how to identify and connect with the doubled-up population.
- Gerry will be getting out decisions and RFP in the next couple of weeks, while continuing to consult with committee members.
Other Announcements:HUD has repealed its Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing Rule (AFFH) which required localities to make plans that would specifically address housing discrimination in order to receive certain federal funding. This is a big setback for fair housing efforts.
Next meeting – September: 9/22, 1 pm. Contact the Network here for Zoom info.