In attendance:  Dan Bahls, Community Legal Aid, Steve Connor, Central Hampshire Veterans Services, Mike Hagmaier, SoldierOn, Michele LaFleur, Three County CoC, Jesus Pereira, Holyoke Veterans Services, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Kate Sweetster-Owens, VA, Christy Torres, VOC, Sue White, VA

Northampton COVID-19 expanded shelter to close 5/23 – discussion of two veterans with medical issues who are in need of shelter.  Steve will connect with SSVF for potential resources for hotel stays prior to HUD VASH).  

Shelter transitions:  We discussed more broadly the transitions happening in Northampton and Amherst; Craig’s Doors closed its seasonal shelter on schedule (May 3) and Northampton is moving out of the high school into ServiceNet’s pre-existing space at Grove Street and cot shelter but with smaller capacity to allow for proper social distancing and other safety precautions.  We discussed the need to address the shelter capacity needs in general – since there is not enough shelter space to keep the current numbers at the high school sheltered.  Hopefully, the newly available ESG (Emergency Solution Grant) funds via HUD ($16.4 million to MA in the first round) can be utilized to address the need.   Conversations with city/town leaders, providers and state legislators are underway to maximize the use of this resource. 

Note: in Berkshire County, their emergency shelter at a Pittsfield high school is staying open for the next 12-14 weeks.  Soldier On is providing 3 meals/day.

Holyoke update: The COVID-19 housing task force continues to meet; Holyoke is not opening a temporary shelter but providing other supports through porta-potties and hand-washing stations.  The Red Cross is meeting the needs of those who were recently displayed by the weather incident (roof blown off – 140 people displaced) – no veterans identified in this population.

Community Legal Aid Update:  Dan reported that CLA is available to support veterans for any unemployment issues.  Also available to provide guidance around evictions – in view of the statewide eviction moratorium, there should not be any evictions happening.  CLA is also available as “emergency lawyers for a day” (via housing court) in the event of emergency proceedings, and also available to consult around anything related to housing court. Contact Dan with questions at: 

Valley Opportunity CouncilCurrently there are housing vacancies for veterans, 1 in Chicopee, 3 in Holyoke.  Please contact Christy Torres with possible applicants:  

Western MA Tiny Home Initiative – Christy updated the group about this initiative – the group has secured property in Springfield for 8 units – micro-cottages – which will be exclusively for veterans. Currently fundraising for the effort, hoping to be off the ground next year.  1 or 2 units will be committed to low-income veterans; Christy will connect to Gerry on this to make sure she’s in the loop. 

Coordinated Assessment Training – scheduled for 5/27 for VA and Soldier On to get trained on the coordinated entry system.  Let Michele know of any specific questions beforehand.  The training will give an overview of the assessment tool that is built into the Green River Data Warehouse – this will increase efficiency and information sharing for the by-name list. Contact Michele with questions or if you want to join at:

Soldier On: Moved two women into permanent housing in Pittsfield, 3 more moving in tomorrow – very exciting!
SSVF is a great resource for paying back rent (in states where there is not an eviction moratorium), now the only necessary documentation is a letter from the LL.  

HUD/VASH – Northampton Housing Authority is still distributing vouchers – has 8-10 right now, recipients must be very motivated to do housing search since can’t be driven around with case managers but that is happening; people are getting housed.

Sue updated us about her new position as HUD/VASH supervisor.  Congrats, Sue!  

Next meeting date: Wed., 6/24, 2 pm – 3 pm, Please register here.

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