In attendance: Marlene Corales, Job Corps, Rosemary Fiedler, Holyoke Community College,Lisa Goldsmith, Community Action, Jake Hogue, BCRHA, Natalie Kyles, Gandara Center, Ann Lentini, Domus, Gerry McCafferty, Hampden CoC, Lizzy Ortiz, Mercy Medical Center, Keleigh Pereira, 3 County CoC/Community Action, Phil Ringwood, DIAL/SELF, Jean Rogers, CHD, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Jennifer Sunderland, Springfield Schools, Tyrese Tillman, CHD
Hampden County Updates
Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program: HUD approved the plan! Request for Proposals for projects are out and due today (4/20). Hoping for a 7/1 start date (to make it consistent with all other CoC funding). Considering how to make a public announcement; in view of pandemic, will likely be delayed to program start date.
Racial equity work is continuing, working closely with Youth Action Board and in coordination with 3 County CoC.
Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) funded program updates:
Center for Human Development: CHD is still taking referrals, limiting in person contact as much as possible. Overall a very positive report on how young people are faring: stable, resilient, community-minded with each other; also observing how family supports are stepping up. Constant education is taking place around social distancing and hygiene protocols (no COVID-19 positive cases so far). Working hard to reconnect youth with primary care doctors. Isolation is a challenge, responding with support with technology to connect with mental health providers. Overall very impressed with young people and the surrounding community.
Youth Action Board (staffed by CHD): Weekly meetings with executive board are continuing over Zoom; using social media to share information with larger youth community. Good adaptation given the challenge.
Gandara Center: Echoing CHD’s report above. A lot of youth are in their own apartments, which also makes isolation a tough challenge. Providers are using FaceTime to connect, including convening larger group meetings virtually. Those are very helpful.
Since the pandemic began, there have been very few referrals, although screenings continue. Family supports are stepping in. One new youth has entered shelter over this time (following quarantine period, etc. and all is well).
Our House, Westfield: Full house with 10 young adults; all have jobs or are in on-line schooling. Adapting as well as possible.
Springfield Schools: Laptops have been offered to all homeless students, including those living outside of the district; wifi hot spots have been purchased for students in shelter to afford internet access. The school system is offering breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack to pick up (no id required), for any students or children in the household. Reaching out to Chicopee and West Springfield to expand food delivery there.
Holyoke Community College: Thrive is continuing to deliver food bags to students who are connected to the Center; continuing with referrals; two students at Westfield State returned home. Hot spots and laptops are being delivered.
YHDP: HUD approved the plan! The RFP went out and applications are now back and review is beginning this Friday. Excited about potential new partnerships. They are looking to do the public launch of the program at Community Action’s Annual Meeting in September. Aiming for a fall start for the programs.
The racial equity trainings are moving to Zoom, in partnership with Hampden County CoC, will focus on training for YABs, and a leadership training inclusive of the CoC’s racial equity work group. In June, they will convene the Racial Equity Summit, which will also include pulling together CoC partners and new youth projects to create a framework for all work moving forward with a racial equity lens.
The Youth Action Board is continuing to meet virtually (hopefully moving to Zoom soon).
DIAL/SELF – All programs are operating except street outreach; drop-in centers are open with a staff person conducting socially distant support; using social media for information sharing as well. Housing case managers are providing support remotely. Also seeing the challenge of isolation; connecting young people to online mental health support. Intakes are remaining mostly steady, no major changes in either direction. More family reunification is happening. There has been one COVID-19 positive young person in one of their houses but all precautions were taken and no one else contracted the virus and the young person has fully recovered. MEMA has been helpful with PPE. Access to transportation continues to be a huge issue with reduced public transportation and Uber drivers.
Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority youth outreach: An additional outreach worker was hired, so now up to 2 staff. Working remotely – phone, Facetime, email. Seeing an increased restlessness among youth now that we are over a month into this protocol. Some challenges with family reunification. Some landlords have expressed concern about youth not following protocols. Outreach workers are mediating and providing support to youth to stay the course.
Good news: DHCD has allocated some of its HUD Moving to Work funds to support housing costs for up to 20 high-school students statewide who are experiencing homelessness or coming from DCF. Berkshire County will receive some of this allocation (details are still being worked out).
Also: EOHHS has additional funds they’re making available for the region – each of the 10 regions will have access to $10K for quarter 4 if needed.
The group agreed that convening monthly is very useful to exchange these kinds of updates and check in generally. We agreed to meet next on: Wed., May 20, 9:30-11 am.