Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
August 13, 2013

In Attendance:  Elizabeth Alfred, AmeriCorps, CLA/GBLS, Shannon Barry, Springfield Public Schools, Bonnie Caldwell, HAPHousing, Charity Day, Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Viviana  DeJesus, Community Action, Ken Demers, New England Farm Workers Council,  Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Hwei-Ling Greeney, Amherst Community Connection, Wendy Kane, Community Legal Aid, Steve Huntley, Valley Opportunity Council, Katasha Leggett, Springfield Partners for Community Action Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Lizzy Oritz, City of Springfield, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Tyler Rousseau, Springfield College, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Kate Shapiro, Tenancy Preservation Program, Sarah Slautterback, DESE, Rachel Trant, DCF, Luz Vega, WomanShelter/Las Companeras, Lauren Voyer, HAPHousing, Maria Yorgakopoulou, Housing for All

Reviewed FY 14 budget developments:

Discussed state response to families facing termination of their HomeBASE rental subsidies.  Click here for budget summary from Mass. Coalition for the Homeless for a summary of relevant FY14 budget items; and click here memo from HAP (courtesy of Homes for Families) providing overview of available resources.  Bonnie Caldwell of HAP will produce shortly a summary of specific  eligibility criteria regarding available resources  – will send to Pamela who will distribute to committee.

Acknowledged state response to housing crisis with additional MRVPs, expansion of RAFT, expansion of eligibility for resources for families facing end of HomeBASE subsidies and elimination of 32 week limit for families in shelter or motels to use household rental assistance benefit.  All excellent progress for homeless families.

At the same time,  Donna Nadeau of DHCD reported recent numbers of roughly 40 new families entering the shelter system each day (and mostly new families, only very few are those who have lost their HomeBASE rental subsidy)

Currently approximately 1,600 families in motels.

School population also climbing, e.g., Sarah Slautterback of DESE reported that Chicopee schools reported 42 new homeless children listed as school start approaches.  And Sarah reported that there are more doubled up families than families in shelters and motels.

Discussed issue of sustainability and budgeting issues, e.g, how to provide families the necessary guidance and support around best budget planning.  Raised the model of congregate shelter and how that would provide a stronger support system than transitional apartments as emergency shelter.

Temporary Accommodations through RAFT (the expansion of RAFT to allow for emergency housing for families deemed ineligible for EA shelter but at risk of sleeping in a place unfit for human habitation, a legislative response modeled after HAP/VOC’s emergency housing program).

HAP will continue its emergency housing program (now with RAFT funding), discussing with VOC about possibility of sub-contracting.  HAP reported low use of this emergency resource in the month of July, roughly 3 families.

Hwei-Ling Greeney raised issue of DHCD  communication around the availability of this new temporary accommodation resource via RAFT.  Donna will bring back that feedback to DHCD.

Domestic Violence policy issue around EA shelter:  Anthia Elliot of Safe Passage raised the long-standing problem of current DCF/DHCD policy requiring DV shelter families to leave DV shelter in order to become eligible for EA shelter, the consequence of state policy working in state agency “silos” (DCF and DHCD policy not connecting sufficiently to achieve the desired outcome to free up DV shelter space for DV victims without requiring DV families to “become homeless” (again) to qualify for EA shelter).   This disconnect has been acknowledged on a state level for a long time, but as best we know, no policy change has occurred on this yet.  Pamela will follow-up with ICHH to get a status update and will report back to the group.

Update on school transportation money for homeless families:  Sarah Slautterback of DESE provided the update that transportation money for homeless children was reduced in FY14 by $4 million while the number of homeless children in the school systems has risen (most recent number: 15,812 children identified as homeless by school districts statewide).

Secure Jobs Connect update: 25 clients employed so far.   50 enrolled.  Program is demonstrating very meaningful success so far.  While there have been  265 referrals to the program via HomeBASE programs, right now there is a shortage of referrals.  Working with HomeBASE agencies in effort to address this gap.


Hwei-Ling Greeney:  2 vacancies for homeless individuals in Amherst Transitional Housing

Rachel Trant, DCF:  family unification program is frozen.  Hired homeless health and safety assessment – will join Springfield team.  DCF has seen a huge increase in referrals for assessments through DHCD.  Extremely high volume.  Majority of families being assessed are getting into shelter.  51A’s are increasing, too.

Community Action of Franklin, Hampshire and Quabbin:  by mid-September will be ready to launch advocacy for eviction prevention.

Donna Nadeau, DHCD:  provided a very generous compliment to the Network, saying we are unique in the state with our degree of coordination and collaboration and cross-section of providers and community leaders involved in the Network effort.  Thank you, Donna!

Next meeting:  Tuesday, 9/10, 1:00-2:30, confirm NEFWC location 225 High Street, Holyoke

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