Family Services Meeting
May 10, 2016

In attendance: Jesus Arce, City of Springfield, Yoshi Bird, CHD, Clare Deucher, SOAR, Dawn DiStefano, Square One, Anthia Elliot, Safe Passage, Erin Forbush, ServivceNet, Sean Hemingway, CHD, Fran LeMay, ServiceNet, Jane Lindfors, DTA-DV Unit, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Carmen Navarro, NEFWC, Jenni Pothier, Tenancy Preservation Project, Josean Roldan, NEFWC, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Jodi Smith, Home City Housing, TJ Steele, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Janette Vigo, HAPHousing, Lauren Voyer, HAPHousing, Mandy Winalski, Community Legal Aid, Chris Zabik, DMH

 Family Data Update

We reviewed the data presented at the Network Leadership Meeting (April 28) by the Hampden County and Three County CoCs regarding the final point in time count (conducted Jan. 27) and the significant drop in family homelessness that has occurred across the region over the last 5 years (especially from last year to this year). Click here for the 3 County report and here for the Hampden County report.

We discussed the contributing factors: an intensive diversion effort at the front door supported by DHCD (our region has one of the highest diversion rates statewide at 35%); use of HomeBASE to both divert families from homelessness and re-house families, resulting in a drastic decrease in families living in hotels; additional resources from DHCD to target the longest shelter stayers; the creation of Permanent Supporting Housing for chronically homeless families.

Hampden County now is down to 20 families in motels; Franklin County down to 2. Fantastic work across the region! We will celebrate this excellent work at our June Family Services meeting.

More on permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless families:   10 families are in the process of being housed at CHD (3 in Chicopee, 2 in Westfield, 1 in Springfield, 1 in Ware; others pending); additional families housed via VOC. The model is working very well, addressing the needs of families with multiple medical and/or mental health conditions.

Berkshire County: noted the challenge of families being denied EA eligibility, both DV and non-DV families.   For non-DV: denials have occurred due to claims of not having a birth certificate or other verification (despite advocacy intervention). For DV families, denials have occurred due to demands for TROs or eviction summons. Jane Lindfors pointed out that these DV denials are not appropriate under current regulation and that there needs to be some clarification on current policy. Jane will follow-up with Bonnie Caldwell of DHCD and loop back to Anthia and Heather. Bonnie is extremely responsive to issues that arise and providers should contact her in the face of challenges such as these. We will check back in on this process at our next meeting.

FY17 State Budget Update:

Pamela updated the group on the current status of the family related Network priorities:

  • Secure Jobs was funded at $500,000 in the House budget ($750,000 in the Governor’s budget). $2 million is necessary to keep the program level-funded statewide. We will pursue that funding level in the Senate budget.
  • Consortium and prevention funding (via EOHHS, new programs just starting up) was not funded at all in the House budget; $1.5m in the Governor’s budget. We are working to obtain the Governor’s level in the Senate budget.
  • Youth funding: Funded $1m in the House; $2m in the Governor’s budget. We will pursue at least $2m in the Senate budget.
  • Expansion of HomeBASE eligibility to include DV families: in both the House and Senate budget. We will seek inclusion in the Senate budget as well.

Pamela stressed the importance of communicating with your senator when the Senate Ways and Means budget is released (5/17). Please stay tuned for action updates next week

Special Presentation on SOAR, Clare Deucher:
Thanks to Clare Deucher for presenting to our group regarding SOAR – SSI/SSDI Outreach Access and Recovery Program. Clare is working under a one year SAMHSA grant to expand use of SOAR in MA. It is a program that trains staff to become better equipped to successfully apply for SSI/SSDI on behalf of their clients. The SOAR program significantly increases the likelihood of approval of applications (65% allowance rate with SOAR; 22% allowance rate without it).

SOAR offers a free on-line course that takes 16 hours (or more) and grants 16 CEUs. The training can make a defining difference in the capacity to navigate the application process to success for the client.

Clare is seeking people who will get trained as well as a local leader and veteran leader who can act as point people for SOAR here in the region. Please contact Clare if you are interested in learning more: [email protected].

To obtain more SOAR materials, please visit this blog post here.

We discussed the challenge of organizations allocating staff time to become trained. Tenancy Preservation Project is interested in having a staff person become trained as well as Safe Passage and a few other provider agencies. Others expressed interest but reservations about capacity. We agreed that since the state gets reimbursements from the federal government for those deemed SSI/SSDI eligible, it is in the state’s interest to promote this training. We expressed our hope that the state would become the engine for this initiative.   Clare offered the calculation that for each person allowed SSI/SSDI benefits, $3,500 comes back to the state. With 42% of eligible people not receiving this benefit, that adds up to $1.2 million left on the table for a quarter year.

Other ways SOAR has received funding in other states (also worthy of additional consideration)

PATH funding
Using an AmeriCorps worker or College Intern
Acquiring funds for a peer support specialist
Collaborating with a hospital to recover uncompensated care costs
State funding (through the $ that DTA gets paid back from the feds once SSI kicks in)
Using Medicaid $ earmarked for homeless services

Next meeting (and party!): Tuesday, June 14, 1-2:30 pm, Center for Human Development

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