The Network’s series of Housing Court collaboration meetings continued in Franklin and Berkshire Counties this past week.  In light of the ongoing collaboration among providers, lawyers and the Court – and the fact that the Court meets only one day a week in each county – the good news is that on-site support for at-risk families and individuals is well-established in Franklin and Berkshire Counties.

Franklin County

On November 13, Judge Fields hosted 10 providers, lawyers and Housing Court staff to discuss collaboration with the Court.   The Housing Court meets every Wednesday in Greenfield and on those days staff from Western Mass. Legal Services, Tenancy Preservation Project and Community Action are available on site to assist in homelessness prevention.

Following distribution of the Network’s resource directory, the group had a healthy discussion regarding the challenge of targeting limited resources and the tension between using these resources to stop a household before they get to the edge of homelessness versus using the resources for those who have already arrived at that “edge.”   Everyone agreed that the real solution lies in having more resources, especially as the demand for them dramatically increases.

The group also noted the inaccessibility of the DTA office in Greenfield by public transportation as a significant barrier to assistance for families.

Finally, the group agreed it was useful to come together every couple of months to touch base on current challenges and successes.   The next meeting will include Hampshire County providers and advocates since there is more commonality between Hampshire and Franklin than Hampshire and Hampden (where Hampshire was initially partnered).  Pamela and Judge Fields will be in touch on a next meeting date.

In attendance on 11/13/09: Judge Fields, Jan Stiefel, Western Mass Legal Services (WMLS), John Shriver (WMLS), Kelly Jones, Housing Court, Ellie Harris, ServiceNet, Jack Bonsignore, ServiceNet, Steve Karpovich, Service Net, Brian Sullivan, Community Action, Tammie Butler, Community Action, Sandra Haigh, Tenancy Perservation Project, Eryn Tobin, Catholic Charities, Pamela Schwartz, Western Mass. Network to End Homelessness
Regrets:  Joanne Glier, Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority

Berkshire County

On November 18, Chief Housing Specialist Michael Doherty hosted a meeting in Judge Field’s absence (due to illness) with providers from Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority, an attorney from Western Mass. Legal Services (WMLS) and Network coordinator Pamela Schwartz.   Currently, a BCRHA staffperson (through the Tenancy Preservation Project) is present at the Court when it meets on Wednesdays and WMLS is also available to provide on-site assistance.

Pamela provided an overview of the Network and shared and reviewed the current resource directory.  We discussed the limitations of these resources without the commitment of additional permanent subsidies.  We also discussed Berkshire County’s long-standing practice of collaboration and support with the local DTA office and other providers in the region.  The issue, once again, is that of sufficient resources to meet the demand for affordable housing and the demand for jobs.

We agreed that coming together every few months to exchange Network and Berkshire County information would be useful.  Pamela will follow-up with the Judge to propose meeting on a quarterly basis.

In attendance on 11/18/09: Chief Housing Specialist Michael Doherty, Housing Court, Eryn Tobin and Milagros Nazario, Catholic Charities; Brad Gordon, Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority (BCRHA), Christine Green and Kim Louis, BCRHA, Laura Moore and Lauren Bolio, BCRHRA – Tenancy Preservation Project, Nicole Martinez and Kristen Curtin, BCRHRA, Housing Services and Mediation Project, Paul Schack, Western Mass Legal Services, Pamela Schwartz, Network coordinator





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