The Family Group meeting was held on Tuesday, February 10. We had great attendance. Thank you to everyone who came. Your participation and ideas helped significantly as we face decisions regarding how to re-craft the family homeless portion of the ICHH budget proposal. For those of you who could not attend here are some highlights:

•   The meeting began with a brief overview of the Regional Network concept. Mainly, the critical factor that each of us must understand is that though each partner in the network maintains its independent purpose and mission, we are also weaved together as an interdependent vibrant and growing network with the common mission of alleviating and eventually ending homelessness in our region which includes Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden and Hampshire counties.

•   The ICHH grant provides significant funding to assist our network in testing ideas and models that otherwise we may not have the opportunity to strengthen our relationships and fund our collaborations.

•   The purpose of the Family Group meeting is to address the challenge faced by the fact that we were not funded the full amount requested and have exceeded the 50% cap placed for staffing funds. By addressing the problem as group we anticipate creative thinking and problem solving.

•   The Family REACH proposal (a line item in the submitted budget) draws heavily on staff dollars due to the fact that it is an intensive case management model. Even so, the group concurred that such a program is what we really want to implement in this area among homeless families. We may not be able to do so with ICHH funding, but there was tremendous interest expressed during the meeting to look at current and imminent initiatives that could be tied together and serve as a prototype Family REACH program.

•   There was significant dialog around addressing homelessness prevention – especially in identifying key indicators (“red flags”) that will help identify families that may have housing resources vs. families that do not and may be imminently homeless.

•   While all agreed that prevention is critical, we must also provide something to address those families who are homeless. Housing resources with an element for rehousing families and assisting in sustaining housing is also imperative.

•   By leveraging alternate funding, currently funded programs and services (including existing state agencies) we can augment the ICHH proposal. Network partners can contribute resources via collaboration; in-kind services; additional program funds; staff support and other means.

•   As a region we should think about how to increase our own capacity to address homelessness, especially the more complex situations, through staff training. The thought was put forward as to whether the ICHH funding could be used for such training. Another consideration was whether or not the ICHH would provide such training for staff.

In conclusion:

At the end of the meeting it was agreed that the most effective channel to use the ICHH funds would be by crafting a family proposal that addresses a continuum of services starting at prevention and including rehousing and diversion components for Tier 1, 2, 3 and 4 families.

The highlights do a meager job of reflecting the depth of dialog during the meeting. It was open, invigorating and demonstrated the intense commitment of network partners to work together to leverage the ICHH funds towards addressing homelessness in our vast region. With the help of this group, the Core Group has been able to come together and retool the budget proposal.

I anticipate that the Family Group will meet again in a few weeks. The time frame depends on approval of the new budget proposal and determination of next steps by the Leadership Council. If you are interested in participating in a Family Group meeting email me at [email protected].  Send me your phone and agency information.

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