On Thursday, February 25, our Network hosted DHCD directors Bob Pulster, Ita Mullarkey and Timothy Yaecker and ICHH executive director Liz Curtis and coordinator Laila Bernstein in a series of meetings addressing family homelessness in the Western region. It was a great day of conversation and concrete movement forward in our efforts.
Family Services Providers
Over 30 providers and members of our Network’s Family Services Committee from across all four counties came together with DHCD and ICHH to discuss the issue of sustainability. We got clear on the message from both the state and federal (HPRP) levels: The highest priority is to get homeless families housed. The hope and expectation is that with housing and support services, families will be in a position to maintain their housing after their subsidy ends. The alternative – long term shelter – clearly hasn’t worked in solving the problem of homelessness. Our best shot at sustainability begins with a home.
We also reviewed recent data on family homelessness provided by DHCD. The Western region continues to have a disproportionately high number of families entering shelter and in the motels, although the most recent numbers show a decline. We all are hopeful that with the new HPRP diversion and rehousing funds now in the region, we will continue to see our numbers decrease.
Property Management Companies and Providers
DHCD directors Cate Racer, Bob Pulster and Tim Yaecker invited major property management companies in the Hampden County area and providers to come together to talk about how to build relationships and ultimately housing stock for homeless families. We had a productive conversation about both the opportunities and challenges, recognizing the importance of connecting property managers directly with providers looking for housing. The Network will work closely with DHCD in facilitating the next meeting to develop more concrete systems.
Rehousing Service Providers
In the final meeting of the day, both housing and social service providers came together with DHCD and ICHH to discuss coordinating the flow of services to families living in motels. Fast progress has already been made on housing placements and efforts are underway to maximize the collaboration among DHCD staff and the various providers involved. DHCD is hosting regular meetings to continue to support local coordination and the Network offered its assistance wherever needed.
Overall, the day demonstrated the extraordinary work that is taking place across our region to meet the crisis of family homelessness, and the distances we are traveling, both literally and figuratively, to get the job done. Special thanks to DHCD and ICHH — Bob, Cate, Ita, Tim, Liz and Laila — for their leadership and support. It was great to have them with us.