Thanks for a great family services meeting this week.  Minutes are below but first a few highlights:

We will meet next on:

Tuesday, Feb. 9, 1-3 pm at the Holyoke DTA Office, 100 Front Street, Holyoke.  At this meeting, Liz Curtis and/or Laila Bernstein of ICHH will attend to both hear about and respond to our successes and challenges.  Bob Pulster has also been invited and will try to attend.

On the to-do list for ICHH providers:

Provide benchmarks for the remaining 3 quarters of the grant (through March, June and September) by Feb. 1st so I can collate and return to all providers in time for review and discussion at our 2/9 meeting.  Thank you!

More on the meeting schedule:

At this last meeting, we decided to alternate meeting locations/times (NOT days of the week – always 2nd Tuesday of the month) to split the difference between the Berkshire commute and the location of the DHCD staff (Holyoke) and the proportion of people coming from the Hampden County area.

So the meeting schedule will be as follows:

Feb. 9 – 1-3 pm, Holyoke DTA Office
March 10 – 9:30-11:30 am, DMH Haskell Building, Northampton
April 14 – 1- 3 pm, Holyoke DTA Office
May 12 – 9:30-11:30 am, DMH Haskell Building, Northampton
June 9 – 1-3 pm, Holyoke DTA Office
And on it goes…

Family Services Meeting Minutes 1/12/09

Attendance:  Jane Banks, Dave Christopolis, Becky Connolly, Joanne Glier, Brad Gordon, Toni Hochstadt, Steve Huntley, Fran LeMay, Andrea Miller, Donna Nadeau, Elton Osgood, Jim Reis, Vicki Riddle, Alicia Rodriguez, Tom Salter, Pamela Schwartz, Suzanne Smith


Berkshire Regional Housing Authority (Brad Gordon):  ICHH #s low b/c using HPRP funds first since exclusively can be used for Pittsfield and reserving ICHH for outside of Pittsfield.  But almost at max for HPRP for the year so then ICHH will be available for Pittsfield residents, too, and the expectation is ICHH funds will go quickly.

Community Action (Toni Hochstadt):  Received ESG prevention grant to hire f/t staff person to do prevention work; also cash assistance for individuals ($6,400).

Valley Opportunity Council (Steve Huntley):  city HPRP moving; helped families in Lyman St fire

HAPHousing (Jim Reis):  state HPRP contract – for motel families (225 families) – eviction prevention for subsidized housing tenants (public housing and vouchers).  Working with housing court on condemnation/no heat cases – assisting tenants (with city HPRP money). Sub-contract with MHSA to serve individuals, an average of $4K per client.

ServiceNet (Fran LeMay):  placements from Greenfield shelter to apartments are moving.

Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority (Joanne Glier):  waiting for RAFT allocation (Franklin and Berkshire received RAFT only).

Data Review

We acknowledged the challenge and need to consistently interpret all the measures across the region and the state in  ICHH’s monthly reports.  One example is the measure of “preventing homelessness NOT using ICHH funds”.  We learned in our own exchange that this term is treated very differently, e.g., some providers limit it to when other funds are used to prevent homelessness; others take a broader definition and include when staff time is used, for instance in mediation, and the result is an agreement that preserves the tenancy.   On the side of consistency, we all confirmed our interpretation of “using ICHH” to mean the use of ICHH funds.  Everyone agreed that we need to arrive at uniformity (across the state) and at the same time agreed that accounting for staff time in the service of prevention is vital to understanding and growing a successful prevention model.

Pamela will follow-up with Liz to get clarification on this issue.  Providers would like definitions for each category on the monthly reporting chart.  Providers would also like to understand how to account for the piggybacking of HPRP money onto ICHH money.

In order to ensure a meaningful understanding of progress/challenges in our region, we agreed on the importance of looking at all the relevant indicators (far beyond the ICHH monthly report).  Dave Christopolis suggested that we look to DHCD as a resource for a broad cross-section of measures (e.g., 23 community action agencies across the state are reporting to DHCD on related measures); that we need to avoid reinventing the wheel and using the data that is already being reported to other divisions in DHCD.

We also examined the statistics provided by Laila via DHCD regarding shelter entries and exits in Springfield and across the state.  Suzanne will follow-up with Laila to address questions around the data itself since at first glance there seem to be as many questions as answers.

The data showed very high shelter entries in Springfield.  In addition to examining other factors about the basis for the data itself, the data raised the question of sustainability and how different providers are treating this issue across the state.  We agreed that this was an important area to discuss further with Liz Curtis and Bob Pulster.  We acknowledged the tension between getting families out of motels/shelters asap, despite the apparent challenge of sustainability, up against the need to maintain positive landlord relationships and not set up a family for failure. We look forward to further conversation and clarity on this issue.

Consequences of rental assistance to fuel assistance and food stamps. Tom Salter of NEFWC raised the issue of how rental assistance leads to a reduction in fuel assistance and food stamp levels since consumers’ living expenses are reduced with the housing funds.  This runs counter to our ultimate goal of alleviating poverty and must be addressed.  Tom will follow-up with a letter to committee members that summarizes the problem and the need for action on a state level.

Community Event, 4/2010: Pamela brought to the committee’s attention the work of the community engagement committee to plan for a regional event in late April to draw attention to the Network’s success and vision for the future.  More details will be provided as soon as they are available and provider input and participation will be key to the event’s success.

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