Diversion meeting minutes – 6/29/10

In Attendance:  John Bednaz, NEFWC, Karen Cavanaugh, Womanshelter, Martha Ceplikas, DHCD, Peg Grimaldi, DHCD, Leonard Hayes, DHCD, Eneida Madho, DCF, Ita Mullarkey, DHCD, Jim Reis, HAP, Tom Salter, NEFWC, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Olga Samoilova, DHCD, Luz Vega, WomanShelter

Space freed up at Liberty office for new diversion worker and homeless coordinator.  New homeless coordinator likely to be on board in a month.  Tom meeting with DHCD contract manager to discuss amendment to allow for additional hire of diversion worker.

Liberty Street office:  Rising number of cases.  Higher traffic, many out of state, FL, PR, aware from other family members of what MA offers  (and summertime so movement is greater).  Homeless coordinators have no time to process cases – challenges with Beacon system,  only time to see people.

Exploring arrangement with Peter Pan Bus Lines so that funds are available for transpo for families who want to return to home state.  Ita will send contact to follow-up to develop a mechanism for referrals.  Will contact Gerry re: following up with Bob Schwarz, CEO, Peter Pan Bus Lines.

NEFWC diversion worker (John) working smoothly with HAP – referring HAP about six cases per week.  Could use more:  HAP will begin offering referral appointments 5 days a week.

Diversion brainstorm:

1.       Place in non-DHCD motel and then rehouse within the week.  One possibility to explore is NEFWC (John) places them in non-DHCD motel; HAP gets them out.  HAP and NEFWC will talk further.

2.       Use of HAP trained mediator?  Yes!  HAP could commit to 2 or 3/week mediations – will get back with protocol and plan for using HAP services.

3.       Housing search assistance – e.g., Worcester has “ready” apartments – the challenge of an immediate placement – John reports that the usual challenge is money; that a good network of available apartments/landlords.  Toughest cases are those families who have just arrived out of state.

4.       In potential DV cases, DCF, DTA and DHCD can access community-based services such as those offered by Womanshelter to help keep them in their homes, using alternatives other than entering shelter, e.g., vacate orders, restraining orders.

5.       HAP has 10 hours/week of legal services via WMLS – will put out best referral process for accessing this resource.

6.       HAP will expand referral appointment slots to 5 days a week (currently 3).

7.       Tension around need to prioritize and focus on families at the closest edge to homelessness while failing to serve families in need who are compelling prevention cases – not enough resources to go around and serve all those in need – best we can do is be frank with families that there are limited resources and to maximize resources we’ve got through coordination and constant contact and exchange among providers

8.     Discussion occurred around HAP’s management of applications for assistance – due to the workload and limited staff, HAP’s application form states that   if the consumer does not hear back in 15 days, it means HAP cannot help them.  This “non-response” rejection has led to confusion so that the consumer then goes to the DHCD office, seeking assistance after not hearing back.  And there is no place left for DHCD to send them.  HAP feels that there is no alternative due to the demands.  NEFWC and DHCD homeless coordinators expressed a desire for a change in policy.

9.       Concern around coverage for John (Farm Workers diversion staff) if John is out.  The sooner NEFWC is able to hire its additional diversion staff, the better.  Working now to amend DHCD contract to allow for hire.

10.       Doubled up families:  DCF needs go-to person for quick referrals and support – will get clarification on contacts in each agency.

11.   Remaining issues to discuss:  young mothers, coordinated assessments, top 3-4 ideas that hold most potential to increase diversion and assign who will take lead and who should work on them.

Agreed to meet monthly to continue discussion.  Next meeting:  Wed  August 4, 10-12 noon, Liberty Street office, Springfield.

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