On November 12, the Network facilitated a meeting between the Springfield Housing Authority and DHCD to brainstorm ways to reach out to housing authorities around the region to encourage them to participate in housing first programs.  The minutes of this meeting are below.

Springfield Housing Authority/DHCD Meeting – 11/12/10

In Attendance:  Judge Hank Abrashkin, Springfield Housing Authority, Brendan Goodwin, DHCD, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Ita Mullarkey, DHCD, Bob Pulster, DHCD, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Laura Taylor, DHCD, Pam Wells, Springfield Housing Authority

Update on SHA programs:

Two programs:  Transitional Housing Program (THP) and Housing First.  Have housed approximately 100 families through THP and Housing First since 2004. Have established model programs and additional resources, e.g., full-time employment specialist (with 2 year grant from and partnership with Regional Employment Board), computer center, GED program, relationships with area businesses.

Biggest challenge is case management.  In need of more resources.   Their effectiveness is demonstrated through experience:  Marble Street Apartments – 48 families.  Was a very difficult place, now turned around – effect of bringing services to them.

Section 8 program – 92 vouchers in the community – absolute key to all the programs is the services attached.

HPRP funds have also been very helpful in preventing homelessness.

Another big barrier is employment and training piece – the real stabilization piece.  SHA has had to take over that role.  More focus on longer-term career goals (than just a short-term “McDonald’s” job).  Also still struggling with furniture piece for THP – not enough resources.

Reaching out to other housing authorities: how to encourage and support them to do a housing first model.  Challenge of gaining trust from housing authorities that the services are not just promised at the front end but will be there over time.  Give them examples of successes we’ve seen.  Point authorities to more regional collaboration, e.g., a few housing authorities can chip in a few units to get to 10 to get a case manager.  Demonstrate how these programs can help housing authorities rehab housing and developments – can be in their interest to participate.

Thus far, out here, providers have been mostly doing the outreach to housing authorities (as opposed to Springfield where outreach was initiated by Mayor).  Must expand scope and nature of outreach.

Possible vehicles for outreach:

NAHRO conference – next week and in May – consider bringing families to May’s NAHRO conference to hear their stories, bring in Regional Employment Boards, make pitch for regional collaboration and the “win-win” of participating in THP and Housing First

Western Mass. Housing Authority Executive Director Association (WMHAEDA)

Mass Union of Public Housing Tenants – annual conference (October)

Regional Employment Boards – how it responds and focuses on homelessness – could tie in with state agency, Office of Labor and Workforce Development – use BayState Medical Center video that captures that.

Bring executive directors out to tour successful projects, meet with REB

Other avenues for engaging housing authorities/other necessary issues to address:

  • Use financial incentives to housing authorities to expand SHP (Supportive Housing Program)
  • Address the issue of teen pregnancy as part of the overall effort to prevent family homelessnesss.  DHCD is focusing on this right now, understanding the need for a separate response to these young families that is not typical EA response.
  • Consider policy change, including sex education and policies around “preferences” for Section 8 subsidies that inadvertently create incentive for young mothers to become homeless.  Need to change incentives.  DHCD is working for system change throughDCF engagement.
  • Address additional challenge of teens who are aging out  of DCF – they opt out and within a couple of years many are pregnant.  They need education/support to understand and pursue alternatives.
  • Need to get housing authorities to talk to providers/shelters.  Bring this issue to family services meeting to follow-up.

Next steps:

  • Pamela will bring housing authority outreach topic to family services committee for follow-up between housing authorities and providers across the region.
  • Laura will be in contact with NAHRO regarding May meeting agenda and will let us know what she learns about integrating our agenda into theirs.
  • Pamela and Judge Abrashkin will discuss outreach opportunities via WMHAEDA (subject to greater clarity from DHCD re: incentives for housing authorities to participate).
  • DHCD will use and create opportunities to showcase Springfield Housing Authority and other authorities’ successes to build momentum for program expansion

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