Housing Court/Community Meeting Minutes – October, 2010

Below is a summary of discussions at our recent series of housing court/community meetings, October 5 (Hampden County), October 13 (Berkshire County), October 15 (Franklin/Hampshire County).  Click here for the hand-out produced by our data analyst Suzanne Smith and distributed at the meetings.  This summary findings from the initial round of data collection include:

  • Since January:  496 cases were recorded;
  • 207 tenancies were preserved in court;
  • 250 were screened for eligibility;
  • 72 were provided with advocacy during mediation;
  • 106 were provided with advocacy with landlord;
  • 264 cases involved referral to other agencies

The discussion that flowed from this data review is summarized below.   A hearty thanks to everyone involved for the time and energy to make this project possible.  With your commitment, we will gain a better understanding of how community resources at the Housing Court prevent homelessness.  Together, this understanding will help us to increase both the resources and the housing for individuals and families who need it most.

Hampden County – October 5, 2010

In attendance: Judge Robert Fields, Peter Montori, Housing Court, Michael Doherty, Housing Court, Jim Burdell , Housing Court, Eileen Correa, Housing Court, Kelly Jones, Housing Court, Domenic Sarnelli, Housing Court, Karen Huntoon, Housing Court, Donna Zundell, Housing Court, Norma Adler, Mass. Justice Project, Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, Catholic Charities, Marcia Crutchfield, HAPHousing, Toni Hochstadt, Community Action, John Manzi, Department of Transitional Assistance, Greg Mirhej, Tenancy Preservation Project, Lidya Rodriguez, Springfield Housing Authority, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners, Pamela Schwartz, Network coordinator, Suzanne Smith, Network data analyst, Colleen Sullivan, Western Mass. Legal Services, Eryn Tobin, Catholic Charities,

Data Collection Review

This first round of information provided an excellent launch for meaningful discussion including:

  • what does it mean to declare “tenancy preserved” (e.g., that day at court or for months…);
  • the value of creating the distinction between tenancy preservation and homelessness prevention, e.g., tenancy could fail but homelessness could still be averted – how to track that;
  • the prospect of merging funder-required assessment tools with this form to the extent possible to maximize efficiency of data collection, and
  • the utility of reviewing and possibly adding certain categories of information, e.g., education level.

Suzanne will follow-up with a sub-group of users of the form to flesh out these issues and move forward with recommended changes and additions.

Tenancy Preservation Project (TPP) will also forward its data to Suzanne so their preservation efforts can be integrated into the collected and analyzed data.

Colleen of Western Mass. Legal Services will remind us all via an email of the list serve WMLS created as an immediate vehicle for problem solving and information sharing.

Pamela updated the group about the Network funding status; that we will be applying for additional state funds and that for the interim Suzanne’s hours are reduced.  We will continue to move forward as our resources  permit.

Berkshire County – October 13, 2010

In attendance:  Judge Fein, Housing Court, Lauren Bolio, Tenancy Preservation Project, Christine Green, Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority, Nicole Martinez, Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority, Laura Moore, Tenancy Preservation Project, Paul Schack, Western Mass. Legal Services, Eryn Tobin, Catholic Charities, Pamela Schwartz, Network coordinator, Suzanne Smith, data analyst 

The group discussed the challenge of obtaining Berkshire County data.  It is more challenging here than other sessions because most interventions are referrals to providers outside of court.  We agreed on the the need to create a system so that the agency receiving the referral is aware that it came from Housing Court.

Another factor is the number of cases that get litigated in District Court – it would be useful if we could track interventions in this venue as well, although we recognize the complexity involved.  We all acknowledged the need to balance the desire for data with the current level of demand on providers – we need to ensure that whatever system is devised, it does not impose an undue burden on either court staff or community agency staff.

On the issue of defining “tenancy preserved”:   if case “disposed of” per court terminology, i.e., agreement made between landlord and tenant – then tenancy preserved.  If reporting back to see if eligible for resources, then case should be marked “continued.”  Ideally, we would track case until point where outside resources are allocated – and tenancy preserved.

We agreed that it would be meaningful to track the moment at which community funds have actually been committed (as opposed to case pending subject to seeking them) – that that is the best measure of intervention preserving a tenancy.

We agreed that it would be valuable to track both “tenancy preserved” and ‘homelessness averted.”

Judge Fein agreed she would confer with Court staff and send a memo suggesting a process for tracking community interventions at Court, including the logistics of where to find forms and how to relay them upon referral.

Franklin/Hampshire Housing Court Collaboration Meeting – October 15, 2010

In Attendance:  Judge Robert Fields, Western Division Housing Court, Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, Catholic Charities, Arlene Correa, Housing Court,  Linda Driscoll, Tenancy Preservation Project, Linda Dobson Porter, United ARC of Franklin and Hampshire Counties, Joanne Glier, Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Sandra Haigh, Tenancy Preservation Project, Toni Hochstadt, Community Action, Kelly Jones, Housing Court, Michael Morelli,Western Mass. Legal Services, Pamela Schwartz, Network coordinator, Suzanne Smith, Network data analyst, Eryn Tobin, Catholic Charities

Reviewed Data Update.  Continued the discussion of tenancy preserved vs. homelessness prevented:  agreed that we need to make the distinction.

Tracking referrals and outcomes, e.g., TPP/Community Action to Franklin County Regional Housing Authority for RAFT  funds – how to capture data on referral outcomes?  Toni has internal systems at Community Action where they track the referral outcomes – she will work with Suzanne to brainstorm a way to get that data into this database.

Challenge of continued cases:  how to track outcome.  Clarified that burden is not on provider staff to “chase data” – should be easy to capture; based on what is in the room.  Need an intern!  Suzanne and Toni will meet to brainstorm recruitment and project.

«   »

Return to full list of blog posts.