Please note the significant discussion below.  For the first time since the Network began, our individual services committee membership expanded to include both shelter providers and REACH providers from across the region.  Important conversation was had about our shared purpose and immediate priorities.  This meeting was a critical first step in building a unified community serving at-risk and homeless individuals in the western region with an approach that embraces Housing First as its driving philosophy and mission while addressing the immediate and ongoing needs for emergency shelter.

Individual Services Committee Meeting Minutes – 6/7/10
June 7, 2010

Attendance:  Christine Burns, Loretto House, Providence Ministries, Barbara Craig, ServiceNet, Jay Levy, Elliott CHS Homeless Services, Danielle DeBerry, ServiceNet, Yolanda Goddard, Friends of the Homeless, Dave Havens, MHA, Jennifer Lucca, Samaritan Inn, Bill Miller, Friends of the Homeless, Dave Modzelewski, DMH, Tony Pereira, Carson Center, Thomas Poplawski, ServiceNet, Wanda Rolon, ServiceNet, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Suzanne Smith, Network , Mark Warren, Brien Center, Dave Weir, Friends of the Homeless, Bill Winslow, SMOC

Shelter and REACH providers working together: There was unanimous agreement that shelter and “Housing First” do not need to be in tension with one another.  The committee agreed that while we continue to work towards housing as the lasting solution to homelessness, emergency shelter is necessary to ensure that people with no alternative can stay safe.

Network Action: After extensive discussion, Committee members unanimously agreed that the Network should contact our local legislators and urge adoption of the House amendment (line item 7004-0102) that would require equity in shelter contract rates across the state.  This decision is in direct response to the extreme inequity facing the Worthington Street Shelter, which is paid at a rate of $13/night, one of the lowest 3 in the state, while other shelters have contract rates of up to $65-75/night.  Bill Miller of Friends of the Homeless noted that the shelter houses 1,300 individuals each year, 500 of whom are entirely new to the system.  Everyone in the room acknowledged the high demand at Worthington Street, resulting from the city’s own high poverty rate compounded by the fact that other areas and providers across the region rely on the shelter on a regular basis because it does not turn people away.

The Committee agreed that we need to create a unified, local response to the demand presented by difficult-to-serve homeless individuals across the region and that Worthington Street cannot and should not sustain that burden by itself.

Increase coordination: Members exchanged notes on how they regularly get calls from nursing homes, rehab, hospitals, prisons (Hampden County discharges 600 people each year who do not have a known destination), looking for shelter.  There was consensus that the referrals from these organizations need to be better coordinated and the system needs to be better understood by its workers, so calls are appropriately placed.  The Network will explore further outreach in this area.

Data needs: The Committee agreed we need to document who is calling/staying in shelter on a regional basis to gain understanding of where people are coming from and why.  Need to pull out data from HMIS.  Suzanne will follow-up on this.

Next meeting: Thurs., 7/8, 9:30 am, DMH Haskell

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