This meeting among individual shelters was an outgrowth of an effort to provide support and connection to the town of Amherst as they experience their first year of sponsoring a shelter and to Milestone Ministries as they run the shelter.  Springfield’s Friends of the Homeless and Service Net (Northampton Cot Shelter and Grove Street Inn), along with other service providers, came together for this conversation.

Individual shelter meeting – 2/28/11

In attendance:  Danielle DeBerry, Grove Street, Janice Humason, Friends of the Homeless, Frank Kelly, Milestone Ministries, Jay Levy, CHS-Elliot Services, Bill Miller, Friends of the Homeless, Dave Modzelewski, Mental Health Association, Wanda Rolon, ServiceNet, Pamela Schwartz, network coordinator, Eryn Tobin, Catholic Charities, David Ware, Friends of the Homeless, Chris Zibek, Dept. of Mental Health, Dave Ziomek, Town of Amherst

Amherst: 16 bed shelter in St. Baptist Church.  Wet  shelter. 

Biggest challenge:  can’t open up until 9:30 at night.  Staff arrives at 8 pm, set up shelter, etc.  Church has activities going from early morning until late at night.  Can’t press church on this issue because shelter is a guest and church is offering space.   Church put in sprinkler system and 2 showers.

Not as much time as they would like to provide services – just food, shower, then lights out by 11 pm.  Elliot-CHS Services  worker Meg Wright meets with clients and has had good success in placing several homeless individuals.

No room for storage in church.  Use trailers for storage.  People start lining up around 8:30.  If someone is there the night before, they get first dibs until 10 pm.

If no room, sometimes sent to Northampton cot shelter, Amherst motel, sometimes FOH.

Wet shelter aspect hasn’t been too much of a problem.  Have had a few people with behavior issues who have been turned away but not many.

Capacity is the real problem with 16 max. 

Served a total of 64 different individuals.  About 7 on average from Amherst, rest from other towns, mostly Franklin County.

 Current challenge:  Homeless population has nowhere to go between 8 am and 9:30 at night in downtown Amherst (with the exception of the survival center but that is not located in downtown and not open all day). 

Need to address safety issues.  Will develop a safety policy ASAP.

Cot shelter:  no searching now.  Asked to turn in any weapons or medication.  But coming off toughest season, so starting to wonder whether they need to implement search procedures.

FOH:  guests go through metal detector, search and take weapons upon entry.  Gives them to the police department, guests’ choice to go to retrieve them at the police station.  Guests are compliant on the whole and appreciate this approach – makes everyone feel safer.  It is a rougher environment t this year than last couple (outgrowth of squeeze on other institutions).  They have a police officer on sight for 4 hours over intake. 

 FOH: is over-capacity.  Appreciative of any additional beds.  Very glad for Amherst shelter.

Grievance policies:  Amherst has to juggle authority of church, Milestone Ministries, Town of Amherst.  If guests don’t feel they are treated fairly or a staff/guest conflict, what are the procedures for complaining:

ServiceNet:  a form to complete that explains step-by-step process:  first director of shelter would address grievance; next step then director of housing, then vice president, then Peg Keller of Northampton

FOH: recommends Amherst setting up a clear and simple grievance procedure asap.  Start with reviewing shelter rules, post the rules at the shelter.  Clear on consequences:  will ban for breaking shelter rules.  Can grieve it in the form of writing a letter.  Goes to manager, then next level.

Amherst:  will develop a grievance procedure

Dave M:  the better the day program is for homeless individuals, the better chance of success for permanent housing solutions.  Over 600 units in region that are dedicated to housing homeless individuals.  When housing with support services are available, about 80% stay housed.

Amherst – Olympia Housing Development – some affordable but not for low enough income.  Turning attention to housing piece.

Next steps:  people will be in touch as needed and let Pamela know if a Network sponsored conversation would be useful again.  Pamela is happy to facilitate.

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