Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes – November 8, 2011

In attendance: Jane Banks, Center for Human Development,  John Busbin, Community Legal Aid, Tammie Butler, Community Action, Karen Cavanaugh, WomanShelter, Charity Day, Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Heidi DeLeone, DPH FOR Families, Ken Demers, New England Farm Workers Council, Anthia Ellitot, Safe Passage, Toni Hochstadt, Community Action, Steve Huntley, Valley Opportunity Council, Kimberly lee, Square One, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Jane Lindofrs, DTA/DV Unit, Ashley McGurn, DPH – For Families, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Jim Reis, HAPHousing, Sarah Slautterback, DESE, Rachel Trant, Dept. of Children and Families, Luz Vega, WomanShelter

Special guests:  Carrie Bernstein, UMass Donahue Institute, Lindsay Koshgarian, UMass Donahue Institute, Marya Laroche, outreach and education and training consultant

Presentation on Education and Workforce Development Action Plan
This new project, funded by the Fireman Foundation, aims to create an education and workforce development action plan targeted at homeless families.  The goal is a 2 year action plan around this challenge, to be completed within the next four months.  The Network retained consultants from the UMass Donahue Institute, Lindsay Koshgarian and Carrie Bernstein, and Marya Laroche, based in the Berkshires, a rural outreach and education and training consultant.
Please click here for the Donahue Institute’s overview of the challenge.


Jim Reis, HAPHousing:  People willing to talk; challenge is funding to implement

Ken Demers, New England Farm Workers Council: challenge with no consistency with programs – affects ability to engage with business community.

Brad Gordon, Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority:  it is a resource issue  Corp. for Public Management (CPM), worked specifically with this population, high success rate.  Then resources disappear, creates disjointed, ineffective approach.  Silos to Systems on  ICHH website – lays out problem.

Jane Lindfors, DTA/DV unit: huge changes with welfare reform  years ago – emphasis on work program, there were programs.   Now very little.  And yet work program requirement was increased.  Feels undoable.  Programs changed and gone.

George Ryan, Hampden County REB:  DTA Employment Services Program.  Used to be more workable.  Now can’t serve the hard to serve population because you only have resources for 6 weeks of training.  No money to

Jane Banks, Center for Human Development:  programs suffer “flavor of the year”

Jane Lindfors DTA/DV unit:  What jobs should we focus on?  Problem with training programs sending people into fields where there are no jobs and wind up with debt.  Also must deal with trauma many women have suffered in relation to employment capacity.

Anthia Elliot, Safe Passage:  lack of child care, lack of after school services.  Transportation issues. Women return to unsafe places b/c of transportations.

Brad Gordon:  We have to look to private sector for more assistance.  We subsidize businesses with underpaid  staff (e.g., CNA), leaving the public sector to pick up cost of rental subsidy, food, child care.

Sarah McGahan, Salvation Army:  people won’t work too many hours b/c they would lose benefits.  Need to make it worthwhile to do this.

Toni Hochstadt, Community Action:  Transportation piece is huge.  People have to drive from Hampshire to Franklin to get to GED classes.  Cost of gas is huge.  The juggle between pay and benefit adjustments is incredibly stressful and does really encourage people to stop working.

Also, Franklin Council of Regional Governments  is launching a sustainable development plan.  Next meeting:  GCC 11/16, 1:30 pm.

Karen Cavenaugh, WomanShelter:  include domestic violence shelters in focus groups (yes, will be!).  DV adds an additional barrier to employment.  Just received grant from Verizon to do some entrepreneur training, $10K to both WomanShelter and Safe Passage (collaborative grant with training institute in Boston to do training around resume building/writing skills with participants)

Kim Lee, Square One:  Lack of systematic approach in using the resources we do have.  Training, collaboration, etc.  Reassessing same families over and over again.  How to make community service more meaningful and measurable.  People moving in from out of state is also an issue.

Sarah McGahan:  lack of resources in Hampshire County greater than in Hampden County.  Lack of communication is larger issue in larger counties – less connection among agencies.

Brad Gordon:  population brings in a lot of different challenges.  Regular employment programs are ill-equipped to bring in intensive supports that are needed.  Sustainability is key to have upward mobility.  Need support services to make that happen.

Jane Lindfors:  One of the biggest support needs around children.

Steve Huntley, Valley opportunity Council:  adult education.  Overwhelming demand ( drop-out rate is higher than 50%).  Incentive for us to not take more difficult families b/c performance is measured by how many people get through GED.

Anthia Elliott:  lack of economic education.  Even if they get a job, how do you budget, how do you live within means.  But then people don’t show up.  Offered series but no one showed up.

Heidi DeLeone, FOR Families:  families in motels are such a fragmented group.  Families who need intensive supports but they are not getting them.  Some need a 6 week program, others need much more.

Re: focus groups.  Consultants will be working through how many focus groups, where, when and how.

Closing:  this is the first conversation of many.  There will be follow-up on an individual and sub-group basis. Stay tuned.



As of 10/28:  no more rental assistance (12 month subsidy).  HomeBase benefit  is now maximum $4,000.  All others in shelter.  In shelter or motel, still eligible for rental assistance, also for those whose flex funds are expiring.

Even if determined EA eligible prior to 10/28 and referred to HomeBase, unless providers have signed particular form by the 28th, the family is not eligible for rental assistance, only household assistance.    If forced to do that, you can go into shelter.  But there are no shelter spots so huge spike in motels.  If homeless, going into shelter.

Another consequence for kids:  if accept $4,000, no longer considered homeless, so must enroll in local school (leave original school), not eligible for transportation

Also, if you take the $4K, not eligible again for EA in a year.

Closes back door of shelter.  Huge spike in hotels.

General consensus:  Lack of sufficient process, frustration with implementation, both the style and substance of policy changes. Network is a good resource for weighing in, both administratively and legislatively.  Pamela will follow-up with regional housing authorities for further dialogue and plan of action ASAP.

Next meeting:  12/13, 1-2:30 pm, NEFWC, 225 High Street, Holyoke

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