Family Services Committee Meeting – 2/8/11

In attendance:  Jane Banks, Center for Human Development, Pam Bennett, BCAC, Tammie Butler, Community Action, Cris Carl, Greenfield Family Inn, Kenneth DeMers, New England Farm Workers Council, Dawn DiStefano, YWCA, Peter Gagliardi, HAPHousing, Heidi DiLeone, FOR Families, Joanne Glier, Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Steve Huntley, Valley Opportunity Council, Mary Johnson, YWCA, Peg Keller, Tri-County Continuum of Care, Fran LeMay, Greenfield Family Inn, Kim Lee, Square One, Jane Lindfors, DTA Domestic Violence, Ashley McGurn, FOR Families, Synthia Mitchell, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Sue Moorman, Veteran Administration Medical Center, Stephen Plummer, Springfield Partners, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools,  Jim Reis, HAPHousing, Tom Salter, New England Farm Workers Council, Jim Seney, Veterans Admin Medical Center, Kurt Zellen, Veterans Administration Medical Center

EA Reform Discussion

The Committee reviewed the Administration’s proposed Emergency Assistance reform legislation.  The following is a condensed summary of the comments made:

  • support process, goals, but must be involved in regulatory process to address details; urges legislature to put something in there re: agency collaboration
  • any attention to DCF youth?
  • need to cover families who do not fit new criteria but would otherwise be homeless
  • where are all the apartments going to come from?  Who is providing the stabilization? What to do about families who need real help to maintain housing (e.g., mental health issues)
  • have found steady supply of apartments available if money available to help pay rent
  • as a concept, supports it.  Must take it on a lot of faith that they will sit down with providers to work out the details.
  • in Berkshire county, people who have been placed there from other counties do not want to stay in Berkshire County.
  • must be involved in program design – how do we make it possible for these families to succeed.  There isn’t enough housing available for extremely low-income people.  Growing pool of need with a fixed resource.  21,000 people on Section 8 wait list at HAP alone.
  • Also need to create accountability for people coming into the system.  DHCD’s accountability mechanisms have not been enforced.  A poor message has been sent out to families , i.e., you can do whatever you want.  Not fair to families.  Need to ensure that that changes.
  • how can we make a positive change knowing all the challenges.  How can we do something more positive with it.  Have more clinical services embedded into our programs, e.g., more GED programs, more job training.  This country/state has embraced a “welfare” model, not moving families forward.
  • residency issue – 17% from other states, according to DHCD.  In fact, number is much higher.  Must address this issue.
  • Stabilization services – built into shelter contracts for shelter families.  For those HomeBase families, there is stabilization built in to contract as well. 35 to 1 staff/client ratio.
  • make it 20 to 1 ratio.  Can’t do meaningful stabilization work in face of clients’ complex problems with too high ratio.
  • need is already too great to meet demand for support services.  Now, with Obama’s suggestion that he will be cutting CAP agencies further, there will be even more demand and fewer supports.
  • DTA employment and training programs will be cut.  .
  • in HPRP program, found some families had a problem meeting their 30% in rent.  Need to address this issue – part of the accountability plan.  Shouldn’t always fix it for them.
  • the “unacceptable” language on the One Family factsheet  – need to also deem unacceptable:  indefinite housing without accountability; stabilization caseload of 35 families to one staff; 1 out of 5 families coming from out of state.  Must make these facts “unacceptable” as well.
  • no discussion with DCF, DTA re: this proposal.    Teen transitional living program – cut that program while funding this one…WHY??
  • support this concept as long as we have a voice at the table for the implementation and program design.
  • we want to design how it should work here.  We need to influence the regulations.   Need to push on out of state issue.
  • what are the solutions going to be?  There HAS to be speedy enforcement.
  • if we don’t have more support about prevention, we can’t fix the problem.
  • component of this plan does include prevention to help keep people where they are.
  • geographic proximity – what happens when youth needs shelter and spaces are full in home region?  Return to old problem of separating young parents from their home communities?
  • what about fact that DHCD is now sheltering families who have suffered DV – need to address need for special stabilization services.
  • this proposal is hearing us about Housing First.   L:et’s work on it to make sure it furthers that agenda.
  • this year, this opportunity, let’s work with it if we are at the table.
  • DHCD and statewide agencies are creating a lot of opportunities for input proposal: Homes for Families, CHAPA, One Family, DHCD/ICHH meeting; HCEC outreach.  A lot of points of contact to be heard.

Committee agreed:  await next week’s meeting with DHCD to recommend Network position to Steering Committee.  Need more questions answered.

Committee agreed to exchange more thoughts over email prior to next week’s meeting with DHCD and ICHH (this meeting includes W. Mass. providers, domestic violence agencies, and state agency reps).

Sub-group for next week’s meeting will meet at 12:45 at 225 High Street, 1st floor.

Attacks in shelter: Cris Carl raised this issue for Network attention.  All agreed shelters need to be looking more at safety issues.  Agreed that the staffing issue – having enough staff – on the stabilization side is extremely relevant to ensuring staff safety – need staff to work in pairs to maximize safety.  Will discuss at greater length next meeting.

Next meeting will be the THIRD Tuesday, 3/15, 9:30 am, , DMH Haskell Building, Northampton.

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