Next Family Services Committee Meeting:

Tuesday, October 11
1:00 – 2:30 pm
New England Farm Workers Council
225 High Street, Holyoke

Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes  – September 13, 2011

In attendance:  Jane Banks, Center for Human Development, John Busbin, Community Legal Aid, Tammie Butler, Community Action, Alvina Brevard, DHCD, Cris Carl, Greenfield Family Inn, Charity Day, FCRHRA, Heidi DeLeone, FOR Families, Ken DeMers, New England Farm Workers Council, Dawn DiStefano, YWCA of Western Mass., Michael Doherty, Housing Court, Judge Robert Fields, Housing Court, Brendan Goodwin, DHCD, Brad Gordon, Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority, Len Hayes, DHCD, Toni Hochstadt, Community Action, Fran LeMay, Greenfield Family Inn, Eddie Martinez, Valley Opportunity Council, Ashley McGurn, DPH FOR Families, Janet Mock, Square One, Sue Moorman, VA, Ita Mullarkey, DHCD, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public School liaison, Lizzie Ortiz, City of Springfield, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Bob Pulster, DHCD, Kevin Reed, Valley Opportunity Council, Jim Reis, HAP, Pamela Schwartz, network coordinator, Irvinia Scott, Square One, Robin Sherman, FCRHRA, Sarah Slautterback, DESE, Rachel Trant, Dept. of Children and Families, Lauren Voyer, HAP

Bob Pulster, DHCD:  Appreciates effort across the region.  Reviewed 1st month data (see attachment).  1st month: 938 families came into EA system.  (former system: roughly 600/month).  Over 80% were HomeBase – balance was EA.  Living up to reputation as a housing first model. In Early Sept., so far, reduction in shelter of 20-25%.  First month, many people came to front door seeking assistance who may not have qualified – word is getting out about what the program is all about and numbers should reduce.

Western Mass: 128 in HomeBASE (front door only, does not include transitions from flex funds or rehousing from motels).

Pre-screening: total = 4,983.  Western Mass., 446 pre-screens, 9% of all volume.

Statewide among HomeBASE families: 36% going into temporary accommodations. In Western Mass.:  25% going into temporary accommodations.  Lower percentage going into temporary accommodations than under EA.

The numbers receiving household assistance (vs. subsidies) are much lower than hoped for.  A reflection of pent up demand.

10-15% from out of state.  Legislator suggesting 6 month residency requirement.   National Alliance to End Homelessness data shows new resident percentage 10-15% across country.  Unsure of how it will make a difference .  Right now must demonstrate intent to live in MA.  Must document previous employment/previous housing.  Many families’ primary reason is medical.

Projected estimates were 400-500 families entering EA/month; August was double at 1,000.  Now tapering a bit.  Expected to have less going to temporary accommodation – (36%) – had estimated at 20%.  Number of people getting household assistance is less than anticipated.  More expensive.  Just one month in.  Now spending time reviewing and discussing processes and tweaking outcomes.

Robin Sherman:  If RAFT program could be restored, could catch families upstream that would look more like household assistance.  Will open RAFT this week and have 100 families waiting.

Brad Gordon agrees.  Need to look further upstream.  RAFT should be more robust and system-wide.

Toni Hochstadt:  Question of accessibility to DTA office for Hampshire County benefits (no office in county).  Alvina clarified that  DHCD provides remote access.  Will interview over phone, connect with other community groups to provide documentation.

Regional Housing Authority Updates:

Berkshire  County (BCRHA):  Projected to see 14.4 households in 12 month period.  In first month, pre-screened 200 households.  Estimates roughly 130 will be eligible.  HomeBASE fits dynamics prevalent in Berkshire County where people don’t go into shelter as much.  Feeling overwhelmed.  Funded 1FTE for whole HomeBase program; that person has been doing assessment work.  Very demanding.  Borrowing housing search workers.  With hurricane to boot,   exceedingly challenging.  80% higher than expected.  Need additional resources.  Looking at sheltering model that may help.  Positive discussions with DHCD.

Franklin County (FCRHRA):  seeing a lot higher volume.  Funded at 1 FTE. Split between their agency and partners at ServiceNet.  Clear there is a huge need.  Great working with Alvina at DHCD.  Shortage of affordable apartments.  Several dozen displaced in Franklin County by flood.  Also, people in subsidies in substandard housing made homeless by impact of rain on poorly maintained housing.  With FMR cap on HomeBASE and HUD’s new fair market rents (most of state, going down), shortage of apartments.  Challenge to figure out where we’re going to find housing.

ServiceNet: volume is way up.  Assessments are very time consuming.  Got backed up because acquired 16 families in motels, plus 6 in shelter and HomeBASE families. 25 families on stabilization.  Overwhelming number – not enough staff and resources to deal with it.

Hampden/Hampshire (HAP): Numbers are huge.  Collaboration and coordination going well. Back log of over 140 approved cases.  Sheer amount of paperwork is very challenging.  Temporary accommodations are a big challenge.  Finding motels is even tough.

Current resources available from HAP:  DHCD funded tornado team at HAP.  Also AG grant – any homeowner foreclosed upon, up to $7K that can be used to help rehouse.  Small amount of state ESG money – first, last, security. $14K from city ESG funds for first, last, security.

CHD/NEFWC/HAP – working together on conversions from flex funds to HomeBASE, working on moving  450 families in motels.  Meeting for several months to plan, train – just now starting to place families out of motels with HomeBASE.  Working closely with FOR families.  Working with families at offices (instead of on-site). Very few no shows.  Assessments should be complete by October.  24 page assessment, in-depth.  About 100 families converted from flex funds to HomeBASE.  October will be even greater.

198 shelter families among 3 agencies that need to be rehoused.

With 200-300 fewer housing units due to tornado.

Jane Banks, CHD:  Have created a 3-agency team, HAP, CHD, NEFWC, working very closely together.  Meet 3x/week.  HAP has been amazing in its management of the process.  Collaboration has been amazing.

Ken DeMers, NEFWC:  FOR Families has been fantastic – delivers appointment letters to families.  Volume is intense.  Landlords are being tested.  Many are being patient.  HAP very helpful.

Stabilization:  challenge of coming up with a plan while back log and conversion is so demanding.

Karen Cavenaugh, WomanShelter – offered assistance/partnership.

Preservation of DTA DV specialist hugely important.  An enormous resource.

Legislature also preserved FOR Families at current level of funding.  Fantastic news.

Robin Sherman: stabilization piece critical.  If don’t do it up front, will lead to problems down the road.  There needs to be a plan for best practices.  Small agencies in Franklin and Berkshire with 1 FTE cannot provide the level of services necessary .  Can’t get to stabilization piece.

Bob: able to level fund all EA shelter providers  at FY 11 stabilization levels for this fiscal year.  Initiating 3 month contracts.  $5 million supplemental appropriation pending for network – for regional networks.  Innovative practices around stabilization.  Possibly move beyond 1-35 ratio; consider peer to peer, how to involve families (payments, incentives, a la family independence model).

CHD: Hampden County providers already doing training for staff around stabilization piece.  Happy to share, support with Franklin and Berkshire Counties.  Will keep Berkshire and Franklin in email loop.

General updates/announcements:

United Way of Pioneer Valley $30K to Network – decision by Hampden County providers to fund domestic violence providers to provide families in their shelter who are no longer at risk of DV housing assistance funds to obtain permanent housing.  In addition to providing immediate assistance, this effort will highlight the need to change legislation so that DV families can be eligible for EA (not currently the case).

CHD: 18K for tornado relief work.  $15K from W. Springfield rotary club.  $3k from smaller group.  No strings attached.

Community Action, Tammie Butler –  no longer have First Call for Help.  Renamed Community Resources and Advocacy.  Now a call center – meetings by appointment only.  Fuel assistance is doing appointments only.

WomanShelter – received grant from Verizon foundation to do economic empowerment for women.  Must be a program participant.

Sarah Slautterback, DESE – statistics out: served 14,000 homeless children.  Spent over $10.4 million transporting.  Awarded grants for coming year – have picked up 3 districts – North Adams, Munson and Chicopee.  N. Adams has the highest unaccompanied youth population in the state (Community Coalition doing a great job).

Next meeting:  Tues. 10/11, 1:30 pm, NEFWC, 225 High Street, Holyoke.

«   »

Return to full list of blog posts.