Thanks to all who could attend our meeting on November 17.  We had a good discussion around emergency shelter capacity and agreed that our next step will be to reach out to leaders in Holyoke to discuss their participation in addressing this need.  I will be in touch with you as needed to follow-up on this piece.  Please see minutes below for more detail.

We also agreed that in view of the seasonal challenges, we will meet monthly.  Our next meeting will be on:

Thursday, December 15
10 am -11:30 am
Northampton Senior Center
67 Conz Street, Northampton

At our next meeting we will look at how our discharge planning efforts intersect with this increasing shelter demand, and we will investigate the issue of young adults’ discharge from the foster care system as another cause of homelessness and what we can do to prevent it.

Thanks for all your efforts, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

Individual Services/Discharge Planning Committee – November 17, 2011

In attendance:  Steve Connor, Central Hampshire Veterans Services, Janet Curley, Baystate Franklin Medical Center, Danielle DeBerry, ServiceNet, Julie Federman, Amherst Health Department, Hwei-Ling Greeney, Amherst, Peg Keller, City of Northampton, Bill Miller, Friends of the Homeless, Dave Modzelewski, Mental Health Association, Jennifer Moore, Behavioral Health Network, Lizzy Ortiz, Springfield Housing Department, Claudia Phillips, Health Care for the Homeless, Laura Quinn, Craig’s Doors, Jerry Ray, Mental Health Association, Pamela Schwartz, network coordinator, Reikka Simula Gooden, Housing for all, Marla Singleton, Cooley Dickinson Hospital, Chris Zabik, DMH, Kurt Zellen, VAMC, David Ziomek, Amherst,

Individual Shelter update:

Bill Miller, Friends of the Homeless:  Contracted for 133 beds/night.  Averaging 149 beds.  Generally serve 1,200 people a year in shelter.  Typically, about 50% returning, 50% new.    Year to date numbers – through end of Oct. 486 people new, this time last year 420 were new.  Substantial increase in people new to shelter. 

Early fall: turned people away for lack of capacity (didn’t ‘do so in past).  This past summer the highest it’s been (even prior to tornado).

Danielle DeBerry, ServiceNet, Interfaith winter shelter:  full from beginning, over-capacity for a week, dropped for a week, now back up for the last week, averaging turning away 1-3 people per night due to lack of capacity.  50% new, significantly more women.

Easthampton Annex – 6 bed overflow for men will open on Monday, 11/21, should help ease burden.

Laura Quinn, Craig’s Doors – first year running shelter at same site at First Baptist Church.  Completing renovations to allow for better support services.  Open at 9:30 pm and close at 8 pm.  Late opening because of facility needs.  Looking to expand space from 7 pm to 9 pm at alternate space for meal, outreach.  Opened early due to storm.   Biggest challenge is capacity – 16 beds.   One night 29 showed up.  Numbers then dipped for a bit, now back up to full (similar patterns to Interfaith in Northampton).  More people coming in with medical issues.

What to do when out of space:  make calls, arrange transportation, call around to other shelters.

Dave Ziomek:  in Amherst, behavior based shelter.  Late opening.  So “last stop.”  Concerned about putting people out at 11 pm, when there is no place else to go.  How to address that?

Jerry  Ray:  is it possible to have an intake that is earlier?  They are working on that by finding alternative site from 7-9 pm.

Is it possible to do “online” communication to “reserve?”

Friends of Homeless:  60% give Springfield address, 20% MA address, 20% out of state

Bill Miller just met with Worcester folks  who said part of their strategy to reduce numbers is to not allow out-of-city to use services.

Peg Keller:    Need to get other communities involved, e.g., Easthampton opening its overflow shelter.  Now Amherst opened.  Franklin County set up something in Greenfield that was not well-used a couple of years ago.  Based on Hampden Cty numbers that we’re seeing in Hampshire (about 26%), maybe we need to talk to Holyoke.  Need to address “wet shelter” issue – as long as behavior based, Amherst will be a magnet.  We need more of those resources.

Claudia Phillips:  hear about people sleeping somewhere for 6 months, then shelter opens up and they “move into” shelter for free rent.  And are we doing everything we can to move people into transitional housing?

Need more enhanced single occupancy rooms

Hwei-Ling Greeney:  people moving in and out of shelter are a function of fluctuating income.

Dave Ziomek:  Holyoke – new mayor.  Would be good to meet with him.  How to deal with issue of overflow.  In Amherst, energy will be to increase efficiency around meal time/services (opening early) instead of expanding overflow.  No resources to do so.  Need to reach out to other towns, e.g., Belchertown, Holyoke.

Danielle DeBerry – also thinks it would be a great idea to reach out to Holyoke.

Bill Miller:  Holyoke had a shelter a couple of years ago, demand high.

Steve Connor:  very important to keep track of where people are coming from. 

Laura Quinn:  more important to focus on the opportunities on where you can be – how to focus on coverage

Bill Miller:  get data out on transitional housing – Salvation Army 70 beds, Rescue Mission, Broderick House – we need to know what transitional openings there are quickly.

Dave Ziomek:  doesn’t want to focus on “from” but it’s ultimately a political issue – in order to get Holyoke mayor involved, need to address that.   We need to look at more support because Amherst alone can’t meet need.

Claudia Phillips:  Holyoke has the offices such as DTA, Holyoke Health Center,  so that having a shelter resource there makes a lot of sense.

Bill Miller: If we’re asking Holyoke to step up – they already suffer from great poverty – what can the rest of us do as a region to support Holyoke?

Hwei-Ling Greeney:   Holyoke already has their “share” of the poverty.  Also expressed concern around the concern of “build it and they will come.”  Let people come to a safe community and let us do what we must do to make every community safe.

Reikka Simula Gooden – thinks the need is greater than it appears. 

Peg Keller:  Should we approach Elaine Pluta now?  During transition period.

Jerry Ray:  reaching out to police departments.  In Chicopee, people located to use VASH units via police assistance (knowledge of what’s happening on the streets).

Bill Miller: more data we have the better. 

Also big issue around “wet shelter” – need more communities to participate.

Hwei-Ling:  need to stay focused on immediate need now.  Also thinks wet vs. dry is a false distinction.  Amherst has no greater police involvement than other shelter. 

Kurt Zellen:  reminder to ask if veterans or if served in armed forces.  VA has resources.

Peg Keller:  Are we dealing with foster care in relation to discharge? Pamela agreed to raise that at the next meeting.

Dave M:  need to put housing authorities on list, too, make sure they are connected.

Pamela: Provided update on SAMHSA grant that will provide support services to 120 chronically homeless individuals in the western region over the next 3 years.  Behavioral Health Network (BHN) is lead clinical provider; Solider On also a provider.  Network in a liaison role with housing providers since housing is part of treatment model for each individual.

Agreed next steps:  follow-up with elected officials around Holyoke outreach. Follow-up around how discharge planning issue intersects with shelter demand issue – for next meeting.

Next meeting:  Thursday, December 15, 10 am – 11:30 am.  Northampton Senior Center.

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