Leadership Council Meeting:  November 30, 2011

In attendance:  Father Stan Aksamit, Our Lady of Peace Parish, Jim Ayres, United Way of Hampshire County, Tim Brennan, Pioneer Valley Planning Commission, Dave Christopolis, Hilltown CDC, Sylvia deHaas-Phillips, United Way of Pioneer Valley, Rabbi Justin David, Congregation B’Nai Israel, Ken DeMers, New England Farm Workers Council,  Doreen Fadus, Mercy Medical Center Health Care for the Homeless, Judge Rob Fields, Housing Court, Paul Gage, Family Life Center, Joanne Glier, Department of Transitional Assistance, Brad Gordon, Berkshire Regional Housing Authority, Clare Higgins, Community Action, Peg Keller, Three County CoC, Lindsay Koshgarian, UMass Donahue Institute, Jay Levy, Eliot-CHS Homeless Services, Bill Messner, Holyoke Community College, Andrea Miller, Dave Modzelewski, Mental Health Association, Andrew Morehouse, Western Mass. Food Bank, Rebecca Muller, GrantWorks, Elton Ogden, Berkshire Housing Development Corporation, Jerry Ray, Mental Health Association,  Jim Reis, HAPHousing,  Jay Sacchetti, ServiceNet, Pamela Schwartz, network coordinator, Linda Stacy, United Way of Franklin County, Nancy Stoll, United Way of Berkshire County, Liz Sullivan, Mental Health Association, Lynne Wallace, Dietz&Co. Architects, Steve Winn, Behavioral Health Network

July, 2011 meeting minutes:
Andrew moved to approve.  Dave Modzelewski seconded.
All in favor.  Steve Winn abstained.

Update on ending homelessness , Pamela Schwartz reported:

Individual homelessness:   Shelters across the region are seeing a rise in number of guests, even before winter sets in.  Each shelter has had to turn away people for lack of capacity.  The Network’s individual services committee is addressing the issue, discussing ways to maximize communication around space and possible options for expanding emergency shelter in communities that do not provide any.  Specifically, the Network will reach out to Holyoke and meet with the new mayor to discuss possible participation in the regional response to emergency needs.

Family homelessness:   It is an explosive problem with the number of motels now back up to over 1,300 statewide and over 400 in the western region.  The Springfield Republican article in last Sunday’s paper highlighted the issue, discussing the overwhelming response to the HomeBASE program.  In the face of overwhelming demand, HomeBASE has now shifted from rental subsidies to rental assistance only, but the demand is still extremely high.  The legislature provided additional emergency funding until 12/10, at which time recommendations for further changes or resources will be considered.  The continuing economic challenges, coupled with the pent-up demand for shelter, is simply too great for the current system to handle.

The good news in the face of the bad news:  The Network is working on opportunities for positive impact.  With the Fireman Foundation grant to create an action plan around education and workforce development for homeless families, we are in a position to create a meaningful response to the family homelessness crisis.  More on that below.  The Network’s receipt of SAMHSA funding vis UMass Medical Center is an opportunity to provide critical support services to chronically homeless individuals and in the process support our network infrastructure with the hiring of a new data analyst.  So there is growth and promise in the face of tremendous challenges.

Workforce Development Grant
Lindsay Koshgarian, consultant for UMass Donahue Institute provided a powerpoint presentation (click here) on workforce development action plan process (Fireman Foundation funded 4 month planning grant to develop an action plan to address education and workforce development for homeless and at-risk families).


Judge Fields:  Job creation is the key ingredient to workforce development…how to make that happen?

Lindsay Koshgarian:  Economy is bad although there is some projection of growth (eventually).  Need to look for opportunities for low and moderate skill levels.  Recent study projects shortage of employment on low-skill area – but identifying where opportunities are is the challenge.

Clare Higgins:  Will you be looking at education level of people seeking services?

Lindsay:  Yes.  Will pinpoint bottlenecks – where people need more services (e.g., GED)

Clare:  Child care challenge – if you finish GED but takes 3 months to get job, lose child care.  Will there be analysis of state policies and how to build collaboration to get to desired outcome (e.g., employment, training, child care).  Draft action plan may include state policy recommendations.

Skills training.  Non-college degree skills missing – are there ways to identify skills that are unique to this area that may be non-traditional, esp. for women.

Doreen  Fadus:  how to involve Regional Employment Boards, how to sell this to REBs as funding source – need to tie in.

Lindsay Koshgarian:  Aiming for that connection – listening sessions (scheduled for January) are geared towards integrating REBs.

Jerry Ray:  cutback on child care vouchers.  People working lose vouchers, must lose job.  One state action adds to family homelessness crisis.  How to get away from crisis management and stop cutting mainstream services.

Jim Ayres:  Thinking about state funders.  Funding targeted to most in need vs. funding targeted to those who can perform.  Workforce dev. Is geared towards demonstrating gains as opposed to serving those in need.  Need funders to acknowledge this gap and must prioritize this change  in focus with policymakers.

Liz Sullivan: WMIC is a great forum to propose solutions around the disparities between state policy and reality.

Dave Modzelewski:  Include housing developers in outreach.  Connect affordable housing to families with emphasis on employment and training.  Can we zero in on sub-set on homeless families for whom this would be a best bet – aim for 3-5 years moving on to own units.

Clare Higgins:  Agree except for “moving on” – focusing on parent AND child – the move means child is changing school and support systems – we need to figure out a way to support families in a way that kids don’t get disrupted.

Bill Messner:  End game is jobs.  We can have all the training we want but without jobs, we haven’t accomplished what we want.  We know in Western Mass. there will be a major source of jobs: casino.  Governor’s justification was middle skills, focused on individuals with minimal to modest levels of education.  Do we become very intentional through a planning process to ask what kind of programs we want to put into place to ensure that people in need are in line for these jobs.  Don’t wait – right now, these developers are interested in striking agreements so that it positions them for “choosing us, not the other guy.”  If we don’t get involved, somebody else will be.

Leadership Council Engagement Discussion

Lynne Wallace:  HAP put on symposium “Envisioning Resurgent Springfield Metro” a couple of weeks ago.  Keynote was Mayor from Winston-Salem – how to make transformational change?  As she listened to panel, it became clear:  if it works in Winston-Salem, it can work for Network to End Homelessness.  Same elements needed to make change:

A plan.
A single vision and a narrative to tell our story of our vision.
Collaborative leadership.
Alignment of all sectors with our vision.
Alignment of philanthropy with our vision.
Tirelessness in chasing our vision.

David Gadaire:  A year ago, we established a Governance Committee.  We redefined the Leadership Council as the voice piece for what we’re trying to do.  This planning grant gives a tremendous opportunity to focus our energies.  And we have the opportunity to take advantage of what we have at the table – a great network!  Focus on “End” in Network to End Homelessness.  What is your specific role in the effort to END Homelessness?  If we could get 2 hours/quarter from every LC member, we could make that much more progress.  Want to have action take place.

Thanks to Dave Gadaire’s facilitation, below are his “white board” bulleted notes from our brainstorm.  Below that are the notes in more “real time” as discussed by LC members.

  • Connect planning to Implementation
  • Workforce opportunities from Volunteerism
  • Political Advocacy – educate the disgruntled
  • Messaging, advocacy – be a voice
  • Engage religious congregations, build public event
  • DESE funding – sets aside resources – offers  juxtaposition to what we can do
  • Redefine the problem, redefine resourcing
  • Traditional funding in non-traditional ways
  • Engage the business community – casinos, REBs, C&S
  • Get specific
  • Invest in research
  • Create “the ask” to LC members
  • Challenge the large businesses, invest in research
  • Coordinate affordable housing resources
  • Measure success
  • More local leadership (include economic development)
  • Impact elections
  • Close the skills gap = living wage
  • Connect populations who suffer barriers – use best practices
  • Concretize the implementation – time frames
  • DON’T SILO, e.g, transportation
  • Pilot: do the match – hotels vs. housing
  • Networking!

The discussion:

Andrew Morehouse:  Two steps to the process.  (1) action planning process.  (2) once we have a plan, what is our role.

Lindsay:  LC role emphasis is on implementation – to secure funding, to advocate for policy changes, e.g.  Participation in listening sessions, outreach to bring in others.  Get as many people at the table as possible to get meaningful input.  Plan will be only as good as all of us make it.  Be active, be at the table, help to reach out.

Brad Gordon:  It’s really about implementation.  Plan is important, but we collectively can fall short on implementation.  The commitment has to be to implementation.  Need to think very concretely how this will happen.  There will be inadequate resources and regulatory challenges.  Anticipate that.

Andrew Morehouse:  As part of Western Mass. Food Bank, they run a huge warehouse for food bank.  Have a crew of volunteers.  Could we develop a workforce training program for volunteers to match them up with a similar employer who runs a warehouse in the private sector.  Would that make sense as part of the Network?

Father Stan Aksamit:  people who could fit into category of “disgruntled” in response to obviously unwise fiscal decisions – need to build a voice around political advocacy to stop spending money unwisely (hotels, school bus transpo) and spend it sanely.  Advocacy piece.

Rebecca Muller: how to find the balance of both specific and general under themes – we can’t change systems overnight, but we can get mileage through pilot programs.  Do more drilling in around practical response to dilemma.

Ken Demers:  The business community is the bottom line – involving the private sector in the solutions is the missing piece.  Businesses will invest, they need to be contacted, reached out to.  With direct coordination with business, you can have success.  If we each reach out to business contacts, we can make inroads.

Brad Gordon:  we need to do a version of subsidizing businesses (e.g.,by providing child care), make it in their interest.

Clare Higgins:  All the REB directors need to be together in one room, pulling their private sector members of the REB on their leadership committees together in a room.

Jim Ayres:  We need to develop projects that are ready to go, so that when there is a tight timeline we can respond.  We need general vision of what we’re trying to accomplish – need clear action plans on where we want to go.

Liz Sullivan:  People need to invest resources and commit.  Resources are what we need and are out there.

Rabbi David:  People want to be engaged in something meaningful.  Offered himself as a  voice, a source of education.  Homelessness is a silent problem. He can educate, can mobilize to get people to an event, can fill a room.  Can support events.

Dave Modzelewski:  We need to challenge the larger community to solve this problem.  The health of the community is measured by certain things – ending homelessness is in everybody’s interest.  Impact on larger community in terms of our health.  It’s a public relations issue.  Identify the issue, identify progress.

Jerry Ray:  If you don’t give business community something specific, hard to act.  “Tell me what to do.”  Identify specific asks.

Clare Higgins:  It’s a solvable problem.  If you put 600 homeless  families in larger context of the number of households, it’s a small number.  Must do prevention so we don’t house one and find another homelessness.  Not that expensive to do the prevention we need to do.  We need more than 211 to prevent homelessness.  We need to think about resource and asset building in a different way – financial literacy.

Sylvia deHaas-Phillips:  from private funder perspective, use traditional funding in non-traditional ways.  E.g., link child care subsidies to employment and training.  Can invest in research.  Partnered with Rennie Center to talk about student mobility and housing policy.  Can participate in public awareness and advocacy.

Nancy Stoll:  education and employment are key focus areas of Berkshire United Way.  Key goal: promoting financial stability.  What can she do to get message out to community?  Investing in this type of work is good for everybody – good for business, overall community.  Mobilizing resources, getting business community involved. Berkshire REB – workforce development community – get involved.

United Ways can be a vehicle for leveraging  resources.

Jim Reis:  HomeBASE is a mess.  Must be much more assertive with state agencies, about what will work and won’t work.  Need prevention resources.  DHCD needs help.  We need to play a stronger advocacy, thinking role.  It will take a major redesign to make it work.

Brad Gordon:  HomeBASE discussion in advance of implementation didn’t work.  Education and training is  the most important initiative for homelessness prevention.  Families have such extensive challenges, we could also use developmental disability work programs as a model.

Rebecca Muller:  many strands and themes.  We’re working with the highest risk population.  We have demonstrated the ability to rehouse people through the tornado.    How do we create a wrap-around program so people are supported comprehensively – how to move quickly in response to a crisis moment so that it does not unravel family.

Dave Gadaire:  how to get more specific.  E.g., casinos – get the book on what skills are necessary

Tim Brennan:  need a concrete plan of action.  Break it into time zones.    Each action has to go to an individual or organization to try to make it happen.  Need a champion for each piece.  Be wary of siloing the probem – it is connected to so many other issues, e.g., transportation challenges.  Must be held together.  Need a solid plan in order to implement.

Doreen Fadus:  Can we “make a deal” with the State In view of cost of motels – 10 families, $200K for 10 months, let’s house them (20% reduction on state cost) – work as a team to address each family’s individual needs.

Liz Sullivan:  engage housing authorities to put up a plan.  Invite Bob Pulster of DHCD to come visit, to be part of our brainstorm on pilot program. Include state representatives.   Include key stakeholders.

Brad Gordon:  RHAs met with policy person on ways and means – silver lining is this crisis is that it has grabbed their attention – seriously interested in hearing solutions.

Lynne Wallace:  must get ear of elected officials

Rebecca Muller:  pilot should strive for 10% of people in motels – 40 families – enough of a critical mass of complexity in order to demonstrate that it’s’ really doable.  10 families runs the risk of dismissal because too small, too “easy.”

Dave Modzelewski:  are there enough housing units to house people who are homeless?  Are there under-utilized units, e.g., in housing authority stock?  PVPC working on sustainability (affordable housing) – there is always a fight against affordable housing.  Use data to show affordable housing works – good management, good investment – everyone benefits.  Not an anecdotal exercise – need to look at all the projects that have been built to demonstrate that affordable housing is SAFE.  We need housing.

Clare Higgins:  lack of local political leadership around the table.  Would be useful to pull them back in.  Housing is developed in individual communities.  10 year plan said it will cost more before it costs less.  State is not willing to put “more” in before less.  Need locally elected officials to do that work.

Peg Keller:  will reach out to economic and development coordinator and bring her into provider meeting.

Bill Messner:  what’s the role of this network in trying to shape that leadership?  E.g., we have a senatorial election coming up in a year – nothing more important for our region.   Does this Network have a role in pushing this issue?

Andrew Morehouse: community engagement committee – role is to be glue/connector.  Operationally, we are building a coordinated approach.

David Gadaire:  keep thinking about how to get specific, how to allocate the 2 hours.  This meeting doesn’t count in the time allotment!

Budget Update, Sylvia deHaas-Phillips, United Way of Pioneer Valley (fiscal agent):

Please click here.

We’re in good shape.  Still working out data and development consultant line-item.

Committee Reports

Family Services Committee Report

Pamela Schwartz:  already discussed in earlier portion of meeting.  Committee continues to focus on HomeBASE feedback/implementation and now jobs grant.

UWPV/ Domestic Violence Project

Sylvia deHaas-Phillips of UWPV reported on their $30,000 grant to the Network which is being used to support re-housing women and their families from domestic violence shelters in Hampden County.  Specifically, YWCA of Western Mass. and WomanShelter in Holyoke are each receiving $15,000 this fiscal year to support rehousing women.  This particular focus stems from the state policy gap between DV shelters (run by DCF, Dept. of Children and Families) and EA shelters (run by DHCD), such that women residing in DV shelters are not eligible for EA programs (such as HomeBASE).  Efforts are underway to change this policy and close the gap but this project, while also providing immediate and urgent housing assistance, will highlight the need to shift state policy on this issue.

Individual Services

Similar to family services, issues discussed earlier in meeting.  Working on emergency shelter crisis; continuing to work on discharge planning.

Jay Levy:  we need to emphasize safety.  Worcester effort to end homelessness:  2 year residency requirement is wrong.   We want to be careful not to go along this route.  Very important that we don’t lose track of the issue of safety.

Governance Committee

Liz Sullivan:  Working on infrastructure development, reviewed committee structure.  Identified goal of website development.  Looked at by-laws – first adopted in 2009.  So now time to revisit.  Governance met in Oct. and Nov., looked at sample by-laws.   Will be reviewing in Dec. Governance meeting, then for Jan. review.  Then Governance may take a break.

Steering Committee

Lynne Wallace:  Adopted and approved network structure as set forth in network diagram (click here).  Using Steering and Management meetings to examine this structure more closely.  Emphasis on putting together workplan.  Aligning our workplan with federal strategic plan to end homelessness.  We’re ahead of the curve on this.  ICHH and US interagency Council there to support us.

Next meeting dates:

1/25/11, Hampden County
4/26/11, Hampshire County
7/25/11, Franklin County
10/24/11, Berkshire County

Meeting adjourned: 1:00 pm.

«   »

Return to full list of blog posts.