Leadership Council Meeting Minutes – 7/28/11

In attendance:  Father Stan Aksamit, Our Lady of Peace Parish, Paul Bailey, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Jane Banks, Center for Human Development, Dave Christopolis, Hilltown CDC, Charity Day, Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Dawn DiStefano, YWCA of Western Mass., Doreen Fadus, Mercy Medical Center Health Care for the Homeless, Paul Gage, Berkshire County Continuum of Care,  Jennica Huff, Valley CDC, David Gadaire, Career Point, Peg Keller, Three County CoC, Michael Longley, Dept. of Transitional Assistance, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Bill Messner, Holyoke Community College, Andrea Miller, Center for Human Development, Bill Miller, Friends of the Homeless, David Modzelewski, Mental Health Association, Andrew Morehouse, Food Bank of Western Mass., Rebecca Muller, Grantworks, Jerry Ray, Mental Health Association, Jay Sacchetti, ServiceNet, Pamela Schwartz, network coordinator, Suzanne Smith, network data analyst, Nancy Stoll, Berkshire United Way, Liz Sullivan, Mental Health Association, Lynne Wallace, Dietz&Co. Architects

Minutes of April 27, 2011

Moved to approve: Charlie; Seconded: Dave M
Unanimous approval.

Network E valuation Update – presented by Suzanne Smith.   Click here for the presentation.

Re: contract goals for ICHH grant.  Shifted some funds from diversion to tornado assistance – accounts for not reaching targeted number of diversions.

Average cost of intervention: Diversion: $3,456, prevention $1,878, 3 month stay in hotel $7,650.

Hotel count up to 1,739 statewide. Wesern region: 455.


Rebecca; take note of Pew Study of census data:

Hispanic drop in income 63%
African American drop in income 56%
Caucasion, 16%

Peter G: Rental assistance has not increased in years.  Flat number of vouchers.  New households continue to form who are very low-income (economy).  Increase in demand; no increase in supply.  Most people who come to EA have a place where they can be (not in a car).  People holding on in temporary, unsatisfactory arrangement.  Hint of a resource that requires you to go to front door sends people to the front door (HomeBase beginning 8/1).  Huge, pent-up demand.  With economic bad times, pushes people into the system; with resources people look for relief.

Gerry M: tornado hit 2 extremely low-income neighborhoods.  Housing assessments done on people living there; on units condemned.  Created interesting picture: much of it was private housing; there are a tremendous number of extremely low-income people in that housing – income not enough to match rent – other sources of income but also a tremendous number of doubled-up families.  Common and long-standing situation.  There is a population of very low-income people who don’t have education to get jobs that would provide decent wages; they’re really stuck.  Part is what is happening in the economy and part is what is our response.  Are we encouraging people to come into the homeless system or are we providing a real response that offers them something different?

Network Committee Report – Pamela Schwartz:

Family Services Committee:  Has been meeting regularly and provided a vehicle for discussion and exchange of EA reform and new HomeBase program.

Individual Services Committee:

Discharge Planning Work Group – devised discharge planning guidelines to prevent homelessness upon discharge from institutions – revisiting its implementation at our next large meeting on 9/15

Housing Sex Offenders Work Group – working to provide appropriate housing for sex offenders, a group of very committed people.  Working to build coalition of broad cross-section of stakeholders with message of “public safety is best served with appropriate housing for sex offenders.”

Funding Collaboration Work Group – working to build collaborative responses to funding opportunities. Now building towards pilot project for funding to serve ex offenders with housing and supportive services.

Education and Workforce Development Planning Grant Opportunity

Network applying for grant from Fireman Foundation for $10,000 for 4 month planning grant targeted at homeless and at-risk families.  Exciting opportunity to lay foundation for comprehensive approach to building family sustainability.  Application due 8/19.

Governance Work Group Update – Liz Sullivan

Acknowledged member work of Dave Christopolis, David Gadaire, Peg Keller, Andrea Miller, Lynne Wallace, : 3 meetings since last LC meeting. Met twice with Steering Committee.

Discussed new committee structure.  Click here to review.

Management team: 2 co-chairs, representatives of 3 CoC
Steering Committee: chair, co-chair, members of CoCs, reps from committees

Recommendation on committees:
individual and family services
community engagement
resource development
planning and evaluation
peer advisory council (consumer rep from across counties)

Recommended strengthening committee chair roles in order to ensure sustainability of network (DRC funding precarious).

Finalized job descriptions for director of regional coordinator, data analyst.  Also finalized criteria for letter of support.

Doreen: health care for the homeless has a good model for developing consumer advisory boards.  Leaders lives in Worcester, so we could reach out to her for input and guidance.

Bill Messner:  would be useful to get list of committee members.  LC agreed!  Lynne: will put list of members and charge of each committee.

WMIC Update – Peg Keller

Past year co-chaired by Mike Longley, DTA, Alvina Brevard, DHCD.  Purpose: to bring state agency people together around the table and hold them accountable, exchange info, break down silos.  Most recent focus:  individuals’ eligibility for services – how to reach most difficult to reach people.  Now in the process of building a pilot (working with Jay Levy, Dave Modzelewski, Dave Havens, Ben Cluff, Doreen Fadus, Sue Fortin, Jerry Ray).  Inspired by Health Care for the Homeless system “Critical Response Team”: representatives from each relevant sector, review case together, brainstorm best response for hardest to serve individuals.  Here, CRT would function with state agency reps coming together. Ensure sufficient authority to make decisions.   This will be a “blame free” zone – supportive environment, oriented to problem solving.  Hoping to start in September or October.  Convene on a bi-monthly basis.

Pamela will reach out to Liz Rogers of ICHH to seek buy-in of agency participation.

Next topic: employment and job training.  Joanne Glier, DTA, and Ben Cluff, DPH, will chair WMIC this coming year.  Interest is good, feeling is strong.  WMIC is alive and well!

Network Budget Update

Lynne distributed ICHH Final Grant Summary.  Click here to review.

Lynne raised creation of Finance Committee as part of governance to enable review of budgets, etc.

Current funding:

$15K from Davis Foundation for Director of Regional Coordination (for Director of Regional Coordination – DRC)
$15K from Community Foundation for Western Mass. (DRC)
$30K from UWPV  (DRC)

DRC position funded for this fiscal year.

On data analyst: no current funding available.   Evaluation committee will meet to assess what we need /want for data. DRC will convene.  Will use the Resource Development Committee (needs recruits – let Lynne know if interested) to seek funding for data analyst position (Suzanne, data analyst, currently working with Three County CoC, which will provide some bridge for data but steering committee agreed not sufficient for network needs)

On coordinated cross-county data (via 3 CoCs): Suzanne projected another 6 months before data warehouse is possible.

Tornado Update and Network’s Impact – Gerry McCafferty, Jane Banks

Springfield (Gerry McCafferty):   Lost 514 units of housing. 180 single family homes.  The rest were multi-family.  350 rental units. Emergency shelter set up:  highest number: 300 one week after the tornado.  Homeowners less likely to use shelter.  With insurance, figured out their own responses.  People who were displaced tended to be extremely low-income.

Immediately after tornado, network started talking to each other.  Meeting within a few days.  Tina Brooks attended.  Everyone came and committed resources.

First decision: housing assessment of everyone affected.  Big picture of view of universe.  HAP, NEFWC, CHD, VOC, Springfield Partners, Tapestry Health, Catholic Charities, Friends of the Homeless, City of Springfield, Open Pantry, DHCD began doing housing assessments immediately.

HAP and Catholic Charities both issued appeals for housing funds – raised $200,000 each.  Flexible, fast money to assist with rehousing, absolutely crucial.

Assessments still continuing.  Total of 500 completed across region.

Everyone coming together, sharing resources, strategies – network operated as one unit.  Housing triage occurred very quickly.  Divided groups: extremely low-income; capacity to rent in private market; clear near for supportive housing or very high housing barriers.  Same network of people worked one on one, went through piles, facilitated applications.

People who lost ids and birth certificates – state waived cost of new ids.  Springfield waived cost of birth certificates. Open Pantry assisted with birth certificates.  Social Security Admin issued immediate print-outs.  Barrier around CORI checks: state agreed to turn them around within 24 hours.  Housing Authorities used this to obtain these CORI checks.  Health Care for the Homeless there to refill prescriptions.  Van Pool and City Health Dept. provided transportation to visit apartments, appointments, etc.

City did press for all available units.  City called landlords separately (they don’t advertise). DHCD and HUD contacted all providers to search out subsidized/public housing units.  DHCD got other housing authorities to help do repairs .

With housing resources and assessments, made matches.

Through all of this, access to unrestricted cash was incredibly helpful.  Primarily for first, last, security, but used to buy necessary utilities, pay back utility bill  – ready access was absolutely critical.

In the course of 30 days, close to 100 households were rehoused in various permanent, affordable housing.  At close of shelter (end of June), handful of households left, many had homes in the works, down to the hard to house.  They went into motels and continue to work with them.  Either all housed or about to be.

West Springfield (Jane Banks):  Opened two shelters, one at elementary (run by board of health) and middle school (run by Red Cross shelter until closed).  Families  from all over Africa and East Asia, families with kids of 4-9 people, few spoke English, most in country 1.5 years or less.   West Springfield is an extremely supportive community.   Families moved into Big E, continued to be very supportive environment.  School picked up kids every day to transport kids to school. Teachers visited on the weekends.  CHD devoted 3 full-time staff available every day; had van for transportation every day, assisted with housing search.  Every family placed by 6/30.  CHD housed 52 families.  An amazing collaborative spirit within shelter – no incidents.  Never seen a community come together like this.

Both FEMA and Red Cross acknowledged the extraordinary organization/level of re-housing that occurred on the local level.  FEMA is discussing about using this for a model.

Red Cross: a volunteer agency.  For a big disaster, they have volunteers coming in from around the country, do a shift, and leave.  Biggest problem: they are not led locally.  They won’t let anyone local talk to RC, only via Washington.  Volunteer/communication issues were huge.  Regional RC is there but can’t answer questions or make decisions.

Network relationships were crucial to successful response.  For shelter providers, all worked for and with each other.  No barriers.  Relationships stronger than 2 years ago, everyone knows each other better, stronger connections, sharing of resources.  Constant communication.  Command center led to quick responses.

Lessons learned: crisis can focus people on moving from problem to solution so quickly.  The urgency made so many things happen so quickly, including the degree of collaboration and the money raising.  But homelessness is not considered a crisis that demands that level of urgency.  Families living in shelter are now more status quo than an EMERGENCY, so we don’t have same access to funds, housing, etc.

Emergency shelter system a safety valve but has ended up as a housing option for a lot of people.  This allows us to say the system is “status quo” instead of emergency.  One piece: do we have enough affordable housing?  Another piece: huge population that does not have high school diploma, no employable skills, living in concentrated poverty, no opportunity.  Another piece: the regional housing market.  Striking through tornado relief efforts: the level of housing discrimination.  Landlords concerned about the “types” of people coming to them.  Public/subsidized housing outside of region that appeared to discriminate.  “Springfield” people treated less favorably and at the same time, residents had fear about going other places.  This was an opportunity to break through that.

Affordable housing debate: some city leaders say Springfield is saturated with affordable housing; city doesn’t need more of it (why city has its problems, high crime, poor health).  Most believe that what was there should be rebuilt.  Attempting to see it as an opportunity to rebuild in broader area as mixed income.  Create neighborhoods of education and economic opportunity.

Community Engagement Discussion

Leadership Council is group intended to engage with community.  Community engagement committee is charged as a shepherd for LC’s work.  Now is the opportunity to get clear with LC on what community engagement means.

David Gadaire:  need to get community leaders to own this problem and not see it as an accepted reality.  Need to change how we work with larger community so we get closer to really ending homelessness.   Need to reach business community, legislators, those who can make a difference in how we do this.

How do we message this?  How do we reach out?

Andrew Morehouse:  pitch for 2 hours/month for community engagement.  Must expand LC to have greater representation in business/other sectors.

Roles for community engagement:  Broad based education, advocacy, supporting fundraising activity (willing to serve as ambassadors)

How to reach broader community?

Rebecca: we need a message.  Looking at tornado:  we left our judgment outside the door (distinct from homeless population).  How do we help people see homeless people as “our people.”  Local people have knowledge and have local solutions.  How do we own that.  Educating in both directions – the definition of “our people” – both by the people themselves and those perceiving them.  The money and will are there when people don’t judge.

Charlie:  For the person who is homeless, they are in crisis.  What do they need.  Craft message that says “this amount of money helped this person become housed.”  Break down how to help..

Father Stan:  something to hit in the heart, and hit in the head.

Doreen: bring business leaders back to the table.  In the background now, need to bring them to the forefront.  Figuring out how to balance community fundraising with individual org fundraising.

Jane:  Part of community engagement is to look at individual communities across the region.  How do we embrace that?

Peg: use college students to film view of big picture, the challenge, what communities could do to solve the problem, message of “we are one” – create a good media outlet, use it as a vehicle to get to groups.  So many cities and towns that need to step up that haven’t yet.

Dave Christopolis: would be happy to put a link on his website (Hilltown CDC) – get quick info on network – create a simple marketing package.  Complete affordable housing and then offer quick blurb on network/homelessness, a simple strategy that wouldn’t take a lot of time for him and staff to use.  Get LC members to commit to spreading word on that basis.  Define membership as this.

Rebecca:  promote concept that we have vested interest in investing in everyone in order to have a healthy community (not for THEM, but for US).  A public health concept.  A strength-based perspective.

Gerry:  convincing schools that housing instability is a problem to tackle; a very expensive problem.  Davis Foundation paid for study on connection between housing instability and lack of school success.

Dave G: LC Charge: keep thinking about this.  Who does the message need to be delivered to, how to get it there:  speakers bureau, marketing package, web tool, media, e.g., ideas for execution.  Then will start to have a coordinated approach.

Next meeting:  Wed., 10/26, 10 am – 1 pm, Berkshires.

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