Please see below the minutes of our meeting last Thursday, May 17.  For our next meeting, we agreed to invite other programs to share information with us about their innovations (both with and without resources) in working with this population.  Thanks to Sarah Slautterback’s outreach, Maurie Bergeron of the Compass project in Worcester, and Jill St. Martin of Father Bill’s/Mainspring will be joining us to share information and outcomes from their programs with unaccompanied youth.   Thanks to Cindy Rodalakis of the Chicopee Public Schools for facilitating a new meeting location that offers greater ease for our Worcester guest.  We are meeting on:

Tuesday, June 12
10:00 am – 11:30 am
Chicopee Schools Administration Building
Oval Room, 2nd floor
180 Broadway Street, Chicopee

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Working Group Meeting Minutes:   May 17, 2012

In attendance:  Sean Barry, Dept. of Mental Health, Shannon Barry, Springfield Public Schools, Marge Barrett-Mills, Hampshire County Friends of the Homeless, Lorrie Bobe, Dept. of Youth Services, Paul Fitzsimmons, Dept. of Children and Families, Lisa Goldmsith, DialSELF, Kelly Groves, North Adams Public Schools, Kim Majewski, Gandara Center, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Cindy Rodalakis, Chicopee Schools, Jean Rogers, Center for Human Development, Pamela Schwartz, network coordinator, Sarah Slautterback, Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education,

Senate Budget update:
House budget included language to create special commission to study homeless youth population.  Senate budget did not include the language.  Senator Clark will be submitting an amendment.

For schools, House budget had funding for school transportation ($11.3 million). Senate does not.

Network funding not included in Senate budget.

Mass. Rental Voucher Program (MRVP) funded at $5 million less than House budget.

Advocacy needs to be IMMEDIATE (today).  All amendments filed by Friday.  Call your Senator!

Lorrie Bobe, Division of Youth Services:
Juvenile justice agency – youth get involved on involuntary basis (youth who have committed crimes).  Youngest age is 12, average age is 16, up to age 21.  When kids approach age of 18, must be released.  Youth have option to voluntarily sign up (“assent of ward”) for services with department.  Right now 15 youth enrolled as such.  Then DYS can place them in housing, e.g., housing with CHD ( 14 “independent living” beds, primarily in Springfield) or foster care or provide social services.  250 kids committed in Western Ma.     3 district offices in Springfield, Holyoke, Pittsfield; satellite office in Chicopee, space in Greenfield.  21 staff in area.

Intersects with DCF, DMH, as needed.  At DCF, several hundred involved post 18.  Triple the numbers as compared to last few years.  Numbers also up at DYS.  More taking advantage of post-18 services.

Only way to get services post 18 is if you already involved in the system.  For those 18 year olds who are not in system, nothing to offer.

Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education survey shows between 700-800 unaccompanied homeless youth, but so many more who don’t identify because worried they will be picked up by DCF – protecting adults and siblings, fear of the system.

School liaisons experience the paradox of encouraging students to come forward and then have no resources to help them.  Schools are in a bind.  We need to bring state agencies and partners together around the table to better serve this population.

Other groups emerging on this issue – Worcester (Compass program – 5 year grant, focus on prevention, family mediation, how to shelter young people who are homeless, how to connect agencies who are already offering services); Metro-West – interested in working with 18-22 year old range.  South Shore coming together for almost 2 years – resulting in youth protocol at a shelter; collaboration between shelters and schools.  South Coast just received a grant and will create housing for 18-22 year old.  Aging-out Task Force opened up housing for 18-22 year old men in Roxbury.

Update on ICCH Advisory Group on Unaccompanied Youth

2 sub-committees, each charged with different mission:

  1.  Define “youth homelessness.”
  2. Count “homeless youth”

Both groups meeting in June.  Lt. Gov has charged with Advisory Group with these goals, theoretically to infuse commission with information in September, when they would get started (if funded).

Report from North Adams school liaison:  biggest challenge is that youth have no income, no financial resources – working with DTA, Berkshire Works, and other agencies, along with families.  North Adams has a higher number of unaccompanied youth than other communities.  Kelly’s position is grant funded to do case management (in support of homeless liaison).

Next steps:

Learn from other programs, their innovations with few resources.  Sarah S will reach out to Father Bill’s and Compass Project and explore possibility of info exchange.  Also consider integrating employment piece, e.g.,  BCAC has a program; Career Point has a teen room.

Adult criminal justice system – consider bringing the sheriff’s into this conversation since they face 18-22 year olds.

6/12 am, 6/14 2 pm next possible dates, Cindy (Chicopee school liaison) will check Chicopee space and get back to Pamela.

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