Housing Authority Collaboration Meeting
Holyoke Community College
June 18, 2012
In attendance: Jane Banks, Center for Human Development, Monica Blazic, Chicopee Housing Authority, Tammie Butler, Community Action, Maureen Cayer, Agawam Housing Authority, Carl Cignoni, Hampshire Sheriff’s Dept., Charity Day, Franklin County Regional Housing Authority, Karen Dean, Hampden County Sheriff’s Dept., Jen Dieringer, Community Legal Aid, Carl Dietz, City of Chicopee, Harry Duchesne, New England Farm Workers Council, Gena Dube, Cooley Dickinson Hospital, Constance Eason, Pittsfield Housing Authority, Joanne Glier, Dept. of Transitional Assistance, Jen Glover, Franklin County Home Care Corp., Brad Gordon, Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority, Sue Gregory, Dalton Housing Authority, Jon Hite, Northampton Housing Authority, Peg Keller, City of Northampton, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS-Homeless Services, Denise LeDuc, Amherst Housing Authority, Jane Lindfors, DTA- Domestic Violence unit, Mike Menard-Weibel, Center for Human Development, Dave Modzelewski, Mental Health Association, Rita Maccini, Holyoke Housing Authority, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Diana Mclean, City of Westfield, Ita Mullarkey, Dept. of Housing and Community Development, Kevin Noonan, Craig’s Doors, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Kelly Poplaski, Pittsfield Housing Authority, Wanda Rolon, ServiceNet, Pamela Schwartz, Network coordinator, Jim Seney, Veterans Administration Medical Center, Robin Sherman, Franklin Country Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Rachel Trant, Dept. of Children and Families, Lynne Wallace, Dietz & Co. Architects, Jennifer Wuest, Behavioral Health Network, Christopher Zabik, Dept. of Mental Health
With over 40 partners in the room, we shared a great next step in our housing authority outreach and support effort. Special thanks to the housing authorities who could attend and bring their perspectives and experiences to the discussion.
Also, special thanks to our facilitators and note-takers by sub-region: for Berkshire County, facilitator Brad Gordon of Berkshire Regional Housing Authority and note-taker Lynne Wallace, Network co-chair; for Hampshire/Franklin Counties, facilitator Dave Modzelewski of the Mental Health Association and note-taker Peg Keller of the City of Northampton; and for Hampden County, facilitator Gerry McCafferty of the City of Springfield and note-taker Pamela Schwartz, Network coordinator. It was a true team effort to make this meeting happen!
The summary that follows captures the main points shared in our “reporting out” session after each sub-region’s discussion. Of course there is far more – both in relationship-building and in the details – than will be relayed here, but certainly it will all have an opportunity to emerge and develop in the months to come.
The summary of sub-regional discussion is as follows:
- Applicants not following through with their housing applications or once housing becomes available.
- Major renovation underway in Pittsfield for largest family project – requires moving families around.
- Families from the DV shelter consistently fail – need for more support services.
- Consistent theme is resources for earlier interventions.
Prospects for success:
- Working on looking at other models around drop-in centers where there is education and community support for tenants. Helping them to understand and meet expectations.
- Decision to organize a “fair” or expo in the fall to get all service providers/community together to help connect tenants to services and resources and to get community and neighbors involved with public housing tenants. One major goal is to break down isolation of public housing tenants and bring resources/community to them.
Discussed disconnect between support services and what landlords expect. Discussed high costs housing authorities face with turnover. Need service providers to help tenants stay housed longer. Tenants who have been homeless are less familiar with how to navigate the system, less likely to be accepted as tenants unless strong supports. Brainstorm on possibility of small pilot projects where units are set aside for formerly homeless tenants who would get flexible and intensive supportive service.
Also discussed delay in bringing units back on line (due to limited housing authority resources). Brainstormed possibility of creating a linkage between jails and housing authorities to provide community work for unit repair/turnover.
Discussed urgent need for “resident services coordinators.” Acknowledged lack of DHCD resources to commit to this successful program.
Overarching theme – “the overwhelm” of the whole system from every direction – housing authorities, support service providers, tenants.
Discussed where being more efficient and being better at partnerships could help. One example: housing authorities being overwhelmed with applications but then tenants turn down units b/c don’t want to live in a specific area. Possible solution: providers assist with more targeted housing search to reduce “rejection” of units.
Discussed need for better preparation of families so they are better equipped to understand and implement expectations around paying rent and taking care of units.
Discussed the need to get a better sense of families who need intensive services delivered at their units. Chronically homeless individuals have this system, but there is nothing comparable for families.
Discussed the need for enhanced communication between housing authorities and service providers, specifically the updating and sharing of a resource directory and building contacts between housing authorities and schools, service providers, etc.
Discussed developing relationships/cooperative agreements among housing authorities so victims of domestic violence could be moved from one town/city to another to maximize safety
Large Group Response/Discussion:
What about attaching specific service provider(s) to one housing development, dividing up the city by neighborhood.
Service coordinator program is a huge need. We need to advocate for more funding for this.
DHCD: looking towards next fiscal year to move away from transitional housing and expand Housing First programs (similar to those in Springfield, Weymouth and Gloucester). Hopefully there will be opportunities for models where with committed units, DHCD will provide case management support dollars.
This fiscal year: new MRVPs for supportive housing for homeless families. Expect RFR in August or Sept. Also anticipate new RAFT funds for prevention services.
Suggestion at the first sign of trouble with tenants – the first “personal conference” – to involve service provider at that meeting. Housing authorities pointed out that tenant is invited to bring any supports to first meeting. Challenge is for LHA to connect directly with service provider so provider can reach out to tenant in turn.
Higher risk families likely to be involved in DMH or DPH or other state agency support – maybe we need to sort in advance when they enter housing, treat them as highest priority for support. Underscores importance once again of resident coordinator.
Also for communities that have CPA funds, there will likely be a language change to allow for broader use of funds, including potentially for the support of a resident service coordinator. We may want to consider advocacy around this.
HAP made clear that, in cooordination with CHD and NEFWC, they would be happy to coordinate and ensure placement of service providers at initial meetings with tenants.
Also suggestion to integrate housing authority directors/staff into network’s individual and family services committee meetings. Recognition that agenda for individuals and families are quite different and discussion may be better served with more focused approach. Pamela will follow-up with invitations to these meetings.
1. Support Berkshire County’s planning for service/community expo for public housing tenants
2. Further explore discussion with jails around support for housing authorities
3. Update and revise directory of services for distribution to housing authorities (also seek FOR Families directory)
4. Further building of service provider relationships with housing authorities – begin with invitations to housing authorities to Network family and individual services meetings
5. Advocacy around resident services coordinators (investigate CPA option).
Pamela will also confer with other meeting leaders to brainstorm next steps focused on follow-up in specific communities. A next large meeting will be called in the Fall, after further sub-regional work has taken place.
Thanks to all for your commitment and participation!