Family Services Meeting
November 12, 2013
In Attendance: Toy Allston, DCF, Shannon Barry, Springfield Public Schools, Bonnie Caldwell, HAPHousing, Dawn DiStefano, YWCA, Oonagh Doherty, Mass Justice Project, Linda Driscoll, Tenancy Preservation Project, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Harry Duchesne, New England Farm Workers Council, Steve Huntley, Valley Opportunity Council, Wendy Kane, Community Legal Aid, Lori Kays, DCF, Katasha Leggett, Springfield Partners, Fran LeMay, ServiceNet, Jane Lindfors, DTA/DV, Yeisie Mateo, DCF, Janet Mock, Square One, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners, Liza Rios, YWCA, Tyler Rousseau, CSO/Square One, Lourdes Sariol, DHCD, Jovan Stovall, DTA/DV, Rachel Trant, DCF, Lauren Voyer, DHCD
Update on Welfare Reform Bill:
Wendy Kane distributed MLRI’s summary of House bill. Now in conference committee. Western Mass. has good representation (Rep. Kulik, Rep. Coakley-Rivera, Senator Brewer). We should contact our legislators to urge support of House provisions.
Over 2,000 families in motels, approaching 500 in Hampden County alone. Roughly 60 families in Franklin County motels (down from over 90).
Oonagh raised issue of families arriving in motels without food stamps, cash or food at the start of a weekend. She has reached out to some food pantries that are willing to provide ready-made meals, but this needs to be coordinated with DHCD assistance. All agreed this issue should be brought to the Hampden County hotel task force for a coordinated response – next meeting is 12/3, 9:30, Square One, Scibelli Center, 1 Federal Street, Springfield.
Update on Seven Day Temporary Emergency Assistance Program (SDTEAP): Steve Huntley of Valley Opportunity Council – administering agency in Western Mass. – said overwhelmed by requests. Most recently had 5 placements in one day. Did not have confirmed statistics but sense is that about ½ of the families become eligible for shelter; many others are ineligible due to having abandoned feasible or subsidized housing. Many families are also lacking MA id. The number of families relying on the program raises the issue of DHCD’s use of presumptive eligibility (i.e., needing to use it more to save this emergency resource for families who will not be EA eligible).
Discussed imminent depletion of resources for this program and MLRI’s and Mass. Coalition for the Homeless’ advocacy to pass an amendment to keep it going past Dec. 1 and ultimately to pass a $1 million supplemental budget to keep it going through the fiscal year. Distributed factsheet. Click here.
Committee unanimously agreed to support this funding request (Pamela will then advocate on Network’s behalf) and will do individual/organizational advocacy as well.
Shared DHCD update on FY 14 budget implementation(Click here for powerpoint presentation by Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein, distributed at Boston meeting on 10/29/13 with advocates and providers).
In view of demand on EA/hotels, discussed need to ensure legislature does not misconstrue the increase in funding for RAFT and MRVP as “not working.” Greater investment on these fronts is critical to meeting the challenge.
Oonagh: we need to do more education; the public needs to understand better what families are going through, their challenges, how hard they are working to stay afloat, this would help with the political will to provide necessary support.
Wendy: she sees families giving up jobs, child care to be relocated to shelter. We need to avoid this disruption. Brings us back to the issues of workforce development, higher minimum wage, more affordable housing. This will require a big investment up front.
Lauren: The regional housing network is working on an analysis of the investments necessary to respond holistically to family homelessness. Will keep us posted on it.
Discussed prior use of EA funds to pay rental arrearages. Now the RAFT program provides this resource. Bonnie of HAP (overseeing distribution of RAFT funds for Hampden/Hampshire Counties) reported (informally) that RAFT allocations are roughly 1/3 towards rental arrearages; 1/3 towards utility arrearages; 1/3 towards new move-ins.
Katasha Leggett distributed Springfield Partners flyer setting forth services for their job readiness/stabilization program that is available to HomeBASE families timing out after October. A great resource to help stabilize families.
Donna Nadeau of DHCD pointed out that of the 6,000 families statewide whose rental subsidies are ending, 1,000 of those families ended in October alone. Acknowledged the hard work of shelter staff and stabilization workers and their excellent results: in Worcester, NO HomeBASE families re-entered shelter and in Western Mass. only a few families re-entered shelter.
Discussed regulations regarding families’ eligibility for EA after receiving the $4,000 in HomeBase rental assistance and RAFT. Lauren and Wendy will clarify.
Oonagh shared her knowledge of a family’s experience of DCF stating to DHCD that if they did not place the family in shelter, DCF would have to take custody of the child. This experience was met with surprise and concern by both DCF and DHCD staff in the room; it is contrary to DCF policy (keeping the family united is a top priority) and they would like to hear more detail to understand better and pursue any necessary follow-up.
Discussed new congregate shelters in Western Mass.: 78 new beds administered by CHD; 44 by NEFWC.
Also discussed HAP’s allocation of 86 MRVP’s for HB families for with member who has disability.
Donna raised new DHCD program on “nurturing fathers” and suggested a representative of the program come speak to the committee to share more detail. The Committee agreed this would be great. Donna will relay invitation for next meeting:
December 10, 9:30-11:00, Northampton Senior Center
Also note: Secure Jobs Connect celebration 1/10/14, 10 am – 11 am, Kittredge Center, Holyoke Community College. We will celebrate the impact of the collaborative effort to employ homeless families and honor business partners who help make it possible. State legislators, state agency officials, mayors, business, education, faith and community leaders will attend. Please mark your calendar now!