Family Services Committee Meeting
January 15, 2013

In attendance: Shannon Barry, Springfield Public Schools, Jon Busbin, Community Legal Aid, Bonnie Caldwell, HAPHousing, Ken Demers, New England Farm Workers, Wendy Kane, Community Legal Aid, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Jane Lindfors, DTA DV Unit, Ashley McGurn, FOR Families, Sherondia McKenzie-Elliott, DPH For Families, Janet Mock, Square One, Lynn Minella, WomanShelter/Companeras, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Stephen Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Jim Reis, HAPHousing, Pamela Schwartz, Network coordinator, Kate Shapiro, Tenancy Preservation Project, Robin Sherman, Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Sarah Slautterback, DESE, Denise Sortino, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Chantal St. Fleur, Community Legal Aid, Sue White, VA Medical Center, Twjana Williams, DHCD


DHCD Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein is on medical leave but went through surgery well yesterday.  On medical leave until February

HAP Executive Director Peter Gagliardi is recovering at home after major heart surgery.  Progressing well.  Chuck Hoag is acting ED for the next few months while Peter completes his recovery.

All of us at the Network are sending healing thoughts.

EA Reform Sub-Committee Update

DHCD is contracting with HAP (via Friends of the Homeless), utilizing $14,000 in ESG funds to provide temporary emergency housing assistance (motels) while EA eligibility is pending (e.g., late Friday arrivals or delay in obtaining identification).  HAP will also continue to provide its own funded emergency assistance under the broader guidelines (homeless, not EA eligible).  Providers and advocates should continue to use HAP’s emergency forms to request assistance.  Submit to Bonnie Caldwell or Marcia Crutchfield of HAP.

Fireman Foundation Grant Update 

The Network, in conjunction with lead agency Corporation for Public Management and partners CareerPoint and ServiceNet, reported the exciting news that they received their full grant of $300,000 to provide workforce development for homeless families across Western Mass.  The grant will facilitate job placement for 76 heads of households in 2013 (with an 80% retention rate).  90% will be placed in Hampden County; 10% in Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire.  Target population is HomeBASE families and referrals will primarily be through HomeBASE agencies.

Question raised regarding whether a subsidized tenant (who received HomeBASE) can qualify for workforce assistance.  Fireman had stated earlier that this population did not qualify; Pamela will follow-up on this to advocate inclusion per Network partners’ belief that such tenants are prime candidates to excel with this workforce assistance.

Motels update

Re: Administration announcement of plan to empty motels by the end of FY14.  Understanding that this was released in the context of putting together the FY14 budget; to provide legislature assurance and intention to achieve goal.

Quality Inn in W. Springfield is continuing to be emptied out with the use of MRVPs (aiming to be complete by the end of Feb).  Facilitated 30 exits over the last month.  Amazing partnership with FOR Families, HAP and housing search staff.  Motel Task Force will recognize management of Quality Inn for extraordinary support.

Doctor from Health Care for the Homeless committed time to families at the Quality Inn.  Excellent arrangement, really connected with families.  Now doctor service moving to the Econo-Lodge.  An excellent collaboration.

HAP trying to end use of Days Inn in Holyoke due to bad conditions and bad management.

FOR Families has a new staff person and will allocate staffing to hotels dependent on greatest need (Greenfield is down to 15 families in motels; 3 families moved with MRVPs, moved some families with RAFT and HomeBASE).

DHCD seeing 35-40 people/day.

DTA case workers retiring.  Hiring/replacement process requires time.  Stress very high.

FY14 budget issues

A big thanks to Jim Reis’ for his memo summarizing the pressing concerns.  Please click here to review.

  1.  32 week deadline for families to use HomeBASE – for families who entered shelter in July, 2012, this deadline arrives in Feb.  Highly problematic because then families have no resource available to help them exit shelter.  This limit is statutorily mandated.  DHCD is looking at this.
  2.  Rental Assistance “cliff” – thousands of families statewide about to lose their HomeBASE or HPRP subsidies beginning in 8/13.  They will not be able to afford their rents without subsidies and therefore are at great risk of becoming homeless again.  Crisis situation.  Regional Housing Network is working to come up with recommendations.  DHCD recognizes the crisis.  Solutions are unclear.
  3. Current HomeBASE assistance of $4,000 is not enough to move out of homelessness into housing.  Need to consider increasing to make the resource effective.
  4. Scattered site apartments – HAP has 46 – pose problem in motivating families to move out (nice, fully furnished apartments that are rent-free – not in families’ interest to work to move!).  Wants to consider return to more congregate shelters.
  5. RAFT funds likely will not last fiscal year (but HAP still has funds).  Does appropriation need to be increased?

Governor’s budget to be released later this month.  At our next month’s meeting we will assess budget and Network position.  Will plan for legislative gathering.

Wendy Kane, Community Legal Aid, noted that advocates are available to assist parents and children in appealing denials of SSI benefits.  Call Mass. Justice Project to obtain assistance.

Oonagh Doherty also offered as another resource in assisting homeless clients, both individuals and families.

 Next meeting:  2/12/13, 1:30 pm (EA Reform meeting will meet at 1:00 pm), NEFWC, 225 High Street, Holyoke

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