Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
September 10, 2013
In attendance: Jen Aprin, YWCA, Jane Banks, Center for Human Development, Brenda Barcome, YWCA New Beginnings, Shannon Barry, Springfield Public Schools, Bonnie Caldwell, HAPHousing, Sarah Cummings, Community Action, Charity Day, Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, L. Viviana DeJesus, Community Action, Harry Duchesne, New England Farm Workers Council, Dawn DiStefano, YWCA, Erin Forbush, ServiceNet (Berkshires), Hwei-Ling Greeney, Amherst Community Connections, Wendy Kane, Community Legal Aid, Katasha Leggett, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Jane Lindfors, DTA – Domestic Violence unit, Janet Mock, Square One, Sundari McGrigg, Amherst Community Connections, Lynn Minella, WomanShelter, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Stephen Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Tyler Rousseau, Clinical Support Options, Lourdes, Sariol, DHCD, Pamela Schwartz, Network Coordinator, Sarah Slautterback, DESE, Lauren Voyer, HAPHousing,
RAFT implementation update: HAPHousing distributed one-pager outlining eligibility criteria. Click here for the information.. Allocated $1.1 million to serve Hampden and Hampshire Counties. $215,000 distributed by end of August.
Franklin County was allocated $160,000 in RAFT funding. Distributed $15,000 thus far.
Berkshire County allocation unclear (regional housing authority could not attend).
Introduction of Lourdes Sariol, new DHCD Early Education Program Manager (new position funded by federal Race to the Top Early Challenge Grant). Goal is to provide coordinated, integrated resource sharing and services that will support children and families, especially families experiencing or at risk of becoming homeless. Please click here for additional information.
Discussion of RAFT’s temporary emergency housing assistance (provided if ineligible for EA and not yet eligible for RAFT but at imminent risk of staying in a place not fit for human habitation): Pamela shared Mass. Law Reform Institute and Mass. Coalition for the Homeless’ concern regarding DHCD’s “closed referral” system for access to this assistance and its negative impact on providing an adequate safety net. When HAP provided this assistance last fiscal year, referrals could come in any direction, via a provider or DHCD. Lauren Voyer of HAP explained that with new RAFT funding, HAP has sub-contracted with Valley Opportunity Council (VOC) to administer this emergency housing assistance now called Seven Day Temporary Emergency Assistance Program (SDTEAP).
Lauren and Bonnie Caldwell of HAP shared that HAP was always in continual contact with DHCD when it ran its version of this program, so they did not feel the fact of a closed referral system made a significant difference. However, Oonagh Doherty of Mass. Justice Project (who was unable to make the meeting) had written to Pamela to say she had experiences with 2 families in our region who were not issued EA denials nor referrals to VOC but were homeless. Per Donna Nadeau’s request, Pamela will follow-up with Oonagh to send Donna more information about these cases (so she can relay the info to others at DHCD).
We agreed that for the immediate term, we need to establish a clear chain of communication from providers/advocates to VOC and from VOC to DHCD in turn. Pamela will contact VOC executive director Steve Huntley to discuss a plan for receiving communications from advocates and other providers regarding families at risk and for providing communication from VOC to DHCD regarding appropriate referrals.
Meanwhile, we will track regional experiences of families falling through the safety net due to this closed referral system and will report back at our October meeting.
Current status of program: it was implemented on 9/3 and thus far 3 families have received emergency housing.
Others raised concern that this assistance could be used for families who should in fact be deemed presumptively eligible for EA; that it would not be a good use of funds to pay for emergency housing for 7 days only for the family to be placed in shelter. We agreed that this is data we should track as well.
Sarah Slautterback of DESE raised additional concern of children displaced from schools now that families are possibly staying in emergency housing for 7 days (HAP’s prior program was for 3 days). This is an additional impact to consider on parents and kids.
CoC update: Pamela explained the Continuum of Care (CoC), the federal funding vehicle for housing/homelessness programs and how the CoC’s have been reconfigured in the region so that we now have 2 CoC’s – Hampden County CoC and Three County CoC (Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire). The Network and CoC’s across the region are embarking on greater integration and collaboration, including have a representative of the family services committee on the CoC board of directors. Pamela will keep everybody posted as this partnership unfolds and looks forward to committee input.
Community Action ESG Update: Administering ESG Homelessness Prevention money – $140,000 for 3 counties (Hampshire, Franklin, Berkshire). $70,000 allocated to help families. Please click here for eligibility guidelines.
Springfield Partners for Community Action update: Distributed information on support services available to HomeBASE families. Please click here for more detail.
Next meeting: Tuesday, 10/8, 9:30-11:00, Northampton Senior Center