Family Services Committee Meeting
April 8, 2014

In attendance:  Shannon Barry, Springfield Public Schools, Cris Carl, Family Inn/ServiceNet, Bonnie Caldwell, HAPHousing, Ken Demers, New England Farm Workers Council, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Erin Forbush, ServiceNet – Berkshires, Faith Lafayette, DPH FOR Families, Jane Lindfors, DTA-DV unit, Lynn Minella, WomanShelter Companeras, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Jordana O’connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Sarah Slautterback, DESE, Stephen Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Hilda Santa, Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity, Lauren Voyer, HAPHousing

Update on meeting with Alvina Brevard, DHCD Field Director, to discuss presumptive eligibility policies and procedures:

Per our last family services meeting charge, Pamela reached out to Alvina Brevard to discuss presumptive eligibility.  Alvina was immediately responsive and a meeting took place on 3/31/14 with Alvina of DHCD, Carmen Roman of DCF, Faith Lafayette of FOR Families and the region’s shelter providers.  It was agreed that DHCD should prioritize developing a system for communicating a family’s presumptive placement to providers to prevent against unanticipated terminations (due to failure to complete paperwork, e.g.)

Donna Nadeau of DHCD suggested that the change take place within the ETO system so that the central office could record presumptively placed at the time of placement and all providers could gain immediate access to this information.  Pamela will email Alvina, updating her on this conversation and bringing Donna into the loop.

We also discussed the role of presumptive placement as a way of protecting against families sleeping in places not fit for human habitation.  Both at the meeting with Alvina and our meeting today, providers shared that they have not encountered families in a position where they have been denied EA in the face of sleeping in unsafe places.  Alvina stressed that she always wants to be called if providers are seeing families in this situation.

Donna also announced that next year’s budget proposes to invest more dollars into congregate shelter with the recognition that this is necessary to move families out of motels into more supportive settings.

Everyone expressed support for this move, also recognizing the challenge of start-up costs (rehab) and the challenge of finding the units.  But providers are on board for implementation.

Needs assessment of homeless youth and children:

Shannon Barry of Springfield Public Schools and Jordana O’Connell of Holyoke Public Schools distributed a quick needs assessment to gain feedback from committee members regarding the homeless school population in order to inform their grant application for McKinney-Vento funding.

Discussed priorities:

  • Summer programming
  • After-school programming
  • Bi-lingual counseling services
  • Counseling for children who witnessed violence, specifically domestic violence
  • Translation services

Faith announced that conversations are beginning with DMH, DPH and DHCD regarding getting mental health outreach workers into the hotels to serve homeless families.  Also work is underway with Providence Hospital to bring treatment services to families in motels.

Ken Demers noted that a crisis looms for families who have obtained employment through Secure Jobs Connect but now face summers without school-age child care or camps.  40-50 families could be facing this gap.

Lourdes Sariol of DHCD shared that DEEC offers 696 child care slots for homeless families, 132 allocated to Western Mass.  For school-age children there are 48 slots with 12 in Western Mass.  The gap between resources and need is evident.

Agreed to bring this issue to the Secure Jobs Connect Advisory Committee meeting later today.  This issue requires our focused attention.

Other updates: 

Cris Carl of Family Inn/ServiceNet raised question on time lag for non-compliance/termination process for EA families.  Donna Nadeau noted that there is an entirely new staff at DHCD on this issue and they are in the process of getting up to speed.  Donna suggested that anyone with any specific issues around non-compliance should email her directly.

Faith Lafayette of FOR Families noted that DHCD is now providing additional transportation to families staying in the Econo-Lodge in Chicopee.

Shannon Barry of Springfield Public Schools  announced  this Saturday’s  Springfield Parent Academy event, 8:30-1:30 pm at Chestnut Middle School – open to all families, 2 courses on variety of topics, e.g, building self-esteem, budgeting.  Families can walk in or register online at  All free of charge.

Bonnie Caldwell of HAP:  RAFT funds are all committed for Hampden/Hampshire County.  Can provide info.

Donna Nadeau shared that she did a site review of Open Pantry and learned about the increased demand among women and unaccompanied youth.  Many families coming there from the Chicopee hotels.

Next meeting:  Tuesday, 5/13, 1 pm – 2:30, Holyoke, NEFWC

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