Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
September 9, 2014
In attendance: Luz Alvarado, HAP, Jane Banks, Center for Human Development, Arelia Barrios, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Shannon Barry, Springfield Public Schools, Alvina Brevard, DHCD, Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Elizabeth Connor, TPP, Charity Day, FRHRA, Jenni Delmonte, TPP, Anthia Eliott, Safe Passage, Erin Forbush, ServiceNet, Brenda Douglas, Square One, Sean Hemingway, Center for Human Development, Steve Huntley, Valley Opportunity Council, Lisa Lapierre, CPM/Secure Jobs Connect, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Jane Lindfors, DTA/DV, Janet Mock, Square One, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners, Hilda Santa, Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity, Lourdes Sariol, DHCD, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Sarah Slautterback, DESE, Rachel Trant, DCF, Janette Vigo, HAP
DHCD update: Alvina Brevard, statewide field director, introduced Bonnie Caldwell (formerly of HAP) as new regional director of field operations for Western and Central Mass. Bonnie will provide her contact info to Pamela who will send it out to this list. We welcomed Bonnie to her new position. We are so glad she is there!
Alvina provided approximate numbers of homeless families statewide: Just over 5,000 families in the EA system, 3,000 in shelter; 2,200 in motels. In Western Mass., we have roughly 350 families living in hotels/motels. Alvina expressed her appreciation for all the providers’ tremendous work in the face of tremendous demand.
Alvina noted that approximately 32 families enter the shelter system per day statewide. Approximately 37 families seek EA each day at the Western Mass. office (in Boston, about 50).
DHCD responses: HomeBASE re-housing funds have increased, now offering $8,000 upon exiting shelter/motels ($6,000 at the front door). DHCD has contracted for substantial increase of congregate shelter beds to help move homeless families out of the hotels.
DHCD Undersecretary Gornstein has met with community leaders in Chicopee, Greenfield and West Springfield regarding their high numbers of homeless families in hotels. Some changes are underway, including the assignment of more intensive case management 7 days/week, 2 pm -11 pm. Contracts are in process with current housing stabilization providers.
Jane Lindfors of DTA/DV unit expressed her desire to be part of the discussion regarding DV issues and how best to respond to DV situations in hotels.
Lourdes Sariol of DHCD noted that we need to look closely at building capacity among neighborhood agencies so necessary support such as job development and child care can be provided to help maintain families’ housing stability and prevent homelessness.
Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke public school homelessness liaison, expressed the need for more support at the Holyoke hotels. They are in need of greater case management support.
Charity Day of Franklin Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority shared that there are now 84 homeless families living in 2 hotels in Greenfield. ServiceNet (via Fran Lemay) will be providing some intensive case management support.
Homeless families in emergency situations: We checked in on the issue of whether and how many homeless families have been found ineligible for EA (and put in a position of living in a place not fit for human habitation). Providers have seen very few cases in the Western region and have not experienced families being forced to sleep in unsafe places. Those homeless families who have been found ineligible for EA (anecdotally, mostly due to being over-income) have received help from other sources to prevent living in unfit places. Lizzy Ortiz of the City of Springfield reported she has referred a few families to Catholic Charities and they were able to provide resources to place them in hotels prior to being found eligible for RAFT. Charity Day of FRHRA has seen a few families in Franklin County found ineligible due to being over-income or having been evicted from subsidized housing. Most have ultimately received RAFT.
Anthia Elliot of Safe Passage noted that her staff is seeing an increase in families calling for housing (not victims of DV), saying they have been found ineligible for EA.
We all agreed on the importance of TRACKING all of these interactions, and committed to using the tracking form. Please click here to obtain the form. Pamela asked everyone to send any completed forms to her (and she will at least be the holding spot until we figure out the appropriate resource for collating them).
Secure Jobs Connect Update (Lisa Lapierre):
Lisa summarized the 3 separate funding sources currently supporting this effort:
Fireman Foundation (initial project): into 2nd year – 69 families enrolled; 69 families have entered employment, 58 of those currently employed.
Commonwealth Corporation: funding Western Homeless Employment Network (WHEN) which serves both families and individuals in all 4 counties. 21 enrolled, 12 employed thus far.
DHCD – Secure Jobs Initiative with HAP as lead agency in partnership with CPM, CareerPoint and FutureWorks. 38 enrolled, 19 employed thus far.
Total numbers served to date: 128 enrolled; 89 currently working.
Additional funding in the works:
FY2015 state budget also includes $500,000 line-item. Western Mass. (via HAP) has submitted application for $60K (per DHCD guidance) to support program in Hampden County .
Fireman Foundation providing supplemental funds to support efforts in Berkshire and Franklin counties. Sub-contracts are in process now.
SJC invited to attend national summit on employment initiatives for homeless population! The Hampden County CoC received the invitation on behalf of us all from the US Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness, US Department of Labor, HUD and Butler Family Fund. We are one of 12 communities from across the country invited to share our experience and provide input about federal policies that could support these efforts. The event will take place on October 16 in Washington, DC (unfortunately conflicting with our regional Housing First training). A huge congratulations to Lisa for her tremendous leadership, along with all of our partners that are making this success possible.
Discussion of Harvard Catalyst project on family homelessness in Holyoke:
Pamela reviewed with the group the meetings that took place over the summer (which Pamela missed due to her leave of absence). Harvard Catalyst is a research/TA arm of Harvard Medical School and has ongoing grants with the MA DPH. DPH retained Catalyst to study home visiting programs for children. In the course of meeting with Western Mass providers, the issue of service needs for families in hotels (specifically Holyoke due to the location of the meeting) rose to the surface and the decision was made to focus on it. We all acknowledged that the fact that Pamela was on leave during this start-up phase contributed to the gap in connecting more completely to the Network. Pamela is now in contact with the point person for Catalyst and will be helping to bring the initiative within the Network umbrella and prevent any duplication of effort. Pamela will keep everyone posted as information and next steps unfold.
Sara Slautterback, DESE: 17,000 homeless students last year, 11% increase over the previous year.
Rachel Trant , DCF: noticing increase in community violence as a basis for eviction (as opposed to DV) but not a basis for EA eligibility. Would like to look more at this gap.
Luz Alvarado of HAP noted staff turnover: a new hire has been made for the Director of Rehousing and Stabilization, and she will be starting at the end of this month; the position of HCEC director has just been posted.
Lisa Lapierre of CPM shared that Ken Demers is leaving New England Farm Workers Council to become ED of Berkshire Works (Career Center in Berkshires). While we are so sad to see him go, we are so excited for this new opportunity and so grateful he will continue to partner with us on our Secure Jobs initiative. Congratulations, Ken!
REMINDER: Register for Housing First Training at HCC, 9 am – 4 pm, Thursday, 10/16. Go to https://www.westernmasshousingfirst.org to register!
Next meeting: Tuesday, October 14, 1-2:30 pm, NEFWC, 225 High Street, Holyoke