Family Services Meeting Committee Minutes
December 9, 2014

In attendance: Shannon Barry, Springfield Public Schools, Toni Bator, HAPHousing, Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, Catholic Charities, Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Jamie Chazan, Valley Opportunity Council, Sarah Cloutier, YWCA, Charity Day, Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Harry Duchesne, New England Farm Workers Council, Brenda Douglas, Square One ,Jill Fijal, Chicopee Public Schools, Donna Harris, Franklin Hampshire Career Center, Sean Hemingway, Center for Human Development, Faith Lafayette, DPH FOR Families, Jane Lindfors, DTA DV unit, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Janet Mock, Square One, jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schoos, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners, Liza Rios, YWCA, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Lauren Voyer, HAPHousing

DHCD Update (Bonnie Caldwell):

Families in hotels: 1,720 statewide, continuing to decline. For Western Mass., we are down from 500 to 345 families living in hotels. This decline Is due to a number of factors: increased diversion at the front door; increased shelter capacity statewide, allowing families to back to their communities of origin.

Additional support staff in hotels is making a difference. Great coordination among all providers – HAPHousing, CHD, NEFWC, ServiceNet.

Diversion from shelter at DHCD’s front door is up from 5 per cent to 15 per cent. This is due to the placement of 2 full-time CHD staff in the DHCD office. The staff are fantastic at what they do and the model of being AT the DHCD office works.

Towards the Network goal of becoming more data-driven in our outcomes, we discussed the utility of establishing a standard DHCD template of informative data to review each month.   We brainstormed this possible list of monthly data:

# of shelter entries/denials (by DHCD office)
# diverted (by DHCD office)
# of families experiencing domestic violence
# of exits from shelters and hotels
#s of families re-entering shelter
# of families out of community of origin

Bonnie will bring this back to DHCD and report back about what is available at our next meeting.

New Family Permanent Supportive Housing Available

Valley Opportunity Council announced that they are now taking referrals for their new scattered site PSH for chronically homeless families. 8 units available for 20 people total, including 4 disabled adults over age 24, 4 disabled adults between 18 and 24 and 12 unaccompanied non-disabled children under the age of 18. Families must meet a minimum score on the family VI-SPDAT (assessment tool). A ½ time case manager will be available for support services.

Click here for more information, or contact Jamie Chazan at VOC at [email protected], 413-552-1554 ext. 701.

Secure Jobs Update

Toni Bator provided an update on the program. Partners – HAP, CareerPoint, FutureWorks, CPM, CHD and NEFWC – are sponsoring a “rally” to bring in participants to the program: Friday, December 19, 11 am – 1 pm, CHD’s PACE School, 69 Capital Drive, West Springfield. This is an exciting opportunity to build recruitment for the program.

Pamela invited everyone to the 2nd annual Secure Jobs Celebration on Friday, Feb. 6, 2015, 10 am – 11:30 am at the Kittredge Center, Holyoke Community College. We will honor participating employers and employees with legislators, mayors, our Network partners and the media present. It is an inspiring event and everyone should come if they can!

Point in Time Count – HUD and MA

Gerry McCafferty, Hampden County CoC administrator (and Springfield Housing Director) provided an update on the PIT count which will take place on Wed., Jan. 28. This is a HUD-mandated event where all homeless people are counted (in emergency shelter, transitional housing or on the street). We receive family data from DHCD’s HMIS system. Work is happening now to ensure “clean data” on families living in hotels in advance of the count.

At the same time, MA is conducting a youth count, counting and surveying unaccompanied homeless youth under age 24. This will include heads of household under 24 who are unaccompanied and have children.  The youth count will begin on 1/28 and continue until 2/3. The definition of homeless is broader than HUD’s, including doubled-up and couch-surfing.

Gerry did an analysis of last year’s data (click here), showing that : 234 youth were surveyed; 193 youth were homeless, 29 of these were doubled up; 53 youth were at risk of becoming homeless. 95% of homeless youth were between the ages of 18-24, 5% under the age of 18. The majority of the homeless youth that were surveyed were in the family shelter system (as head s of households) so the data is not an accurate reflection of all youth who were homeless on the night of the count. 75% were pregnant or parenting and vast majority were female. National data indicates that the number of homeless youth includes more males than females and that 20-40% are LGBTQ. Our data set is 95% female and 94% straight. Please see attachment for more detail.

Right now we need to spread the word to recruit as many providers and points of contact with homeless youth as possible. Please use facebook page and twitter, as well as survey of providers to help reach youth. Please distribute widely!

Legislative Priorities

We discussed our recommendations for the Network’s legislative priorities for FY16.

Steve Huntley inquired about the prospects for another Network earmark. Pamela shared that she was advised that additional earmark funding is extremely unlikely under the new Administration, and that the implementation of our current funding is only just about to get underway; that we should stay tuned on the potential for advocacy around an additional earmark but need more time to ascertain this.

Lauren Voyer pointed out that the Regional Housing Network is in the middle of preparing its priorities right now, which should be ready by January. Pamela shared that CHAPA is doing the same and relayed their current thinking per her conversation with CHAPA’s policy director. Pamela also relayed Mass. Coalition for the Homeless’ priorities as of now.

We agreed that our recommended priorities would be to: increase funding:

  • Increase funding for MRVP ($100 million per CHAPA, MCH and a coalition of groups’ recommendations)
  • Increase RAFT (amount uncertain, subject to additional information)
  • Maintain or increase HomeBASE funding so $8K continues to be available to exit shelter
  • Restore funding to Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCEC)
  • Increase funding for Secure Jobs

We discussed the agenda item of expanding EA eligibility to include families at risk of living in places unfit for human habitation. The group consensus was that in light of the debate within our community – our providers are not seeing families falling between the cracks and are experiencing quick responses to crisis situations – they do not feel this policy change is a priority. We will continue to collect feedback on what is happening in our region and respond accordingly.

We discussed the overarching problem of limited affordable housing and the fact that many families are required to live in neighborhoods they consider unsafe or housing that is below standard. This raises the larger question of housing production, which Gerry pointed out is something that is really addressed on a very local level. Pioneer Valley Planning Commission is in the process of addressing this issue on a regional basis.

We discussed the potential impact of the casino on Springfield housing. Gerry noted that private market rents are likely to go up, which will help repair blighted buildings while also increasing rents. In the downtown area, 90% of units are subsidized. MGM plans to build 50-65 high-end units, which will put more pressure on the market in downtown Springfield.

FOR Families Update: Faith Lafayette reported on the change in FOR Families role in the motels, now focusing exclusively on families at greater risk, including those with addiction or mental health issues, child welfare or domestic violence issues. This is a pilot project for Western MA alone and it’s working extremely well and will soon expand to other regions in the state. Now in 6 of 9 Western MA hotels (DCF is based in the remainder). About 1/3 of families at hotels are being seen by FOR Families.

Lauren Voyer shared that she is generally impressed by the level of communication among all providers working at the hotels; that there is much more coverage and support, hotel office managers are now working more collaboratively. Grateful to everyone.

It was also noted that every week all providers come together for a 90 minute meeting to assess and trouble shoot. This is a great opportunity to zero in on individual family situations and also permanent supportive housing needs for families. We noted that it would be useful to connect VOC (with new PSH) to these meetings.

Harry Duschene provided a note of appreciation to the partnership of Jordana O’Connell, theHolyoke Public School homelessness liaison, in the efforts to address homeless children’s school needs.

Next meeting: Tuesday, 1/13, 9:30-11, Northampton Senior Center.

«   »

Return to full list of blog posts.