Family Services Committee
May 13, 2014

 In attendance: Shannon Barry, Springfield Public Schools, Melissa Brown, YWCA of Western Mass., Cris Carl, Family Inn, Greenfield, Charity Day, Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Ken Demers, New England Farm Workers Council, Brenda Douglas, Square One, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Faith Lafayette, FOR Families, Janet Mock, Square One, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Shannon Mumblo, Christina’s House, Maria Perez, New North Community Council, Shannon Porter, HAPHousing, Hilda Santa, Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action,

Report out on HAPHousing “summit” on family homelessness (Ken Demers and Shannon Porter): As part of its strategic planning process, HAP convened a meeting of shelter providers, advocates, researchers, state agency representatives, and the Network, to discuss strategies and direction around family homelessness. Discussion focused significantly on trauma-based care, and the impact of this approach and staff relationships (and staff care) on achieving stabilization.   The role of collaboration among partners and sharing resources were also featured prominently. There was general agreement that shelter is shifting more towards a transitional housing model so that support services are built into the system. These supports are key to moving out of shelter into permanent housing.

Christina’s House, new transitional housing for homeless women and children: Shannon Mumblo, director of Christina’s House, attended her first family services meeting to share information about a newly created transitional housing resource in Springfield. The home, just recently renovated and preparing to officially open in the next month, will provide housing to homeless or at-risk women with children. It is a faith-based non-profit organization that has raised its funding entirely through private fundraising. The home will offer multiple services, including access to child care, employment and training, mental health treatment and personal mentors. The typical stay will be 2 years, although flexible to go longer if appropriate. It is not referral based but encourages interested women to contact the organization directly. Eligibility criteria includes: (1) must have custody of the children (DCF involvement does not disqualify), legal US resident; not in a current domestic violence relationship; not currently using drugs or alcohol; faith-oriented and willing to participate in religious study (it is a Christian organization but all faiths are welcome); 30% of person’s income is the program fee. For more information, contact Shannon Mumblo at [email protected] or 413-297-5552.

State FY 15 Budget Update:

Senate Ways and Means about to release its budget. Will provide updates to committee as soon as available.

Discussed the House budget cut to HCEC (Housing Consumer Education) of $900,000, which will dramatically impact the regional housing authorities’ capacity to administer the RAFT program (since it relies on HCEC funding to do so).  Hopeful that the Senate budget will restore the program to level funding.

Discussed policy issue of expanding EA eligibility to families at imminent risk of homelessness. The amendment being sought by MLRI and Mass. Coalition for the Homeless (which the Network supports) did not make it into the House Budget. Waiting to hear on Senate. Meanwhile, Rose Evans, director of Housing Stabilization for DHCD, called Pamela to ask if the committee would like to have a conference call on the issue of EA presumptive eligibility (one of the means for ensuring no family is placed in an unsafe situation). All agreed we would like to move forward on this; Pamela will follow-up with Rose and let the committee know of the call date and time.

Secure Jobs Connect Update

Shannon Porter shared the exciting news that DHCD awarded Secure Jobs the full $250,000 grant requested. HAP is the lead agency, working closely with CPM, CareerPoint, FutureWorks and Square One. This award will allow the Secure Jobs program in Hampden County to continue intact. Dollars will be expended as of 7/1, although reporting begins 4/15.

Shannon acknowledged the tremendous work of SJC program director Lisa Lapierre in getting us to this successful place. Thank you, Lisa!

It was also acknowledged that our job retention rate in all of the initiatives thus far (SJC, HAP) is close to 80%, which is amazing. A testimony to the great work of all the partners.

Pamela noted that Fireman Foundation is providing matching funds of $1 million to augment DHCD funding. Pamela has been in touch with Sue Beaton of the Fireman Foundation, per Network direction, regarding pursuit of funds to support the SJC effort in Berkshire and Franklin Counties. Sue said she is waiting for the DHCD process to finalize and will be back in touch.

Ken reported on the Commonwealth Corp. funded jobs initiative – WHEN (Western Homeless Employment Network): off to a great start, already with 10 enrollments. Funding primarily based in Franklin and Berkshire Counties.

FOR Families Update:

Good news is now FOR Families is fully staffed. But the statewide demand has required that a staff person be place in Leominster hotels, so there is not an additional staff person available for Western Mass. Motels. Providence Hospital coming to Holyoke Hotel tomorrow, working with out-patient clinical dept. to do educational workshop to connect families to substance abuse services.

Other Updates:

Charity Day of Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority shared that Franklin County is seeing an increase in the number of families from other parts of the state come to Greenfield. An increase in 9 families in one week.

Discussion of imminent pressure on the EA system as HomeBase runs out for many families and they are not RAFT eligible due to lack of sustainability. Concerned about the likely rise in families returning to shelter.

Also noted issue in Chicopee motels regarding Mayor’s demand for sprinkler systems and possible threat of closure for homeless families.

HAP, with Enlace de Familias, is hosting the Nurturing Fathers Program on 5/22 (thanks to Holyoke Public Schools for providing the site in Holyoke). The group agreed that this fathers program is very exciting and offers tremendous potential for meaningful support.

Next meeting: 6/10, 9:30-11, Northampton Senior Center

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