Individual Services Meeting
April 3, 2012

In attendance:  Ben Cluff, DPH, Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Danielle DeBerry, ServiceNet, Christina Densmore, Arise for Social Justice, Susan Fortin, DMH, Hwei-Ling Greeney, Amherst Community Connections, Peg Keller, City of Northampton, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS – Homeless Services, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Patty McDonnell,  SMOC, Dave Modzelewski, Network, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Wanda Rolon, ServiceNet, Laura Saponare, Catholic Charities, Pamela Schwartz, Network,

Critical Response Team update:  Jay Levy

2 year initiative to target the hardest to reach chronically homeless individuals, looking at vulnerability index, health care issues, previous history, current barriers, etc.

11 referrals thus far.  7 of them housed through a variety of housing options, e.g,. Safe Haven, MissionWest, Shelter Plus Care.

The CRT meetings occur after REACH meetings, drawing in necessary providers and state agency reps to address a particular individual’s situation.  It’s a model that works and is fundamentally based on bringing the right people around the table; flexibility around solutions (working with state agencies) and maximizing possible resources.

Coordinated Intake and Assessment discussion

Gerry McCafferty provided an update on where we are in this process.  Provided some context to the effort:  HUD’s concept of coordinated assessment is that we are screening people into programs, not out of them.  One of the concerns is that programs designed for the hardest to serve people are not serving those hardest to serve.  A consistent and coordinated assessment process would be a way to address this gap.

A concern has been raised regarding how to allocate staff resources (in under-staffed environments) to the assessment process.  This can be resolved by targeting the shelter population most in need of assessments, that is, those individuals/families who have been in the shelter system for more than 30 days.  Data shows that most individuals who enter shelter exit within 30 days.  Our first priority is to prevent shelter placement.  If that fails, and the person enters shelter, then the priority becomes rapid re-housing.  For the population that is not rapidly re-housed, i.e., in shelter for more than 30 days, this is where this assessment process would kick in.

Andrea Miller just finished a study of Hampden County CoC data that found that  13% of individuals/families returned to homelessness over 2 year period.  HUD goal is 5% rate of return.  Click here for data summary.

Critical to our data review is HMIS participation by providers – some non-CoC transitional housing providers are not yet participating.  Recruitment efforts will continue.

Gerry noted that the current federal budget proposal for FY15 has in it a huge increase for CoCs dedicated to housing chronically homeless people.

Gerry reported out on her and Dave Christopolis’ phone meeting with Iain deJong, an expert on assessing homelessness. He has worked for 10 years on an assessment tool, called SPDAT.  Others have introduced  another assessment tool called the Vulnerability Index.  The  VI-SPDAT is now a combined tool.

Iaian described his pre-screening tool, a 3-4 page tool that assesses who is most appropriate for Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH).  This is distinct from his main tool which is more of a case management vehicle, more intensive.  The pre-screening tool is very simple,  does not require Iaian to provide training to use it, and it is available free of charge. Go here to review the tool.

HUD is now placing its focus on PSH instead of transitional housing because the data  has shown that when transitional housing ends, too many individuals return to homelessness, indicating a need for PSH.  That shift to PSH is happening in our CoCs as well.  In Hampden, shift from transition to PSH is happening at Annie’s House, Samaratin Inn, Loretto’s House in Holyoke, Safe Haven in Springfield, Turning Point (HAP) in Springfield.  This shift also requires the elimination of barriers to housing entry, fundamentally a shift from rule based model to harm reduction model, becoming behavior based (not rule based).

The challenge is to assist staff and administrators in this shift from transitional to PSH model and all that it brings with it.  A shift from enforce compliance to facilitating recovery.

Agreed on next step:

Dave and Gerry will discuss best approach with Iain’s pre-screening tool and come to next meeting with recommendations.  Presumed we will bring people together to review pre-screening tool.  Agreed we will start with McKinney funded providers.

Hwei-Ling raised question of the “All Roads Home” plan and how we increase the number of housing units across the region.  Gerry noted that housing production is a very local challenge, requiring each city or town to analyze  how many units they have and whether they can add some more.  It is difficult to make a big housing plan for a large area without designated advocates in each locality pushing it.

Other updates:

Interfaith winter shelter closes at end of month, capacity is 20, at 16.

Catholic Charities:  Awarded  40K by DHCD to serve single individuals who are homeless or in shelter with first, last, security, can serve anyone in Western Mass.  Must spend by 7/1.

Hwei-Ling:  Updated on her transitional housing program in Amherst, which has graduated 16 people, 14 still have jobs and housing.  Demonstrates how intense case management support really works.  Every 90 days an evaluation is conducted and if there is satisfactory progress, the individual can stay; no other time limit.  4 new bed rooms available as of 4/1; 1 currently unoccupied.  Contact Hwei-Ling if interested in learning more.

Next meeting:

Thursday,  5/8, 10:30-noon, Friends of the Homeless

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