Individual Services Committee Meeting Minutes
September 4, 2014

In attendance: Deb Aloisi, Friends of the Homeless, Karen Dean, Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, Hwei-Ling Greeney, Amherst Community Connections, Janice Humason, Friends of the Homeless, Nichole King, Friends of the Homeless, Samantha Lambert, Friends of the Homeless, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS – Homeless Services; Sara Lopes, Friends of the Homeless, Betsaide Maldonado, Katie Miernecki, ServiceNet, Bill Miller, Friends of the Homeless, Dave Modzelewski, Network, Claudia Phillips, Mercy/Health Care for the Homeless, Lizzie Malave, City of Springfield, Tom Ray, Friends of the Homeless, Laura Saponare, Catholic Charities, Joe Schroeter, Samaritan Inn, Rebekah Wilder, Craigs Doors, Delphine Wray, Friends of the Homeless,

Continuing Discussion of Coordinated Assessment/VI-SPDAT tool:

Gerry reported back about last month’s meeting in Northampton where it was decided to recommend to the Hampden County CoC Board of Directors that they require all CoC funded programs to utilize the VI-SPDAT tool. She wanted to review and affirm that decision again since attendees vary between Northampton and Springfield meetings. Gerry clarified that this vote would be an adoption of the basic principle; that policies and procedures would still need to be developed around actual implementation.

Jay Levy underscored the importance of the process and capacity for an override of a VI-SPDAT score due to various limitations, e.g., interviewing people who are not verbal and not able to sit through the survey, thereby scoring without many answers. He also noted the challenge of having staff and support services currently in existence for people living in shelter or on the streets which may have them score lower (and therefore not be eligible for permanent supportive housing) but without those services would not be able to maintain housing, i.e., in fact should be eligible for PSH.

Gerry noted that these issues will be addressed in the procedural guidelines to be developed, as well as issues around how to incorporate the survey results into HMIS; guidelines around confidentiality, process for how referrals happen and grievance procedures.

Bill Miller noted that the CoC funds a wide range of housing at different levels for different resources, and asked whether all funded programs will be required to use this tool regardless of funding levels and types.

Gerry explained HUD’s increasing emphasis on use of this kind of screening tool and anticipates it will see an absolute requirement for EVERY CoC program to assess and prioritize PSH under the Housing First model with the use of a universal tool. In short: yes, regardless of level or type of funding, every CoC program that provides PSH will be required to use this tool. But where there are particular programmatic needs or barriers, the development of policies and procedures will address them. model.

Gerry reviewed Hampden CoC PSH units:

HRU: 22 units
MHA Shelter Plus Care: 48 units
River Valley Counseling Center: 9 units
SMOC/Open Pantry – Tranquility House (8) and Bowdoin Street (13)
FOH: 4 units (to become 32)

Roughly 100 units total right now. Next year, will add Safe Haven, Annie’s House, Loretto House, Samaratin Inn

Additionally, VOC and MLK are launching family programs (8 units each); HAP has also a family program (Turning Point) in Holyoke (10 units).

Gerry also noted that HUD recently released new guidelines for prioritizing chronic homelessness, and the impact of these guidelines on PSH still remains to be sorted through.

We still have to develop a referral flow. Potential users of the tool include: Friends of the Homeless, Health Care for the Homeless, Open Pantry, Samaratin Inn, HRU, Mental Health Association, YWCA, Eliot Services (PATH proram), Loreto’s House. One vision is that the VI-SPDAT tool would feed into the REACH groups where best matches of client to housing option would be made. The goal is to open up and standardize access to PSH, so that programs are no longer limited to their own particular “feeders” but there is a regional perspective and allocation of units based on systematically established need, not based on who the referring agency is.

Delphine Wray of Friends of the Homeless reported on their piloting of the tool. They surveyed approximately 30 guests, 15 of whom were found eligible for PSH under the tool.

Gerry noted that HUD is changing HMIS standards in October, so they will wait to make any system changes until then, but in the meanwhile they answered the outstanding question regarding data sharing, determining that they do have the capacity to put VI-SPDAT into HMIS and share score without sharing protected health information (and can share more if release is provided).

Bill Miller moved that the Hampden County CoC Board of Directors adopt the VI-SPDAT as a required tool for all CoC funded programs that provide PSH (subject to additional policies and procedures to be developed). All in favor: unanimous!

Gerry collected names of people interested in participating in the development of policies and procedures.

Other announcements/issues

  • Dave Modzelewski reminded everyone of the Housing First training on Thursday, October 16 at HCC. Excellent opportunity for all providers. Please register now by going to:
  • Hwei-Ling Greeney asked about the Housing Options Tool and whether it was possible to add units to the tool. Pamela and Gerry pointed out that the Network’s SAMHSA grant paid for the development of the tool (by Andrea Miller) but we now need to secure additional funds to maintain the tool. That will be a very high Network priority.
  • Bill Miller noted that the shelter need at Friends of the Homeless continues to be extremely high (160 people in shelter last night). He also raised the concern around the increasing number of beatings of homeless people that have occurred recently (9-10 young men surrounding the person and beating them, including reference to their homelessness).   It was noted that this reflects a pattern of behavior occurring across the country. Everyone expressed their deep concern. The police have been contacted and are involved, but Gerry will follow-up to learn more around what is happening and if and how we can provide any additional support.
  • Katie Miernicki of ServiceNet noted Grove Street Shelter in Northampton is also full.
  • The Hampden County CoC is holding its annual meeting on 9/19, 10:30-11:30 am at HCC. All are welcome.

Next meeting date: Thursday, October 2, Northampton Senior Center, 10:30-noon

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