Leadership Council Meeting
January 30, 2014

In attendance:  Father Stan Aksamit, Our Lady of Peace Parish, Jane Banks, Center for Human Development, Paul Bailey, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, Catholic Charities, Steve Como, Soldier On, Patricia Crosby, Franklin/Hampshire Career Center, Sylvia DeHaas-Phillips, United Way of Pioneer Valley, Judge Robert Fields, Western Division Housing Court, Clare Higgins, Community Action, Dave Gadaire, CareerPoint, Peter Gagliardi, HAPHousing, Joanne Glier, Dept. of Transitional Assistance, Brad Gordon, Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority, Community Action, Steve Huntley, Valley Opportunity Council, Charlie Knight, consumer, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS – Homeless Services, Kim Lee, Square One, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Bill Messner, Holyoke Community College, Diana McLean, City of Westfield, Bill Miller, Friends of the Homeless, Dave Modzelewski, Network,  Marsha Montori, 6 Point Creative, Andrew Morehouse, Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, Jay Sacchetti, ServiceNet, Robin Sherman, Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Jerry Ray, Mental Health Association, George Ryan, Hampden County Regional Employment Board, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Lynne Wallace, HAPHousing, Jennifer Wuest, Behavioral Health Network

Budget Update:

Click here for a copy of the budget update distributed at the meeting.
The Network is in good fiscal shape so far this year.
Secured $15K from Community Foundation of Western Mass.
Received $14,000 in sustaining contributions from partners thus far.  Had budgeted $18,000 (ambitious!); still time to donate ‘til June 30!
Expense side of the budget is fine.

Network Program Updates:
Pamela shared the success of the Secure Jobs Connect celebration on 1/10/14.  17 elected officials involved; 12 businesses, powerful personal stories from clients served.  A very compelling combination of heart and politics with potentially substantial impact around growing the program!

Pamela also provided an update on the SAMHSA grant – final year of 3 year grant to provide clinical support services to chronically homeless individuals with dual diagnoses of mental health and substance abuse.  Very successful program, working to meet goals (biggest challenge is finding available housing units but progress being made); Andrea’s work on the online Housing Options Tool is proceeding and it will go online in the next few months.

Network website revamped (huge thanks to Andrea), providing more data on different relevant issues.  Website traffic has increased (yesterday alone saw 194 visitors to the website).  We also plan to cultivate media use of the website as the go-to spot for local and regional data.

COC Update (Gerry McCafferty):

Last night the annual Point in Time count took place (counting people in shelter, transitional housing, on the street).  Too soon for results, but early report suggest fewer people on the streets (and it was extremely cold).

This was the first time that both CoCs (Hampden County, Three County – Hampshire, Franklin, Berkshire) worked together in coordinating data, creating an opportunity to look at the regional picture.  Very exciting.

New this year:  a statewide sponsored youth count (administered by each CoC).  Counting and surveying unaccompanied homeless youth 18-24 years old (including parents in hotels who fit the age criteria).   State is compiling all data to then distribute back to local regions.  Very exciting opportunity to learn about this population (already clear from anecdotal surveys that a wealth of information that could be available)

Clare Higgins: can we survey next age cohort of moms in motels (25 and older) – would be interesting data to review and compare with younger group.

Gerry pointed out that for the first time ever HMIS is now tracking families in motels and that will be a good data resource, providing for comparative opportunities.

HUD renewal application due on 2/3 for all CoCs.  In this region, a total of $3.6 million is at stake.  Applications are meeting new HUD priorities of  Permanent Supportive Housing for chronically homeless individuals and families;  rapid re-housng for families .

As part of application, each CoC must review whether it has met its specific targets.  Hampden County has met all of them (congratulations!).  Cut in funding this year due to sequestration.  Next year’s budget restores the cut.

Marsha Montori’s Presentation on branding/strategic development

Click here for powerpoint presentation that formed basis for discussion that follows.

Andrew Morehouse:  the big question is for the Leadership Council to select key areas of concentration, balancing depth and breadth of who and what we are.

Peter Gagliardi:  commented on the huge issues that we have to attend to before we can solve homelessness, e.g., minimum wage, growing income disparity, disappearance of jobs in urban areas.

Clare Higgins:  we need to think about how we talk about success and the areas where we need more work.  Would be useful to articulate a high level goal, eg.  making lives better, providing new opportunities, protecting children’s future.  On data collection/data repository, every agency is collecting all the time; would be interesting to think about how we do that in a collaborative way so that we’re collecting data that is useful across the Network.

Marsha Montori:  Agreed on the data piece and the importance of having someone in the Network take ownership of that piece, making sure we are gathering and putting data all in one place.

Brad Gordon:  The Network should be seen above all as a vehicle to implement collective impact policies, starting with a collective impact perspective.  We have precisely the cross-section of people within the Network that allows us to do that.  We can’t look at housing or homelessness in an isolated manner.  We still need to get broader investment across the community to make policymakers accountable for responding holistically to homelessness  and housing instability.

Father Stan:  The first positive is that the Network exists.  We need to use the power of our collective wisdom to declare as a group what we feel needs to get done, e.g., zero in on the next 3 steps we would like policymakers to take and push on them.

Bill Miller:  One of the practical things that we need to advocate for is a sound business model for the Network itself.  Everybody is around the table saying we want the Network, but we don’t have stability.  We need a primary point of advocacy to be the Network itself, then the rest can follow.

Kathryn Buckley-Brawner:  on a provider level, we spend  time responding to state (or federal) policies without sufficient opportunity to bring the benefit of our experiences to those who shape the policies.

Jerry Ray:  We should examine our Network name – “to end homelessness” – and consider changing it to better reflect the process and accurate measures, e.g., to have an IMPACT, recognizing that we won’t necessarily END homelessness.

Gerry McCafferty:    As we acknowledge all of the issues that impact homelessness (poverty, etc.),  the question is how to be most effective.  We still have the internal work to do regarding what are we doing on the ground, and whether we are creating our own best responses to homelessness, separate and apart from how we want state or federal authorities to fund or change policies.

Andrew Morehouse:  With greater clarity and accountability, we can have a greater impact.  At what cost can we have the greatest impact?  At what point is the marginal impact not very great?  Find the most impact for the least amount of cost.  The Network is providing tremendous value with a budget of $80,000/year.

Bill Messner:  Key is to determine to do something and to devote our resources as limited as they may be to that something, develop a specific work plan to work that something.  There are so many possibilities, and we just need to pick what we are focusing on.

Clare Higgins:  Our outcomes have been defined by shifting sands of state policy.  We need to change the approach to take a leadership role and declare what we need to have happen.  We need to decide the outcomes that we want, and help move state policy to support us in getting there.  We have proven success that gives us the authority we need.  As we’re in an election year, this is a great time to get clear on our strategy  and our priorities, use our data and outcomes to support them, and advocate.

Jay Levy:  It is very important to know we are relying on proven models of paths to housing.  The Utah model that was written about (“solving homelessness by giving apartments to homeless individuals”) is not that straightforward or successful as written.  Must be careful to understand complexities before touting any one model.

Discussion of Network Advocacy on FY15 State Budget

Peter  Gagliardi:  While he would love to see the appropriation of 50-60,000 vouchers to address the gap in affordable housing, he recognizes that is not likely to happen!   Instead, this past year, HAP experimented with putting their stabilization funds into job training and job placements (partnerships with CareerPoint and FutureWorks, working in collaboration with Secure Jobs Connect) and experienced great success (about 100 job placements of the regional total).  Would like to see greater investment in job placement and training; increasing the minimum wage.  While we can easily endorse CHAPA’s legislative priorities, we need to look at things that will support people beyond homelessness.

Robin Sherman:  Agreed.  We have a good sense of what works and we need to advocate for more of it.

Brad Gordon:  RAFT should be tied into economic literacy, which will provide greater value for the people we’re serving.  We need to focus on a broader approach that will support individual and families to make decisions that will have longer time positive consequences for their lives.   It is also very important to decouple these support resources from entering shelter.  We need to be vigilant about the issue of creating perverse incentives to enter shelter.

Bill Miller:  Continuing to work on an increase in the unit bed rate for individual homeless shelters.  This is critically important to allow Friends of the Homeless and other shelters to provide their essential services.  Hoping for Network support of this item.

Dave Modzelewski:   We need to figure out how to fund more affordable housing units, a critical component to addressing the underlying poverty issue.

Steve Como:  We have an opportunity  to be more relevant around our goals for Western Mass.   We need to drive our issues, not necessarily take the lead on a statewide level.  It is easier for legislators if there is one group representing a broad region.  We become most relevant if we focus on Western Mass.

Gerry McCafferty:  We have highest rate of families in motels, very high poverty population, disconnected from work and education.  A Western Mass. solution is appropriate because our challenge is huge.   A more narrow ask is more powerful.

Pamela Schwartz:   DHCD Is about to release a $1 million statewide RFP to support the Secure Jobs initiative.  There is the likely possibility of some more resources in this area in the near future.

Dave Gadaire:  We need to get the State to see this challenge in a much bigger light ($1 million statewide to do job support is a drop in the bucket to respond to the level of need.  If we’re going to make a difference, everyone has to understand and act based on what making a difference requires.  We need to have  vision beyond first employment, more relevant is where they are 10 years from now.

Clare Higgins:  We need to look at how these families are connected to their communities, their children’s schools, a holistic approach to make sustainability a reality for these families.

Clare suggested a multi-pronged approach to our advocacy:

  1. Bring  Secure Jobs to scale
  2. Support minimum wage increase
  3. Expand Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to individuals (right now, only families are eligible)
  4. Ask for an earmark for Network funding

Next steps prior to our February meeting:

  1.  Family and individual services committees will meet regarding budget discussion and will make  recommendations that will in turn come to Leadership Council prior to Feb. meeting
  2. Follow-up with LC members regarding points raised in this discussion as part of Feb. meeting prep.
  3. Steering/Community Engagement committees will meet to follow-up on strategic planning discussion, preparing to make concrete proposal for Network focus and direction.  Likely to be presented at April meeting.

Next meeting:

Wednesday, February 26
10 am – 12 noon
Our Lady of Peace Parish
Turners Falls, MA

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