Leadership Council Meeting Minutes
February 26, 2014

 In attendance:  Jim Ayer, United Way of Hampshire County, Father Stan Aksamit, Our Lady of Peace Parish, Mary Jane Bacon, Office of Senator Rosenberg, Peter Gagliardi, HAPHousing, Joanne Glier, DTA, Clare Higgins, Community Action, Steve Huntley, Valley Opportunity Council, Peg Keller, City of Northampton, Bill Miller, Friends of the Homeless, George Ryan, Hampden County Regional Employment Board, Lynne Wallace, HAPHousing,   Jennifer Wuest, Behavioral Health Network

The singular agenda item for this meeting was discussion and decision making around the Network’s legislative priorities for the FY15 state budget.

Note: Implicit in the discussion (although never voted on) was Network support for CHAPA recommendations for FY15.

We began by reviewing each Network committee’s recommendations:

Individual Services Committee recommendation: endorsement of the increase in the Homeless Individuals Line-Item 7004-0102. Click here for more information.

This proposed budget item would increase this line item by $8 million (to $48.5m) and make all shelters’ nightly unit rates not lower than the State average unit rate of $32/unit.

Friends of the Homeless would see a $350,000 budget increase with this change (currently at $25/unit).  Samaratin Inn and ServiceNet shelters would also see an increase.  This proposal has the support of  a broad coalition of shelters from across the state.

Discussion:  all agreed on the region’s need for this additional investment.  Mary raised the issue of why our region is not demanding parity in relation to the Eastern part of the state.  Bill explained that legislators are recommending this approach as the best strategy to get us closer to that goal.  All agreed that the real solution lies in putting the system out to bid and creating a uniform rate, but acknowledged that reprocurement will not be happening this year (or likely in the immediate future).

Mary Reardon Johnson:  moved to adopt Committee’s recommendation to support the Housing Individuals Line Item 7004-0102.
Steve Huntley:  seconded
Vote:  All in favor with Joanne Glier abstaining.
Motion passed.

Family Services Committee recommendation: adoption of  proposed language change in EA legislation so that families are eligible if they are “within 24 hours of staying in a place not meant for human habitation.”  Click here for related fact sheet.

Peter Gagliardi noted that this change could open the floodgates for families looking to obtain a subsidy or rental assistance; that the larger problem is a lack of affordable housing and that issue cannot be solved with this EA change; that our region’s response to families in emergency situations, executed on a local basis by HAP and VOC, cannot be translated on a state level without unintended negative consequences (note the quick expenditure of SDTEAP funds).

Jane Banks:  Families are not entering the EA system for a subsidy or rental assistance.   They are looking for shelter.  Based on DHCD’s own data (cited in MLRI factsheet), 264 families were put in emergency unsheltered situations due to current policy.  The change in policy would prevent this emergency for those few hundred families and not open the floodgates.  This change is also important as part of the effort for DHCD to apply EA’s “presumptive eligibility” more effectively.

Pamela noted that the Family Services Committee’s rejection of additional funding for SDTEAP was premised on this policy change, i.e., that SDTEAP should not be necessary if the EA system was implemented  as intended, providing emergency shelter to families in emergency situations.  Pamela also reminded the Council to consider the weight of the Family Services Committee ‘s analysis and recommendation on this issue.

Jerry Ray expressed concern that the legislature is more interested in restricting access to EA than expanding it; concerned this change would stand little chance of passing.

Clare Higgins said she has no problem with the policy change and recognizes that the “devil is in the details” in terms of applying the change itself.  But more importantly, she is frustrated by the smallness of the vision for change being proposed by our leading statewide organizations.  There is no strong ask for more affordable housing.  We need to change the baseline and move the system in a larger way.

Jim Ayres noted that as a non-expert, he and other generalists like him on the Leadership Council can only be useful around the big picture change of creating more affordable housing or that similar level of advocacy; can’t get into the weeds since he has nothing to contribute there.  He would like to be useful in moving things forward but has no opportunity if he and others like him are not given broader agenda to address.

Bill Miller:  Moved to support Family Services Committee recommendation to support language change to EA so that families are eligible for EA if “within 24 hours of staying in a place not meant for human habitation.”
Jane Banks:  Seconded Motion

In support:  Mary Reardon Johnson, Bill Miller, Peg Keller, Jerry Ray, Father Stan Aksamit, Clare Higgins, Jennifer Wuest, Jane Banks, Steve Huntley, Jim Ayres
Opposed:  George Ryan, Peter Gagliardi, Lynne Wallace, Mary-Jane Bacon
Abstaining:  Joanne Glier
Motion passed.

Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Committee Recommendations:  support House Bill 135 and FY15 Budget Request to fund MA Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth bills. Click here and here for related fact sheets.

These are companion requests, House Bill 135 requiring the funding of services for unaccompanied homeless youth and the FY budget request providing the vehicle for the funding.  Both requests are supported by the MA Coalition for the Homeless and a large coalition of statewide and local groups (including the Network in the past).

Clare Higgins:  moved to adopt recommendation to support House Bill 135 and FY Budget Request for unaccompanied homeless youth
Peter Gagliardi: seconded

Vote:  all in favor
Abstaining: Joanne Glier
Motion passed.

Discussion of Secure Jobs Connect.

Pamela updated the Leadership Council that statewide discussions (which include the Network) were underway on the best advocacy strategy for additional funding for this workforce development effort for homeless families, but it is too soon to know the best vehicle.  She recommended that the Leadership Council give its endorsement of the Network advocating for the agreed upon strategy once it is decided in collaboration with other partners.

Peter Gagliardi:  moved to support Network’s advocacy for additional funding for SJC.
Bill Miller: seconded
Vote:  all in favor
Abstaining:  Joanne Glier
Motion passed.

Discussion of advocacy for Network earmark

All agreed that we must advocate for Network earmark in the name of our unique role both in the region and the state as a collaborative and innovative resource on homelessness.

Pamela will reach out to key local legislators and begin discussions and bring in partners for meetings (agreed to rely on “generalists,” eg Father Stan, Jim Ayres, for the broadest partnership support)

Peg Keller:  moved to support Network advocacy for earmark for $125-150,000 in the state budget
Jerry Ray: seconded
Vote:  all in favor
Abstaining:  Joanne Glier
Motion passed.

Minimum Wage Bill

Clare Higgins expressed the belief on behalf of the group that we must take a position on this critical issue as part of our ultimate goal to end homelessness.

Clare Higgins:  moved to support Network advocacy in support of the minimum wage bill.
Mary Reardon Johnson:  seconded
Vote:  All in favor
Abstaining:  Joanne Glier
Motion passed.

Discussion of next steps around the larger agenda of increasing investment in affordable housing

Clare suggested that we need to break it down for our region, relying on concrete targets; bring in housing developers, CDCs, outlying towns alongside big cities.

We agreed Pamela will convene a small group meeting to plan a larger regional gathering around this.  Pamela will follow-up with:  Clare, Peter, Steve H, Jane, Robin, Elton, Brad, Gerry, Joanne, Peg

Meeting adjourned:  11:50 am.

Next meeting:  April 23, 10 am – 12 noon, Hampshire County


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