Leadership Council Meeting Minutes
April 23, 2014

In attendance: Jim Ayres, United Way of Hampshire County, Paul Bailey, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Tim Brennan, Pioneer Valley Planning Council, Kathryn Buckley-Brawner, Catholic Charities, Dave Christopolis, Hilltown CDC/ Three County CoC, Steve Como, Soldier On, Patricia Crosby, Franklin/Hampshire Career Center, Sylvia deHaas-Phillips, United Way of Pioneer Valley, Ken Demers, New England Farm Workers Council/Corporation for Public Management, Judge Rob Fields, Western Mass. Housing Court, Brad Gordon, Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority, Mary R. Johnson, YWCA of Western Massachusetts, Peg Keller, City of Northampton, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS – Homeless Services, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Diana McLeans, City of Westfield, Andrea Miller, Three County CoC/Network, Dave Modzelewski, Network, Andrew Morehouse, The Food Bank of Western Mass., Rebecca Muller, GrantsWork, Jerry Ray, Mental Health Association, George Ryan, Hampden County Regional Employment Board, Jay Sacchetti, ServiceNet, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Robin Sherman, Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Linda Stacy, United Way of Franklin County, Lynne Wallace, HAPHousing, Jennifer Wuest, Behavioral Health Network

Minutes of January 30, 2014 Leadership Council meeting
Motion to approve.
Robin Sherman moved to approve.
Brad Gordon seconded.
All in favor: unanimous

Andrew Morehouse noted that we did not approve February meeting minutes. Pamela will send them out in advance of June’s meeting for review.

Budget review 
The Network is on track for meeting its expenses this year.

Re: partnership contributions. Goal for FY14 was $18,000; contributions totaled $13,750. All agreed this was an excellent start for the first year of implementation.

Motion to approve continuing sustaining contributions for FY15:
Robin Serman moved.
Jay Sacchetti seconded.
All in favor: unanimous.

Gerry recommended that we communicate with all partners the amount donated last year so they know their baseline and request an increase if possible!

With regard to the FY15 budget, Pamela shared that she received approval from the Network’s Executive Committee to take a leave of absence for two months, July-August, 2014, to live in Ecuador with her family. She will stay connected to the Network via email but work irregular and minimal hours, so cost-savings will occur.

Continuum of Care (CoC) update:

Three County CoC, Dave Christopolis: Submitted application to HUD in Feb. to renew funding of $1.6 million. Received one renewal grant thus far of $900,000. Additional grant announcements coming soon. Uncertain whether HUD will cut budget, although HUD required placing programs in 2 tiers to indicate priorities in the face of a 5% cut (would be $80,000 loss).   One priority was reallocation of resources from transitional housing (TH) to permanent supportive housing (PSH), per HUD’s directive. Now in process of submitting final reports to HUD re: annual Point in Time count and current inventory of beds, which will determine the current gap. This information will be released on the Network blog when available. The CoCs are continuing to work on integration of the Network and CoCs to make for complementary and non-redundant work.

Hampden County CoC, Gerry McCafferty: Same timing as described above. Currently waiting to find out from HUD whether a transitional housing project is funded to become PSH for families (HAP Turning Point project); Holyoke project is also converting to PSH. Valley Opportunity Council (VOC) is also opening 8 new units of PSH on a scattered site model.

Hampden County CoC is also working the gaps analysis (need vs. available beds) based on the PIT count.  One significant barrier on producing this analysis is the timing and quality of data from DHCD regarding homeless families residing in motels.   They just received the DHCD data (despite the count taking place on 1/29) and discovered clear data errors. This data quality is a larger issue that needs to be addressed. DHCD is aware of the data problems and is working on it.

Andrea Miller noted that data quality is a very big issue on a couple of levels. Hampden County CoC shelters 25% of all homeless families across the state – because that number is so high, there are so many records, and room for even more error. The state needs to both improve the data systems generally and specifically account for Hampden County’s high numbers.   The challenge requires constant supervision due to staff turnover. With motels in 5 different communities, 10 different motels, staffed at various levels with very little structure, tracking these families is a huge challenge.   HUD is holding the CoCs accountable for reporting on these families and the CoC is reliant on DHCD’s tracking and data. DHCD must be held accountable for the CoC’s capacity to meet HUD requirements since the CoC cannot access the family data directly.

Rebecca Muller raised the question of whether we need to take charge of this data issue since we can only say “it’s not our fault” as a CoC for so long to HUD. But Gerry pointed out that the CoCs do not have access to DHCD data so we cannot meet the requirement with DHCD participation.

Dave Christopolis said he is meeting with DHCD Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein on May 7 on a number of issues and will bring this one to his attention as well.

On the data itself, one notable finding is the high number of pregnant women without children residing in hotels. This will impact the count on individuals since they will be counted as individuals despite entering shelter through the family system.

Another notable finding: the number of long term stays in motels is over 3 times as high as individual stays in shelter (approximately 135 chronically homeless families counted).

The question was raised regarding the number of out-of-area families in our region’s motels. Pamela will confirm that number but the general understanding is that this is no longer an issue (despite a short-term period several months ago where this was a problem in Franklin County).

Update on Coordinated Assessment Process: Gerry provided an update on developing a coordinated intake and assessment process that spans both CoCs and the region as a whole. The goal is to be able to determine best what type of housing people need, how to make the best match that ensures the best allocation of resources that means the most expensive interventions are being reserved for the people who need them most (this is most prevalent with regard to the allocation of permanent supportive housing).   Both CoCs are working together on this and looking at an assessment tool that is being used nationally that may work well in our region, too. The City of Springfield took the big step of incorporating the requirement to use this tool in it ESG RFP. The Hampden Count CoC is also seriously considering all of its grantees to use the tool as well. Next steps include scheduling a cross-CoC training on this tool. Also ahead is integrating its use into HMIS (Housing Management Information System). The Network will provide the umbrella for this effort. Western Mass. is clearly among the leaders on this across the state, although having DHCD’s leadership is also critical to getting non-CoC funded organizations to invest in becoming part of this change.

Robin Sherman noted that this is a great concept, and that the most important thing is having ONE system that functions across programs across the region.

Brad Gordon noted that doing the assessment is important as soon as someone walks through the door so we are providing the least costly intervention to move that person out of homelessness. We need a tool that can be used at every stage of the system, from point of entry to referral to housing.

Advocacy update

Pamela provided an update regarding Network advocacy for a budget earmark of $125,000 to support the Network. Click here and here for the hand-outs distributed at the meeting with House Ways and Means Committee staff member.  On April 16, Pamela, Bill Messner, president of Holyoke Community College, Jim Ayres, executive director of United Way of Hampshire County and Pamela met at the State House with the chief of staff of the House Ways and Means Committee to discuss Rep. Kocot’s budget amendment for a Network earmark for $125,000. Rep. Kocot arranged this meeting and invited the Western delegation. Also attending were HWM Vice Chair Stephen Kulik, Rep. John Scibak and Rep. Aaron Vega. It was an excellent meeting, where Bill, Jim and Pamela presented the unique role and impact of the Network and its potential to increase that impact with this additional investment. Major thanks to Bill and Jim for taking the time to advocate on behalf of the Network. And very special thanks to Rep. Kocot for leading the charge on this Network funding opportunity. Pamela noted how incredibly fortunate we are to have Rep. Kocot’s understanding and support of the Network’s contribution, as well as the support of so many of the Western Mass. delegation. Special thanks, too, to Vice Chair Kulik, Rep. Scibak and Rep. Vega for attending this meeting. Rep. Kocot advised us that he will keep us posted on the amendment’s progress.

Andrew Morehouse suggested that we follow-up with Rep. Kocot to see if expressions of support from Leadership Council members would be useful. Pamela will inquire and report back.

Update from Mary Reardon Johnson re: rates issue for YWCA of Western Mass.:

Mary Reardon Johnson reported on a crisis situation with an adjustment in the reimbursement rates for DV shelters under Chapter 257. Under the new rates implemented as of April 1, 2014, the YWCA will lose $150,000, resulting in closure of their shelter in Westfield and massive reduction of services at their shelter in Springfield. The YWCA is seeking an earmark of $150,000 (sponsored by Rep. Puppolo and Senator Candaras) to cover this loss and preserve these critical domestic violence services and shelter. Pamela will provide the Leadership Council additional advocacy guidance on this issue after following–up with Mary for more specific direction.

Network Strategic Planning Discussion:

Lynne Wallace summarized our planning process thus far and our mission to clarify the highest and best use of the Network. All agreed that our role as convener/facilitator/vehicle for collaboration is well-established and a proven success. All agreed that our next stage of growth is to become a vehicle for implementing best practices through data analysis and evaluation across the region.

The strategic planning committee synthesized the work done over the last year and recommend this approach (as captured in our proposal for our budget earmark to the legislature by Andrea Miller, click here to review):

Use the US Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) Opening Doors plan to end homelessness (produced in 2010, updated in 2012), which includes comprehensive goals, objectives and strategies, as our framework for local implementation of our approach to ending homelessness. It provides a map for tracking our work and obtaining the necessary information to determine the most effective path forward. By attaching ourselves to the US plan, we also have the benefit of their tools and resources and technical assistance. We can leverage the federal vision to better position us to obtain additional resources to implement that vision locally.

Andrew Morehouse noted that this effort is about answering the question of “what does the Network DO; what do we offer specifically and uniquely?” Our answer to that question is collaboration, data analysis, and implementation of best practices based on that analysis.

Robin Sherman commented that she was still unclear about what the end outcome is that we are proposing. She knows that she sees the Network at its most successful when we come together on a project basis, e.g., Secure Jobs Connect.

Andrea commented that what we are doing with this new proposal is capturing the work that is happening – what we are doing well and what still needs to be done – and figure out together how to fill the gaps that remain.

Brad Gordon commented that he has a healthy cynicism based on top-down approaches of these 5-10 year plans to end homelessness; that he has not been convinced that that approach has been especially effective; that these plans tend to ignore the inherently dynamic nature of time and changing variables.

Andrea Miller commented that our goal is to create a document that is workable for us, to make doable, local goals that is a meaningful resource on the ground.

Brad Gordon stressed that we should make sure that we’re not having process for the sake of process. What are we going to get out of the process for time and dollars spent.

Jay Levy noted that it sounds nebulous until we bring it down to the “do” level to bring people together, e.g., when it’s time to get the next SAMHSA grant.

Andrew Morehouse noted that it’s nebulous now but the nature of the strategic planning is to think this through on a meta level, to give guidance to staff about our direction which they can then turn into a specific workplan.

Lynne Wallace noted that we are looking for the Network to do a “landscape analysis,” identify the gaps. As LC, we then look for opportunities to help fill those gaps. Then we go after funding.

Andrea Miller noted that working within this Opening Doors plan give us the benefit of speaking the same language as many other communities across the country, that we can share with them what is happening and can track our progress in comparison to other communities, that this can be a rich place for learning and improving practices. By using the template of the federal plan and filling in relevant content, we get best of both worlds: it can make us most relevant and can position us to be a model for other communities.

Motion to adopt our strategic plan as presented in earmark advocacy document (see attachment).
Peg Keller moved to adopt the plan.
Steve Como seconded the motion.

All in favor with exception of abstentions by Robin Sherman and Mary Reardon Johnson.

We agreed we will brainstorm fundraising plan for implementation (assuming the earmark does not pass) at our next meeting.

Leadership Council Business:

Lynne Wallace summarized her email message of a couple of weeks ago to the Leadership Council explaining how honored she has been to serve as chair and co-chair of the Network for these last almost 5 years and that now, in view of her new position as COO of HAPHousing, it is most appropriate to pass the torch. She is thrilled that Andrew Morehouse has volunteered to step up to the task of co-chairing the Network and together they are proposing a model of co-chairs that include a representative from the non-profit sector and a representative from the business sector. Until the new model is underway, Lynne is happy to continue serving as co-chair with Andrew and to assist him in his transition to this leadership position.

Motion to appoint Andrew Morehouse as co-chair of the Network:
Robin Sherman moved.
Sylvia deHaas-Phillips seconded.

Multiple Leadership Council members expressed their thanks both to Lynne for her service and to Andrew for his willingness to step into the role. Thank you, Lynne and Andrew!

We conducted an initial brainstorm around business co-chairs, which included a member of the Secure Jobs Advisory Committee, Baystate Medical Center and reviewing the Springfield business list from the earlier Springfield plan to end homelessness.

Reviewed next meeting dates and locations (and various needs to shift the usual rotation due to some LC partner needs):

Wednesday, June 25, Hampshire County – will check re: Senior Center availability
Thursday, October 23 – Hampden County (Bob Pulster from USICH will be our special guest)
Wednesday, January 21, 2015 – Franklin County, agree to pursue location at GCC
Feb. Legislative advocacy meeting to be determined
Thursday, April 30, 2015 – Berkshire County


«   »

Return to full list of blog posts.