First, I wanted to pass along a housing and referral contact list  for housing and motel staff providers in the region that Andrew Morehouse, Network co-chair and executive director of the Food Bank of Western MA, compiled for use across the food bank network.  Please find it attached and please feel free to distribute to any of your networks.  Thank you, Andrew!

Family Services Committee Meeting
November 18, 2014

In attendance: Jane Banks, CHD, Toni Bator, HAPHousing, Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Cris Carl, ServiceNet Greenfield, Charity Day, FCRHA, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Erin Forbush, ServiceNet Pittsfield, Donna Harris, Franklin Hampshire Career Center, Sean Hemingway, CHD, Steve Huntley, VOC, Wendy Kane, Community Legal Aid, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet Greenfield, Betty Medina Lichtenstein, Enlace, Jane Lindfors, DTA DV Unit, Yajaira Marquez, Head Start, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Maritza Martinez, Head Start, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Gil Reynders, Salvation Army, Liza Rios, YWCA, Hilda Santa, Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Rachel Trant, DCF

DHCD Update

Motel numbers are seeing some decline, down to 1,779 as of yesterday. Families living in Greenfield motels have been moved back to their communities of origin.

DHCD just issued notice of a proposed regulatory change to equalize treatment of shelter and motel families (basis of MLRI lawsuit) under non-compliance policy so that all families will be deemed in non-compliance after 3 infractions (prior policy allowed 6 infractions for families in shelter; 2 infractions for families in motels). Settlement negotiations have been ongoing for 7 months without resolution. DHCD is now proposing this change. Pamela will forward hearing notice and details on process.

Provider Updates

CHD (Jane Banks): providing support staff at Holyoke Hotel and Days Inn (Holyoke) and Howard Johnson’s in Springfield. Providing transportation to food, doctor’s appointments, other support services. 6 staff present, 8 am to 9 pm. Manager reports are very positive. NEFWC is there to do housing placement work.

Expanding shelter capacity by 125 beds.

Also working at the front door of DHCD and seeing a 56% diversion rate. Great progress and looks forward to more.

HAPHousing (Toni Bator) – providing support staff in EconoLodge and Quality Inn Chicopee – in the process of hiring 4 full time and 4 part-time staff. Currently borrowing from other staff to provide coverage from 1 pm – 9 pm on weekdays and 5-9 pm on weekends.

Expanding shelter capacity by 100 beds.

Discussed recent issue of Springfield postmaster refusing to deliver mail to homeless families (quoted as saying such). This is stunning! Toni said MLRI is involved. Pamela will inquire further to determine if the Network can provide any additional support. We agreed we needed to learn more about current mail practices but noted that families have been receiving mail at shelters and motels without incident until now.

ServiceNet (Fran Lemay, Greenfield): providing support staff at the Days Inn and Quality Inn. Have several staff and currently hire one more. Coverage at the hotels from noon -8 pm, 7 days/week. Has office space at both hotels, which is working very well. About 80 families in both hotels. Roughly ½ from the Eastern part of the state.

Expanding shelter capacity by 15 families in Greenfield (possibly Orange and Turners Falls), 7 in Pittsfield

Network response to “bad media” on families in motels

Pamela raised Robin Sherman’s idea of submitting a Network op-ed in response to the recent negative press on families living in motels. We agreed that this was a good idea, assuming we are not defensive (“no one wants families living in hotels”) but use it as an opportunity to provide a broader perspective on state policy and efforts to meet the challenge with affordable housing and prevention funds. Pamela will work on this with Robin.

We also discussed whether the Network should reach out to Gov.-Elect Baker’s transition team to introduce them to the Network and its agenda. Pamela will learn more about partner organizations’ outreach and possibly build on that.

Pilot of VI-SPDAT tool for families

Pamela provided an update on the efforts to implement a coordinated intake and assessment tool for the region to assess best housing options for chronically homeless individuals. This is a HUD-mandated effort that both CoC’s are working on (Hampden County has required the use of the VI-SPDAT tool for new grantees). The VI-SPDAT is the particular tool that is nationally recognized as a “best practice” for assessment.

Gerry McCafferty , Springfield Housing Director, initiated discussions with DHCD to experiment with implementing the VI-SPDAT tool for families at the front door. DHCD has agreed to pilot this. Pamela will provide updates as this pilot unfolds. The goal is to ensure the best match of Permanent Supportive Housing for families who need it. New PSH units are in the works for Hampden County – VOC is in the process of getting new units online right now and CHD has submitted a proposal for the next round of HUD funding.

Catalyst update: Pamela provided an update following last month’s presentation by Catalyst. Currently, Catalyst is in conversation with DHCD and DPH to map out the best data collection and analysis plan that will support the efforts around family homelessness in Western Mass. Catalyst will let us know next steps and direction shortly.

Secure Jobs Update: Toni Bator reported that a “Secure Jobs rally” was held on 11/14 with over 70 case managers from all 3 Hampden County providers present (CHD, NEFWC, HAP) to better educate all case managers about the program . The goal was to bring more attention to this resource and increase both the number and quality of referrals. The results have been immediate!

2015 Youth count: Pamela reported that the unaccompanied homeless youth committee has begun working hard on preparing for the 2015 youth count (which will take place from 1/29-2/3/15). Please connect to the coordinators with referrals to youth organizations (Hampden County, Lizzy Oritz; Three County, Teri Rutherford). Pamela will send out a specific email on this, as wel l as post on the blog.

The unaccompanied homeless youth bill was released from the House Ways and Means Committee and is now in its Third Reading and very close to a vote. It will then move to the Senate and the hope is that the Governor will sign this bill before the end of his term. Please stay tuned on advocacy actions to support this important bill.

Announcements: Wendy Kane of Community Legal Aid announced that they have hired a new attorney, Mary Johnson, who will be doing EA work in Springfield.

Next meeting:z

Tuesday, December 9
1:00 – 2:30
New England Farm Workers Council
225 High Street, Holyoke
Next meeting agenda will focus in part on developing the committee’s recommendations for FY16 budget priorities that will go to the Network’s Leadership Council at its next meeting on 1/23 and will be the basis for our legislative advocacy for FY16.


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