Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Committee
September 10, 2014

In attendance: Shannon Barry, Springfield Public Schools, Pamela Cook, Gandara Center Shine Program, Lisa Goldsmith, Dial/SELF, Sarah Kline, North Adams Public Schools, Diana McClean, City of Westfield, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Jean Rogers, CHD, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Sarah Slautterback, ESE, Alexis Warth, YWCA of Western Mass, Mark Watkins, Gandara Center Shine program

Report on Special Commission on Unaccompanied Homeless Youth (Lisa Goldsmith):

Youth Count report (based on count conducted last January) – due to be released shortly, now in EOHHS for final edits. Initial indicators show that Western Mass. did a great job in collecting data. The legislature allocated $150,000 in FY15 to conduct its second youth count. The hope is to go farther into data analysis and evaluation and to release both funds and guidance with more time to do outreach and prepare.

The Commission’s “End of Year” report is in process now. It will highlight the gaps in services and make recommendations. The Commission is doing some exciting work with Simmons College, using their forecasting model to ascertain the cost of youth services across the state.

Advocacy Update:

We discussed the ongoing advocacy for House Bill 135 (to provide additional services for unaccompanied homeless youth). Pamela shared the latest email from the Mass. Coalition for the Homeless regarding their advocacy action (photo sharing) and all agreed to participate if possible and to contact their representatives in support of the bill. Youth programs will explore the possibility of enlisting youth participants in the advocacy as a learning tool as well.

Pamela will forward the Coalition email and info on how to contact your legislator.

Program Updates:

Dial/SELF (Lisa Goldsmith): The LGBT Housing First program has 5 youth housed. The FY2015 contract with MHSA is still in process but will service between 6-10 more youth. Their Teen Permanent Supportive Housing units are full (10). In North Quabbin, they’re still in process of acquiring property for additional PSH for young adults (Franklin Regional Housing Authority will develop it). Their transitional living program has openings but there are people in the pipeline, occupancy shifting all the time.

City of Springfield (Lizzy Ortiz): Announced the Vet Expo on 10/9 for homeless veterans at the Mass. Mutual Center, free of charge, lunch and dinner served. Providers are welcome to participate.

Network update: Housing First training on 10/16 at HCC. Everyone should come! Go to https://www.westernmasshousingfirst.org to register.

CHD Safety Zone (Jean Rogers): offers host family-based emergency shelter for 14-17 year olds. Summer was slow; now hosting 2 teens (capacity for up to 4). Most calls for help are coming from kids over 18 (who they cannot serve). They provide referrals to the extent possible, but there are too few places to refer!

Springfield Public Schools (Shannon Barry): Regularly experiencing the frustration of too few options for unaccompanied homeless youth – SHINE is the only appropriate transitional housing resource but they are always full because the demand is so high. Alternatives are Friends of the Homeless or Samaratin Inn, neither of which are suitable for youth. Very difficult situation. Unaccompanied homeless youth count: roughly 40.

City of Westfield (Diana McLean): Our House in Westfield will open soon and will provide transitional housing for about 16 youth. However, about there are approximately 33 homeless teens in Westfield so even the new option will come close to meeting the need. Ann Lentini of Domus, Inc. has done phenomenal work for this population. Diana also noted the Youth Commission of about 20 students, ages 12-19, may be a good resource for advocacy on this issue; and the Commission runs a radio show on a Westfield State radio station on Monday mornings that also could be a good outreach tool. She will try to enlist them in the upcoming Youth Count.

Holyoke Public Schools (Jordana O’Connell): Echoed the experience of Shannon Barry in Springfield. No appropriate places to refer homeless youth. Unaccompanied homeless youth count: roughly 10.

ESE (Elementary and Secondary Education, Sarah Slautterback): Noted last year’s decline in youth at risk based on Youth Risk Survey (a drop from 6,000 to 4,000 statewide). The survey will be administered again this Spring and it will be interesting to learn if that drop was a fluke or is a trend. The annual enrollment of unaccompanied homeless youth also dropped from 935 in 2012-13 to 892 in 2013-14. Sarah also noted the Post Secondary Network’s first conference in June; its goals is to engage community and state colleges in addressing youth homelessness.

North Adams Public Schools (Sarah Kline): Agencies are working together to create a youth center, looking at Dial/SELF as a model. The lack of youth shelter/housing persists. Sarah noted a recent spike in the food requests. Berkshire Food Project has been responsive to this need. Unaccompanied homeless youth count: roughly 40.

Gandara Center SHINE program (Mark Watkins and Pamela Cook): Mark just began in his position 3 weeks ago, getting trained. Pam noted that the program is full (with space for 8 youth). To inquire about space/wait lists, call: 413-543-2373 or 413-543-2460.

YWCA (Alexis Warth): Youth Build now accepting applications – intensive program for out-of-school youth between ages 17-24 to prepare for Hi-SET (formerly called GED) and job preparation, includes case management around housing search, etc. Program starts in October, 28 slots available.

Re: other possible housing sources: Shannon spoke with Mill Brook Scholars and they are now relaxing some of their eligibility requirements. Pamela will forward along related materials.

Committee strategic planning:  all agreed that we would commit our group to supporting and shepherding the second Youth Count in the region.  We will discuss this at greater depth and begin planning at our next meeting.

Next meeting: Wednesday, 10/8, 10 am – 11:30 am, Northampton Senior Center

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