Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Meeting
November 18, 2014

In attendance: Dave Christopolis, Hilltown CDC, Lisa Goldsmith, Dial/SELF, Rani Gould, YWCA, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Jean Rogers, CHD, Teri Rutherford, Hilltown CDC, Pamela Schwartz, Network

Update on Youth Count Training:
Lisa, Lizzy, Dave and Teri all attended the ICHH sponsored Youth Count training in Worcester on 11/17. Lisa and Lizzy presented on a panel (hats off to the Western region for their excellent count numbers last year). Lisa connected with a staff person from Bristol County Community College who will be a resource for tips for working more effectively with Greenfield Community College this time around.

Outreach to school population: Sarah Slautterback of DESE attended and shared the latest clarification around outreach within the schools: with superintendent permission, we can provide information via guidance counselors and/or assemblies about magnet events outside of the school relevant to the Count. This is very exciting progress. Dave will reach out to the Pittsfield superintendent and Lizzy intends to reach out to the Springfield superintendent and target 3-5 high schools in Springfield and Holyoke and hold magnet events at Springfield Technical Community College and Holyoke Community College. Jordana suggested considering use of the Holyoke Library for a magnet event since it is more accessible than HCC.

Teri also suggested using school “morning announcements” to share information about magnet events.

The Count Training also included information about how best to reach youth, stressing the importance of social media and the value of having youth reach out to youth, first building relationships and trust before conducting the survey.

Brainstorm sources for “youth ambassadors” – Gandara Center, Act Up for Hampden County; Dial/SELF for Franklin County; Hampshire County is less clear although Dave and Teri will reach out to ServiceNet and Community Action; Berkshire County Dave has relationships and will follow-up.

The youth surveys are slated to begin Thursday, 1/29, the day after the HUD Point in Time count and may continue through the following Tuesday.

Time is now to begin recruiting participating organizations in survey distribution (starting with last year’s recruits).

We will consider whether to use the video made at last year’s regional youth count training to distribute for training for this year.

Teri noted that it is very important for those doing outreach to understand well the WHY of this survey; what change are we trying to effect, and to be able to explain it to the youth we are asking to survey.

We discussed the challenge of reaching youth who don’t want to be identified as homeless. We acknowledged the importance of detailed information related to the magnet events, including directions, access to bus tokens, etc.

We discussed other possible outreach targets: community colleges, adult learning and literacy centers, Planned Parenthood (Teri has a friend who is a manager there) and Tapestry Health. We need to lay the groundwork for teachers and counselors to help identify and direct youth to this survey.

We discussed the role of the Network in the Count and agreed that the Network would post regular announcements on its blog, directing people to Teri for 3 County and Lizzy for Hampden County, for assistance with outreach. Contact info for Teri: 413-296-4536 ext 110.

Legislative update:

Great news for House bill 135, now re-numbered to Bill 4517: the House Ways and Means Committee released the bill and it is now in “Third Reading” which is the final stage before going up for a vote and then moving onto the Senate. There is a push to get it passed before the end of the Governor’s term and it’s looking very hopeful. We will await action alerts from Mass. Coalition for the Homeless and should anticipate advocacy on the Senate side, especially for our region’s senators on the Senate Ways and Means Committee (Senators Brewer, Downing and Humason). Pamela will send out action alerts as soon as available.

This bill authorizes services for unaccompanied homeless youth, a critical first step in gaining more funding to support those services.

Next meeting: Wed., 12/10, 10 am, Behavioral Health Network, 417 Liberty Street, Springfield

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