Veterans Committee Meeting
October 3, 2014

In attendance: Dave Christopolis, Hilltown CDC, Ben Cluff, DPH, Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Scott Haskell, Turner House, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Katherine Person, Veterans Inc., Terry Rutherford, Americorp volunteer, Hilltown CDC, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Kerry Spitzer, MIT, Sue White, VA medical Center, Sabrina Willard, Springfield Partners/Soldier On,

VI-SPDAT update
Sue White of VA reported that they will start using VI-SPDAT for HUD-VASH applications. She is fairly certain the tool is not detailed enough for what they need (they use a different tool – ACT – that measures acuity incorporating additional factors), but she will let us know the feedback next month.

Sue also reported that family prevention cases are increasing. And it’s somewhat complicated by the fact that many families only need the subsidy but do not need the accompanying case management services. So it raises the question of the “best use” of HUD-VASH resources – the fact of prioritizing family homelessness alongside the reality that many families’ needs are simply lower rent without more complex service needs. This raises the question of whether other resources are available for families. We discussed exploring the alternative of obtaining preferences for veteran homeless or at-risk families from housing authorities. It is unclear what exists now in our region, but this is an area that deserves further attention.

Other issues raised about the VI-SPDAT: How to communicate results? How do we share the information? How is it protected? How do we manage it? Pamela shared that these same issues were raised in our individual services committee meeting and will be addressed as the implementation unfolds.

Scott Haskell of Turner House, a veteran transitional housing program in the Berkshires, also agreed to pilot VI-SPDAT and report back with results.

Point in Time Count
Dave Christopolis drew attention to the Point in Time count. The exact date is not yet announced but typically it takes place in late January. There will be another statewide youth count that will be conducted in this region by each CoC . The question is how best to reach veterans (both in youth and in general count) beyond the program sites; the ERs, meal sites and streets are the far more difficult challenge. We agreed it would be best to check in with Soldier On and Eliot Services around this piece. Ben Cluff agreed to check in with DPH about whether any agency assistance is possible in this effort.

Other updates
Dave Christopolis shared that the new HUD CoC representative for the Three County CoC, Stephanie Harrington, is interested in attending a veterans meeting. We would love to have her! Dave will coordinate meeting time.

We agreed it would be great to haveSoldier On( Mike H or Steve Como) attend this veterans meeting (they have done so in the past). Pamela will reach out to them again.

Funding announcement: Soldier On received a renewal SSVF grant for $3 million for Hampden County. Another $1 million is possible for Berkshire County. Veterans Inc is still waiting on their funding news.

30 new HUD-VASH vouchers are being distributed in the region, and Gerry McCafferty will work closely with VA to refer Hampden County’s chronically homeless individuals to the program.

Chapter 115 veterans benefits hand-out and discussion:
Steve Connor distributed his rough draft of a one-pager on the process for obtaining Chapter 115 veterans benefits. Thank you, Steve!   This is in direct response to some of the obstacles arising with the administration of this benefit in some of our region’s cities and towns (a problem that also exists statewide). There is frequently a lack of compliance due to some combination of either staff ignorance or reticence to “cost” the city or town more money when they are already facing major financial pressures (cities and towns must pay 25% of the cost). We agreed that in order to better target our advocacy and follow-up, we must document issues as they arise. Katherine Persons agreed to draft a “tracking” sheet to for documentation purposes. This will be an important first step to honing our efforts around this issue.

Next meeting: 11/14, 9 am – 10:30 am.

Next month’s agenda:
VI-SPDAT feedback on piloting efforts
Chapter 115 – distribution of one-pager and tracking sheet
PIT follow-up, next steps


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