Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes
April 4, 2014


In attendance:  Isabel Belen, Veterans Inc, Ben Cluff, Department of Public Health, Mary Cassidy, Springfield Partners, Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Pat DiGregorio, Veterans Inc., Mike Hagmaier, Soldier On, Jay Levy, Elliot CHS – Homeless Services, Melissa Mateus, Springfield Partners, Patricia McDonnell, SMOC, Katherine Person, Veterans Inc., Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Jim Seney, VA, Susan White, VA, Sabrina Willard, Springfield Partners

Reviewed Resource Sheet (thank you, Gerry, for this revised version):

Feedback includes:

  • Change SSVF – now eligibility criteria is any veteran who has at least one day active duty with a discharge of anything other than dishonorable (does not need to be VHA eligible).
  • Veterans Inc needs to be added.
  • Offer link to for general resource
  • Add national veteran call center
  • Need to add other employment info, e.g., Franklin/Hampshire Career Center; Berkshire County
  • Eliminate all contact names (due to staff turnover), just org names and numbers
  • Delete “peer support” resource since funding is about to end
  • Change headings to Financial Assistance and Case Management (Chapter 115 is Financial assistance; SSVP is rapid re-housing and prevention services)

Sue will do revisions (returning to sources in original draft but using Gerry’s format); will share with Mike for initial review and supplementation (esp. for Berkshire County); will circulate by email for group review in 2 weeks (by 4/18); will bring final to next meeting.

Update on data sharing effort (to get veterans data into HMIS):

Sue reported that Gerry and Sue are meeting with Jon Hite, ED of Northampton Housing Authority and administrator of most HUD VASH subsidies,  at end of month.

Berkshire Housing Dev Corporation is the other administrator of HUD VASH.  Sue will ask Brad if they are using a compatible data system.

Update on Tenancy Preservation Project (TPP) outreach:  Ben Cluff reported on his conversation with the housing specialist in Springfield Housing Court.  While TPP collects info on military service, it’s unclear whether housing specialists do so when first meeting with tenants (although now it is a stated policy to do so).  Ben will do an in-service training with housing specialists.  Ben is on TPP advisory board, so will continue to discuss this with Judge Fein and get a statewide audience on the issue through her (she is on statewide committees).  Outreach continues on connecting TPP with veterans resources.

Update on Steering Committee for the MA Integrated Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness Among Veterans:  Steve Connor who serves on Commission and chairs Prevention working group provided an update.  Work groups shifted so that now “prevention” and “intervention” groups have been merged into one.  Steve noted that the work going on in Western Mass. (through this committee and REACH meetings)provides a model statewide.

Steve shared a recent policy innovation through the Commission that proposes to every veteran moving into public housing that they sign a release allowing the PHA to contact their veterans services officer if there are tenancy issues  (with payment of rent or other potential cause for eviction).  Allows for readymade support before a crisis occurs.

The Prevention/Intervention Working Group  is meeting next in mid-April in Springfield.

Reaching homeless veteran families:  Sue White shared how she would like to better connect to homeless families being served through DHCD (in motels and shelters).  Ben and Pamela agreed to facilitate arranging a meeting with DPH FOR Families and DHCD staff and Sue.

Discussion of employment programs for homeless veterans:

Springfield Partners announced a job fair on May 22.  Veterans Inc also offers employment and training programs.  Pamela discussed the Network’s ongoing Secure Jobs Connect Advisory Committee; will bring these programs to the table at the next meeting and presumably help connect the dots to bring the veterans programs around the same table.  Springfield Partners programs are not limited to veterans only.  Veterans Inc criteria is one day of active duty service, a discharge that is not dishonorable and at risk of being homeless.

Announcement:  Ben Cluff is has changed positions at DPH to now be Veterans Services Coordiantor statewide.  Good for him; good for us!

Other updates:

Jim Seney provided an update on the politics involved in the ever-shifting veteran eligibility criteria, i.e., whether a veteran is required to be VHA eligible for transitional housing or other resources or “one day of active duty” suffices for eligibility.  This criteria is determined by Congress and currently the VHA eligible criteria – which Congress attempted to adopt – is under legal review (hence the return to “one day active duty” as the current criteria).  Bottom line:  stay tuned.

Jay Levy noted that across W Mass., his street outreach staff are finding very few unsheltered veterans.  Noted the success in veteran outreach and services.

Mike H – noted a housing search database out of North Carolina that offers online data for housing search.  Noted that MA is not on that website.  Pamela noted that once the Housing Options Tool (HOT) is completed (a project by Andrea Miller), that we should connect to HOT to this resource.

Next meeting date:
Friday, 5/9, 9 am, Northampton Senior Center

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