Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes
November 14, 2014

In attendance: Matt Buckley, Soldier On, Dave Christopolis, Hilltown CDC, Ben Cluff, Mass. DPH, Scott Haskell, Turner House, Michael Hagmaier, Soldier On, Scott Haskell, Katherine Person, Veterans Inc., Teri Rutherford, Hilltown CDC, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Kerry Spitzer, MIT, Sue White, VAMC, Sabrina Willard, Springfield Partners

Update on piloting VI-SPDAT assessment tool:

Mike of Soldier On reported that Soldier On is currently working on incorporating the VI-SPDAT tool electronically so that it is part of their database. This should happen by next month and will be an add-on to their current intake process. It is unclear to him how much VI-SPDAT will add to their assessment process in view of the extensive information already collected.   Soldier On’s most typical point of entry is their transitional housing program; they get very few veterans off the street. Their current assessment process determines whether vets are eligible for SSVF or Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). He heard from partners in NYC that most veterans screened through VI-SPDAT are shown to qualify for Rapid Re-Housing assistance via SSVF. But many of those veterans should in fact qualify for PSH, i.e., the current tools may do better at determining the actual level of need. We will know more after piloting here begins.

Sue White of the VA concurred that the VI-SPDAT does not do much for prioritizing since their current acuity scale is more in-depth than the VI-SPDAT. Case managers are using the VI-SPDAT now, although Sue did not have an opportunity to collect their data and will do so in time to report back at the December meeting.

HUD-VASH prioritization

We discussed the issue of HUD-VASH being used for families who need a subsidy but do not need case management. This issue points to the competing priorities of housing homeless families (a clear VA priority) vs. “best use” of HUD-VASH (for homeless families/individuals in need of PSH). We agreed this is a real dilemma and goes directly to the heart of “best allocation” of PSH. Many of these families using HUD-VASH are in need of affordable housing/permanent subsidies but that is not the same as PSH. We discussed one potential source of “relief” from this pressure would be implementation of veterans preferences at housing authorities (some have them, some don’t in our region).

We agreed that the next step is to collect firm data on how many families are receiving HUD-VASH and rejecting case management services. Sue will pursue this and report back at the next meeting.

Update on new SSVF resources

Matt Buckley, Soldier On’s SSVF director shared with us the information about the new VA “Priority 1” funded grant – 3 year, one-time grant for $3 million ($1 million per year), 40% must go towards temporary financial assistance (significantly higher than previous SSVF grant), including back rent, utility payments, car repairs, transportation. Beginning implementation of grant in Berkshire County (subcontracting with Berkshire Regional Housing Authority) but will expand to Hampshire and Franklin Counties as well. Referrals will all go through same hotline number; intake process will stay the same as current SSVF grant (concurrent 1 year grant sub-contracted with Springfield Partners that serves all 4 counties).

Veterans Inc also has a Priority 1 grant that covers Worcester County. And Veterans Inc has a concurrent SSVF grant that covers all 4 Western counties as well and coordinates with Springfield Partners to avoid duplication.

Matt and Mike of Soldier On met with Adrienne Melendez, the VA SSVF regional coordinator. They must produce a 2 page community plan that demonstrates how Veterans Inc and Soldier On will coordinate and how it will work with the CoC. The VA is also creating a “demand use” tool that is intended to account for all the resources available and help create goals for numbers served, which will be the basis for monthly reporting. Mike will be in touch with committee members as needed to gain input for this tool.

Veterans Services update/outreach

First, we applauded the job that Katherine Persons, Sabrina Willard and Steve Connor did at the statewide Veterans Services conference where they demonstrated the great level of collaboration in our region. Thanks and congratulations to them!

Secondly, Steve distributed a draft hand-out for an outreach sheet on Chapter 115 veterans services that are available. He will provide it electronically to Pamela who will send it out to the committee for feedback.

We agreed that a next step is to do targeted outreach to the major VSOs in the area to educate them about the interaction between Chapter 115 benefits and SSVF and to break down barriers that may exist in maximizing service to veterans.

Mike is interested in creating a housing stock database that includes veteran-friendly landlords and is available for all agencies interacting with veterans. Pamela suggested connecting with Andrea Miller on the database set-up. Mike suggested that Springfield Partners staff may be the resource for actual hands-on data collection.

Katherine agreed to draft a “tracking sheet” for agencies to document interactions with VSOs in order to better understand possible barriers to service.

Next steps:
Sue White: collate VI-SPDAT info; collate HUD-VASH prioritization of families without need of case management
Steve Connor: send out Veterans Services sheet; others provide feedback
Katherine Persons: draft “tracking sheet” for VSO interaction
Mike Hagmaier: contact committee for input on Demand Use tool

Next meeting:   Friday, 12/12, 9 am, Northampton Senior Center
(Discussion topic – time did not permit at this meeting – how to help prioritize project-based veterans PSH for veterans who are unable to succeed with VASH alone because level of support is not high enough)

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