Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes
May 9, 2014

In attendance:  Ben Cluff, DPH, Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Patty McDonnell, SMOC, Katherine Person, Veterans Inc., Pamela Schwartz, Network, Sue White, VA, Sabrina Willard, Springfield Partners

Veterans Resource sheet:

We reviewed Sue White’s draft (thank you, Sue!) and brainstormed further the best presentation of information for both providers and veterans.  We agreed that Sue will provide a new draft and send to the group in attendance today for final review.

The PIT count:

Pamela shared an email from Bob Pulster of the US Interagency Council of Homelessness (that she received that morning) reaching out to us as a committee to see if we can tackle the 259 homeless veterans that were counted in our region’s PIT (with his assistance).   We discussed this ask as a perfect segue to the underlying problem of the count in relation to veterans:  the 259 veterans identified in the PIT count are a function of the Grant Per Diem (GPD) transitional housing beds that primarily Soldier On administers.  There were only actually 1 or 2 identified unsheltered veterans in the count his year.  So “eliminating” veteran homelessness according to the PIT count will be impossible until and unless GPD beds are not included or are counted differently.  Over 300 veterans were housed in the region with HUD/VASH vouchers, but with the large quantity of GPD beds, the region is a draw for homeless veterans (and should be to the extent it has beds to offer).  But it is unlikely the count will ever be reduced under both this model and this counting method.

Pamela will share all of this with Bob and ask for his assistance in advancing the conversation with HUD about this issue.

Other updates:

The Network convened a meeting of members of the veterans committee (Sue White and other VA staff and Ben Cluff of DPH) and DHCD and FOR Families staff to discuss how best to connect veteran homeless families to veteran resources.   From that meeting, it was agreed that the veterans committee members would join a bi-weekly meeting of HAPHousing which includes all shelter and motel housing stabilization workers, and FOR family and DHCD staff .  That is happening on May 21 at 9 am at HAPHousing.  We will bring our newly produced resource sheet for distribution and discussion.

Ben Cluff is leading an in-service training of Western Mass. Housing Court staff and specialists on May 20.  The goal is to ensure veteran status is ascertained for all tenants facing the threat of eviction and that resources are made available.  Ben will also use our new resource sheet at this meeting.

Ben will also follow-up with FOR Families to further discuss the addition of the question “have you ever served in the military?” to its assessment form, which is currently NOT included.  Faith Lafayette of FOR Families also agreed at the previous meeting with DHCD to raise this with the FOR Families director.

Next meeting:  Friday, June 13, 9 am – 10 am, Northampton Senior Center

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