Work Group To House People with Sex Offense Histories
December 19, 2014
In attendance: Elizabeth Beinz, ServiceNet, Carl Cignoni, Hampshire County Corrections/DOC Re-entry, Laurie Guidry, MATSA, Ellis Harris, ServiceNet, Richard Hendrick, social worker, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS-Homeless Services, Pamela Schwartz, Network
We summarized our series of meetings with housing providers on the issue of housing people with sex offense histories and agreed that this engagement was a major step forward. While the Valley CDC’s board is meeting on the issue and HAP is in further discussion (Pamela will follow-up on both), the take-away message from all providers is that state policy needs to move on the issue in order for substantial movement to happen at the provider level. Tom Kegelman of Home City Housing focused in particular on the language of “dangerousness” pertaining to this population and how that language needs to be changed for housing providers to take the risk to house them. We looked further at the language and recognize there is some confusion around the use of the word in the SORB “welcome message” and leveling. However, we all agreed that precise wording aside, we need to shift public policy towards a “best practice” response to this issue and the population.
Towards that end, Laurie shared with us the work of the Reducing Sex Offender Recidivism Commission that was created last year (and began meeting this past September). Laurie was appointed to the Commission, along with SORB members, the DA, treatment centers, victim advocacy groups and others (great representation). Right now it is meeting almost monthly and hearing presentations from different constituencies to get informed. It is a promising vehicle for putting forward changes to the leveling system as well as language reform (e.g., “dangerous persons”).
We agreed that we should look first to attaching our work to the Commission’s efforts, e.g., attending public hearings (there is some discussion about holding a few across the state) and bringing to the Commission’s attention the housing crisis facing people with sex offense histories.
We also agreed that it is time to incorporate this issue and our agenda in our legislative meetings this winter/spring.
We agreed that our next step is to craft our mission statement to the Commission, laying out first who we are (the broad representation across the region) and our goals. Pamela and Laurie will work on this statement. Pamela will bring that statement to the Network Leadership Council for their review and hopeful approval, which will then provide a basis for our integration of this issue during our legislative meetings as well.
Laurie and I will draft this statement and distribute it to the work group for feedback in early January, in advance of the Leadership Council meeting on 1/21 and the Human Services Forum Legislative Breakfast on 1/23.
We agreed that we will determine our next meeting date after these two events happen and Laurie has learned more about the Commission’s meeting schedule. Pamela will communicate by the end of January to determine a February meeting date.