Individual Services Committee Meeting Minutes
September 3, 2015

 In attendance: Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Courtnee Godbolt, Friends of the Homeless, Heidi Gold, Simtech Solutions, Janice Humason, Friends of the Homeless, Nichole King, Friends of the Homeless, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS-Homeless Services, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Katie Miernecki, ServiceNet, Bill Miller, Friends of the Homeless, David Modzelewski, Network, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Luz Ortiz, Friends of the Homeless, Claudia Phillips, Health Care for the Homeless, Anna Quan, Amherst Community Connections, Denise Rivera, Friends of the Homeless, Rachel Weiss, Craig’s Doors, Sabrina Willard, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Delphine Wray, Friends of the Homeless

Zero 2016 Campaign Update:

Gerry distributed a hand-out on the progress in housing chronically homeless in Hampden County (click here). We are exceeding our goals every month, i.e., we are housing more than necessary each month to end homelessness by the end of 2016 (on track to end it by 2/16).

A recent review of data showed that there were a total of 52 chronically homeless individuals over the course of the 2014-2015 fiscal year. Of those 52, 13 were housed and a number have left the area (not seen since 2014). The total number for the year is is a substantial decrease from previous years where there were over 100 CH individuals recorded.   Congratulations to all on such progress.

Reflecting on how the progress was made: it began with the 10 year plan to end homelessness where a goal was established for the number of units needed to meet the demand and that target was met. The chronic homelessness programs at Friends of the Homeless and Springfield Housing Authority have made a huge contribution. Both programs have a lot of turnover, i.e., people moving on to permanent housing which creates new openings for new people. This turnover is a key factor. Additionally, Mental Health Association’s focus on the street population and working with the hardest to serve people has made a big impact. Also, additions to the housing stock – each year, there have been new programs (e.g., HRU, Annie’s House) that build the number of units available. Finally, great collaboration across the region!

Performance and Outcome Measures:

Gerry reported that both CoCs are working on this right now as HUD is requiring CoCs to set standards for performance measuring the whole system, not by each provider. The question is: does every program contribute towards the larger goal in a way that is interconnected and complementary. A sub-committee just met and completed a draft of performance measures. This will be put on the Network website and comments are welcome. The CoC board will finalize it at their September meeting.

A concern was raised around the number of individuals who have died after getting into PSH. We should better understand what is happening with those individuals – we will look further into the data – and if/how follow-up support services are relevant. CSPECH is a potential resource to fund such services as the program is intended to help chronically homeless people transition to housing and it is billable to Medicaid.

These performance measures will be very relevant for HUD’s upcoming evaluation of the CoC in its new application for funding (due out any time). HUD has made it very clear that its evaluation will be based on the performance of the system as a whole, not separating out individuals and families. This is challenging for MA because of its state family homelessness system (right to shelter) which puts our family homelessness numbers way higher than the rest of the country. This data will have a negative impact on the CoC application (our region’s “lack of control” has no bearing on HUD’s evaluation). It raises the question of if and how the CoC should become more engaged in the family system. Hampden County has already started that engagement by funding some family PSH and rapid re-housing but we will need to discuss whether we should do more with new funding (not taking away funding from individual programs). The CoC up until now has focused almost entirely on individual homelessness and we should take a closer look at that for this round in view of HUD’s evaluation criteria. We will know more once the HUD application comes out and we can know their precise measures.

We also need to figure out how best to prioritize resource for CH families. The Network is talking to DHCD about this. HAP has interest in this and CHD is about to have 10 new CH units for families available.

Some committee members expressed concern about the limited resources available for individuals (since shelter is not an entitlement for this population) and the level of resources already devoted to family homelessness on a statewide level; that we should advocate for better state policy but not put our funds towards the issue.

Donna Nadeau pointed out that DHCD has had a variety of targeted programs for families, e.g., targeted vouchers for families with disabilities. She noted that DHCD is currently meeting with DMH, DTA and DPH to discuss how they can build linkages of services across agencies to better serve families.

Cost effectiveness of programs:

The National Alliance to End Homelessness’ Systems Design Clinic last June raised the recommendation of looking at cost effectiveness of programs.   People agreed this would be valuable. This information allows us to examine performance measures and outcomes in the context of cost.   It enables us to have a conversation about if and where they may be room to allocate resources differently for same or better outcomes. Is there a way to use Medicaid reimbursements more? How can we bring down the cost of a program? When we bring down the cost, it allows us to add capacity to serve more people. Stay tuned on next steps around this process.

Engagement of housing authorities :

At the last individual services meeting, discussion began about how to better engage housing authorities in the effort to reduce homelessness. We have seen how much the Springfield Housing Authority has contributed to the reduction of chronically homeless individuals. We need to see what else is possible with other housing authorities. We discussed how the Network has engaged with housing authorities before in the past as a group but that without complete buy-in from every housing authority, the effort fizzled. Instead, now we agreed to try one-on-one engagement.

We agreed to reach out to Holyoke HA and Amherst HA – one in each CoC – to explore possible ways we can partner.

Committee members who agreed to participate in the effort: Dave Modzelewski, Steve Connor, Anna Quan, Hwei-Ling Geeney, Lizzy Otiz, Jay Levy, Rachel Weiss

This cross-section of providers is key around setting up support services for people housed.   Look at PATH, possibly Providence Ministries or River Valley Health for Holyoke; look at use of CSPECH to obtain services. We need to create partnerships.

Update on MA Supreme Judicial Court regarding housing restrictions for sex offenders: Pamela updated the group about the recent SJC decision that struck down housing restrictions for sex offenders in 45 communities across the state, including in Springfield. This decision is consistent with the goals of the Network’s Work Group to House People with Sex Offense Histories. The Work Group has been seeking more, evidence-based, case-by-case review of an individual’s risk to determine appropriate housing.

Unaccompanied homeless youth update: Pamela reported that the youth committee is working on a referral flow chart (similar to veterans) for use across shelters/food pantries and other sites that would help staff assess and direct youth to appropriate services. She will distribute as soon as complete.

Shelter update

Grove St Inn – Katie reported that she has seen an increase in “dumping” by nursing homes and hospitals. Most recently, a nursing home dropped a man at Grove St who could not safely stay there. He is now in the hospital and Cooley Dickinson is considering filing a complaint over the matter. Friends of the Homeless shared that they see this happening, too, and they send a person back to the hospital if necessary.

Friends of the Homeless reported that they have seen 13 new men in the last 4 days – unclear why and where from. There were 141 people at the shelter last night. The women’s shelter has run at high capacity all summer. The housing staff is rehousing quickly but new people keep coming. A lot of people are not presenting with a disability but level of functionality is unclear.

Donna Nadeau reported that she just came from a meeting in Worcester where they, too, are reporting higher than usual numbers for this time of year (average 50-60/night when shelter holds 25).

Possible theories: coming from Hartford? (Bill says no). Other states? Families who have been denied EA and who have put their kids with relatives and are entering the system as individuals?

We will revisit the numbers next month and continue to review the data that is available.

Next meeting:

Thursday, October 8
10:30 – noon
Northampton Senior Center

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