Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
November 17, 2015

 In attendance: Jane Banks, CHD, Yoshi Bird, CHD, Sarah Cloutier, YWCA, Hillary Cronin, VA Medical Center, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Sean Hemingway, CHD, Faith Lafayette, FOR Families, Fran LeMay, ServiceNet – Greenfield Family Inn, Jane Lindfors, DTA-DV unit, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Sherondia McKenzie Elliott, DTA/DV, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Jordana O’Connell, CHD, Vanessa Otero, NEFWC, Jenni Pothier, TPP, Stephen Plummer, Partners for Community Action, Evelyn Rivera, WomanShelter, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Taijhia Steel, Springfield Partners, Rachel Trant, DCF, Luz Vega, Woman Shelter, Lauren Voyer, HAPHousing

Family Homelessness and Domestic Violence

Special thanks to Sarah Cloutier, Anthia Elliott, Jane Lindfors and Heather Marshall for leading us in this discussion to better understand the intersection of DV with family homelessness and how the Network can address it.

The Population: Heather shared that according to DHCD data domestic violence comprises 13% of the current EA population’s “reason for becoming homeless.” All DV providers agreed that this number is vastly underestimated. Many DV victims may have a more immediate reason for homelessness – e.g., couch surfing – that is recorded when DV is the underlying reason. Heather shared national data that indicated that between 22% and 50% of homeless women report that DV is reason.

We agreed we needed to reach out to DHCD to learn about possible ways to enhance data collection around this population.

Jane shared data from the DTA DV unit that showed that in Western MA, of the 4,581 people spoken to about DV, 2,728 reported that homelessness or housing was their biggest issue.

Current Barriers:

  • No DHCD staff in Berkshire, Franklin or Hampshire Counties. The only way to process an EA application is via phone at the DTA offices. This creates a significant barrier for DV victims in a state of trauma (as well as all homeless families).   The only place to go in person is at the State Street office in Springfield. The number to call for remote access is 413-627-4462.
  • The only way for a DV shelter family to move to EA shelter is by being terminated from the DV program and having to newly apply for EA. This requires families to become homeless to get served. In addition to this illogic, it impacts DV shelter availability since families who may not be an imminent risk of domestic violence may stay longer because their alternative is homelessness.

Note: HAPHousing announced it has Rapid Rehousing funds available for non-EA eligible families which could serve this population in Hampden County. All funds must be expended by the end of January. Contact HAP for more information.

  • Housing authority regulations changed several years ago to require far more stringent documentation to obtain a DV housing preference, e.g., police report, restraining order, all things that may be very difficult to obtain if the victim fled her community
  • Limited DV rehousing funds. DCF provides DV shelters with $10K per year for housing stabilization funds. Maximum distributions are $1,000 per person. This amount makes it very difficult to afford an apartment with first, last and security deposit. The 10K total is almost entirely spent by all DV shelters in the region with more than half the fiscal year remaining.

Current policy efforts:

  • In January 2009, then Lt. Gov Murray convened a group of state agencies to look at this issue. There was a special convening of state agencies and providers in later 2009 (occurred at the YWCA) and a report was issued in July 2010.
  • In January 2012, a Governor’s Council was convened that included relevant state agencies to address these issues and promote system reform. The membership has changed with the new Administration but the group is still meeting.
  • Significant DV legislation was passed in August 2014. Mass Office of Victim Assistance was charged to convene a task force to look at the issue of homelessness and DV. This is in process.
  • DCF is working with the Full Frame Initiative to examine how to break down silos. They convened a focus group this past summer of executive directors and staff to look at client barriers. Issuance of a report is in process.

Jane agreed to circulate various reports issued over the last few years so we could better understand where we have been, where precisely we are at and best inform us about where we want to go.

Next steps: We agreed the Network would convene a sub-committee of the Family Services Committee to focus on this issue. Interested members include: Lauren Voyer, Jane Lindfors, Heather Marshall, Yoshi Bird, Anthia Elliott, Rachel Trant, Janette Vigo and Gerry McCafferty. Pamela will follow-up to convene the group.

Review of Family Services Referral Resources Sheet:
Lauren Voyer distributed a Hampden County draft referral sheet.   This information is intended to be a resource for providers intersecting with homeless families. The group provided feedback and Lauren will provide a revised version for further review (please click here). Providers should provide agency contact info directly to Lauren. [email protected]

Charity Day of Franklin County could not attend this meeting but we will look to discuss Franklin/Hampshire County’s referral info at our next meeting.

Hampden County CoC Update re: Coordinated Assessment for PSH:

Gerry shared the following information: Two new Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) programs for families are starting up now (CHD with 10 units; VOC with 8; currently HAP has 9 units for single heads of household 18-24 years old and MLK has 8 units).   This housing is intended for the longest shelter stayers and most vulnerable families. Thanks to a great collaboration with DHCD, the development of a coordinated assessment process is underway so that all chronically homeless families in Hampden County will be assessed to determine level of need (with the use of the VI-SPDAT).

Last week, all the providers came together with Gerry and DHCD and reviewed the 30 chronically homeless families in the county and prioritized them based on their vulnerability score, size of unit, and appropriate community, and housing placements are occurring right now under this system.   This is an exciting beginning to a new way of allocating permanent supportive housing units. DHCD will provide regularly timed data reports via HMIS to continually review and update prioritization.   During this interim period, if a provider is working with a family who fits the criteria for chronically homeless – homeless for a year or more or experiences of at least 4 episodes of homelessness over the last 3 years and head of household with a disability that interferes with the tasks of daily living – please contact Gerry McCafferty.

Update on Opening Doors Workplan:

Pamela updated the committee on the next stage of Opening Doors Plan implementation, which includes the development of a workplan for each committee. This will begin with a focused discussion at our December meeting around data and training needs to promote best practices and positive outcomes.

 Initial brainstorm on training needs:

The Network received funding this fiscal year to sponsor several trainings to support our regional efforts. We need to start the brainstorm now to allow for sufficient planning time. We will continue this conversation in more depth at our next meeting but for now an initial brainstorm produced this:

Infectious disease trainings – DHCD will collaborate with DPH to offer one-day training if someone comes in with an infectious disease, how to

  • Human trafficking
  • Critical time intervention – how to work with a household over a brief time to help prepare it for success
  • Substance abuse and mental health issues
  • Motivational interviewing
  • Workforce development – how to maximize financial capacity (check out NeighborWorks and Crittendon Union; Pamela also noted offer of HUD TA on this issue and will follow-up and report back
  • Rapid rehousing – visit Rapid Results Institute
  • Virtual Gateway training
  • DHCD “refreshers” on programs and resources available
  • Victor Papp of DHCD noted that DHCD will be collaborating with DPH to offer one-day trainings on infectious diseases

Lauren Voyer noted recent report by the Bassuk Center on how to end family homelessness. She will send it around and perhaps we can discuss it at our next meeting.

Next meeting date: Tuesday, 12/8, 1:00 – 2:30 pm, CHD

Agenda items: Linn Torto of MA ICHH will be visiting, along with Libby Hayes of Homes for Families; workplan development and further training input

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