Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
July 14, 2015
In attendance: Jane Banks, CHD, Sarah Cloutier, YWCA, Charity Day, Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Linda Driscoll, CHD, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Erin Forbush, ServiceNet, Donna Harris, Franklin Hampshire Career Center, Sean Hemingway, CHD, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Stephen Roussel, Community Action, Hilda Santa, Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Rachel Trant, DCF, Jennifer Wands, Springfield Public Schools, Arelis Whitaker, Springfield Partners,
FY16 State Budget review:
The FY16 state budget is now before the Governor. We reviewed budget items pertaining to family homelessness as summarized in the Mass Budget and Policy Center analysis (click here ). Overall, we agreed that this budget was very positive for housing and homelessness prevention programs. Specifically with regard to Network priorities: HCEC funding was fully restored to 2014 levels (allowing for administration of the RAFT program among other important items); Secure Jobs received $750,000 in funding (with an additional $100K from Fireman Foundation committed this year); MRVPs received a significant increase. A lot of good news!
Jane Banks also pointed out that CHD received an additional $170,000 from DHCD to assist with diversion efforts at DTA/DHCD’s front door (e.g., will help pay for back rent owed or utility bills, to resolve barriers). This will be an important resource to preserve tenancies.
Pamela shared the data she received from Rose Evans (DHCD Associate Director of Division of Housing) regarding family homelessness (click here). Great progress on reducing the numbers of families in motels in W. Mass. (down to 118). Congratulations to all involved in the rehousing efforts. Due to the decrease in numbers, HAP is now the sole provider working with all families in motels in Hampden County.
In Franklin County, there are currently 29 families living in the Days Inn, the vast majority of whom are local families. FCRHRA and ServiceNet and FOR Families are working very hard to rehouse these families. Charity Day reported that the biggest challenge in Franklin County is unit availability – right now there are 79 vouchers distributed between Greenfield Housing Authority and FCRHRA and no units available to use them. This is the biggest challenge of all. Others in Hampden and Hampshire Counties echoed the challenge, especially for affordable 3 BR apartments.
Charity noted that they are working with the Greenfield Recorder to do a story on the issue to get the word out to landlords. We also noted the National Public Radio series on HUD’s pilot program (in other parts of the country) to allow for increase in Fair Market Rents to enable tenants to find apartments in higher cost areas (Northampton and Amherst would qualify!). We will learn more about this.
Review of Western MA Opening Doors Plan Strategies:
We reviewed the family homelessness strategies in the Plan (see p. 24 of the Plan) and had an initial brainstorm about our priorities for the development of our committee workplan. Expressed priority preferences include:
- Bridging the gap between EA and DCF with regard to resources for homeless families due to domestic violence
- Increasing workforce development opportunities, especially in Hampden County with MGM construction and jobs on the horizon. There is also interest in learning more about the housing inventory consequences as a result of this construction. Pamela will follow-up with Gerry to learn more.
- Developing more affordable housing in areas with not enough of it – how to promote that. It was noted that we need to learn more about the infrastructure in the outlying communities, e.g., transportation, medical care, that is necessary for low-income families to reside there. Pamela said she would reach out to PVPC and learn more about what is in their housing plan that may already offer data on this. Consider reaching out to UMass to participate in transportation advocacy in Hampshire County (summer schedule seriously limited due to university schedule).
- Rehousing efforts in Franklin County: Jane of CHD raised the prospect of Hampden County housing providers coming together to support housing search for Franklin County families.
- DHCD collaboration on access to data: the group wanted to better understand why DHCD does not report out on reasons for EA eligibility denial
- We agreed we should add transportation challenge as one of our strategies in the Plan since transportation access is so critical to ending homelessness (access to child care, employment). FRTA is seeking comments now on their transportation plan. Pamela will reconnect with PVPC on this issue since the Network partnered with PVPC on this issue a couple of years ago (and next steps were not clear enough to keep us moving on it)
- Landlord outreach: the Zero 2016 campaign is hosting webinars on landlord outreach. We agreed committee members would participate and report back to the committee: 7/21 webinar: Jane Banks, Stephen Roussel, Janna Tetreault, Erin Forbush; 7/22: Charity Day, Stephen Roussel, Erin Forbush, 7/27: Lizzy Ortiz, Stephen Roussel, Hilda Santa, Erin Forbush
This discussion of strategy priorities and the development of a workplan with goals and timelines will continue at our next meeting.
Rachel Trant, DCF: its wait for family reunification program is now open; any DCF families in need of reunification resources should reach out to Rachel at: Rachel.firstname.lastname@example.org
Jane Banks, CHD: new tenancy preservation program is off the ground in Northampton, funded by the Northampton CPA, for Northampton households only, new staff person Linda Driscoll will be working out of First Churches. Will have contact information shortly.
Visioning Day with Homes for Families – a family advocacy day on 8/13 in Worcester – CHD providing buses, child care, from 9:30 am – 2:30 pm, contact Jane at email@example.com if interested in attending or recruiting families.
Tuesday, 8/18, 1 pm – 2:30 pm, Center for Human Development, 69 Capital Drive, West Springfield