Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
April 14, 2015

In attendance: Jane Banks, Center for Human Development, Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Sarah Cloutier, YWCA of Western Mass., Charity Day, Franklin Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Harry Duchesne, New England Farm Workers Council, Heidi Gold, Simtech Solutions, Donna Harris, Franklin Hampshire Career Center, Mary E. Johnson, Central West Justice Center, Cheryl LaChance, HAPHousing, Faith Lafayette, DPH FOR Families, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet Greenfield, Jane Lindfors, DTA Domestic Violence Unit, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman Center, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Jordana O’Connell, Holyoke Public Schools, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Stephen Roussel, Community Action, Hilda Santa, Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Sarah Slautterback, DESE, Janette Vigo, HAPHousing, Jennifer Wands, Springfield Public Schools

DHCD update:  Bonnie Caldwell of DHCD provided a hand-out summarizing the monthly data on families living in motels.  Click here: for the Emergency Assistance Monthly Report.

FOR Families:  FOR Families is providing services in 6 of the 7 hotels in WMass.  Mia Dixon is leaving the team 4/17/15.  With the slated closing of the Holyoke Hotel on 4/30/15 and with Mia’s departure, Mitchelly Colon will be reassigned to the EconoLodge/Chicopee and the Howard Johnson’s/Springfield.  Evelyn Montanez will continue assignment at the Holyoke Hotel until it’s closure.  Stay tuned for additional changes as May approaches.  We are seeing an increase in the number of DV placements and are noticing an uptick in placements at the Days/Holyoke and Days/Greenfield.

Shelter updates:  Valley Opportunity Council just opened 14 units in Holyoke as a congregate shelter (space formerly used for “motel families); New England Farm Workers Council opening shelter expansion (congregate/co-housing) in Holyoke – will be a total of 15-20 beds.

Overall, it was noted that shelter providers are seeing fewer out of area placements.

Nurturing Fathers Conference – Donna Nadeau provided an update on this inspirational conference.  8 dads attended, including 1 from CHD and 1 from Central Mass.  As follow-up, there is a 3 day mentoring conference in Holyoke in May.

CHD Collaboration with Enterprise Farms:  Jane Bank shared news of an exciting partnership between CHD and Enterprise Farms in Hatfield that will provide greater access to fresh vegetables and fruit to families living in shelter and motels through both farm shares and training heads of household on running farmers markets.  Two new farmers markets will be set up, one in Springfield  and one in Holyoke, through this initiative. We all agreed that this effort could be a pilot project for the region and state and also lends itself to positive media.  Congratulations to CHD!

RAFT update:  HAP shared that they have exhausted all RAFT funds for FY15.  Franklin County still has RAFT funds available but anticipates they will be spent by mid-May.

Update and discussion of Western Mass. Opening Doors Plan to End Homelessness

Pamela reminded the Committee of this Network project: the Network received state funding in FY15 to develop a regionalized version of the Western MA Opening Door Plan, a Plan based on the federal Opening Doors Plan to End Homelessness that was first released in 2010 by the US Interagency Council on Homelessness.  Its goals include ending veteran homelessness by 2015, chronic homelessness by 2016, family homelessness by 2020.  Our goal as a Network is to localize the Plan to provide a data-driven resource for measuring progress, identifying gaps and implementing action steps in response.

The Network retained Simtech Solutions to provide data tools and consulting services to develop the Plan.  We are working with Matt Simmonds and Heidi Gold of Simtech and Simtech sub-contracted with Andrea Miller, a Network veteran of data analysis and evaluation, to provide her expertise and knowledge of local efforts.

Heidi Gold presented on the Western Mass. Plan, beginning with a description of the US Opening Doors Plan and and its intersection with the HEARTH Act and HUD requirements that impact our local Continuums of Care.  She distributed a hand-out that outlined the goals of the Plan (click here).  HUD is continually releasing new data standards that are requiring communities to take a more holistic approach to homelessness.  This Plan will both better enable us to meet HUD requirements which dovetails with our own goals around preventing and ending homelessness (which dovetails with the US Opening Doors Plan).

We are currently working on the “landscape analysis” to understand our starting point.  We have dozens of providers, over a dozen data systems to report to from over a dozen funding sources!  We will use HUD’s performance measures as a basis for evaluating our own performance (as a starting point).

Committee members pointed out that one of the biggest challenges is not being able to get access to DHCD data to enable providers to understand a family’s shelter history, which would help inform the interventions and housing search.  Everyone agreed that data access across the system is critical to analyzing where families are at and how best to meet their needs.

Pamela will bring the draft Plan to the Committee in a couple of weeks for review and feedback.  The final plan will be released before June 30 (end of the fiscal year) and we are currently working with the legislature on continued funding in FY16 in order to begin the implementation process.

Next meeting: Tuesday 5/12, 9:30 – 11:00 am, location to be determined (likely DMH Haskell Building due to other Senior Center space demands)

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