Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
June 9, 2015

 In attendance: Jason Allen, VA Leeds, Jane Banks, Center for Human Development, Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Kathleen Cinquegrara, Amherst Community Connections, Sarah Cloutier, YWCA, Hillary Cronin, VA Leeds, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Heidi Gold, Simtech Solutions, Hwei-Ling Greeney, Amherst Community Connections, Julia Guazzo, CFCE, Sean Hemingway, Center for Human Development, Cheryl LaChance, HAPHousing, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet, Jane Lindfors, DTA DV Unit, Luz Marcano, VA-Springfield Outpatient Clinic, Justin Maynard, VA Leeds, Betty Miller, Valley Opportunity Council, Janet Mock, Square One, Sundarii, Moreira, Amherst Community Connections, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Lizzy Ortiz, City of Springfield, Dorothy Pink, Valley Opportunity Council, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Anna Quan, Amherst Community Connections, Hilda Santa, Greater Springfield Habitat for Humanity, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Sarah Slautterback, DESE, Rachel Trant, DCF, Arelis Whitaker, Springfield Partners

FY15 State Budget Update:

HAPHousing: HCEC almost out of FEMA funds. Next prevention funds available will be new RAFT money as of 7/1/15.

FY16 State Budget Update:

Pamela reported on Network FY16 budget priorities in relation to current budget process. The budget is in Conference Committee where they are ironing out differences between the House and Senate budgets. On Network priorities:

  • Secure Jobs was funded for $750,000 in Senate budget, better than $500,000 in House. Senate version also includes language directing agencies to seek other sources of funding (possibly Housing Stabilization Trust Fund). Since $2 million is necessary to level fund the program statewide, there will clearly be some changes as of 7/1. Donna reported that if the total continues to be $750,000, the contracts will have to be re-procured. We will stay tuned.
  • Housing Consumer Education Centers (HCECs) received requested funding (restored to FY14 levels) in House budget; only level funded in Senate. Will continue to advocate for House version.
  • Unaccompanied Homeless Youth received $2 million for housing and wraparound services in Senate budget; nothing in House. Will advocate for Senate version.
  • Network received earmark funding to continue coordination and implement Opening Doors Plan in House budget; nothing in Senate. Will advocate for House version.

Pamela urged all committee members to contact their legislators to urge support of these priorities to Conference Committee members (even better if your rep happens to be HWM Assistant Vice Chair Stephen Kulik). Go here to find your legislators.

Donna reported that DHCD will be funding shelters based on 8 month contracts (similar to last year as well). There will also be an increase in stabilization staff, aiming to get to a 1:30 staff/family ratio. The goal is to increase diversion to 30% at the front door (now at 20%).

DHCD data update:

Thanks to Bonnie Caldwell for bringing data report. Click here and here for reports.

Comments: motel numbers continue to go down (now below 1,300 statewide). It was noted by Jane Lindfors that DV count appears lower than reality because many families who became homeless due to DV are counted as “doubled-up” (and not as DV) by the time they enter the shelter system.

The consequences of early retirement were also noted. DHCD is losing 6 staff from central office and 24 from the field offices. DTA at the Liberty Street office in Springfield is also losing significant staff, as well as DCF. These are big numbers and it is unclear how this will impact service delivery and case load management. Concerning.

Western MA Opening Doors Plan Review and Discussion – click here for the draft Plan

Pamela provided a summary of what was learned at the Systems Design Clinic offered last week by the National Alliance to End Homelessness (see day 2 powerpoint attached). Then Pamela pulled out pages of Plan pertaining to famiy services, sharing the current big-picture data and the couple of strategies the Plan poses thus far. Pamela welcomed input around additional strategies and concerns.

Below is a summary of suggested strategies:

  • The value of a housing registry so that case managers can be coordinated in their outreach to landlords and can know where there are available units. Pamela pointed out the Network’s creation of the Housing Options Tool (by Andrea Miller) that offers some version of this electronic matching system. While the tool is on the Network website, it is not being maintained or updated due to lack of resources right now. This is something to revisit if the Network receives additional funding next fiscal year.
  • Lack of housing supply for families – issues of enough space, accessibility. We should look at abandoned, boarded up buildings in Hampden County (Springfield, Holyoke) as housing opportunities.
  • Lack of DV attention in Plan. Right now the only way DV families can access the EA system is if they are evicted from shelter. The DV shelters receive nominal re-housing funds. We need to incorporate the needs of these families into the Plan.
  • Concern over Amherst/Northampton area and cost of housing. Impossible to move to less expensive surrounding towns due to lack of transportation.
  • In view of state funding challenges to Secure Jobs program, we should be careful to ensure that the term “Secure Jobs” pertains to all workforce development efforts that will continue beyond any immediate funding loss.
  • Consider how to engage landlords as part of the rehousing solution
  • Consider prioritization list for families who need Permanent Supportive Housing
  • Consider how to deal with confidentiality issues pertaining to rehousing DV families
  • Expand diversion efforts
  • Consider value of “peer support,” a model that has met with great success in serving homeless veterans

Pamela will resend the Plan to invite additional feedback.

Next meeting: July 14, 9:30-11, Northampton location to be determined

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