Leadership Council Meeting Minutes
September 17, 2015

 In attendance: Father Stan Aksamit, Our Lady of Peace Parish, Dave Christopolis, Hilltown CDC, Ken Demers, BerkshireWorks, Lindsay Errichetto, Family Life Support System, David Gadaire, CareerPoint, Lisa Goldsmith, Dial/SELF, Clare Higgins, Community Action, Janice Humason, Friends of the Homeless, Charlie Knight, former housing consumer, Joanne LaCour, DTA, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS – Homeless Services, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Diana McLean, City of Westfield, Dave Modzelewski, Network, Michelle Morris, Berkshire Bank, Andrew Morehouse, Food Bank of Western MA, Jerry Ray, Mental Health Association, George Ryan, Hamdpen County Regional Employment Board, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Ben Scranton, Pioneer Valley Real Estate Group, Jim Seney, Veterans Administration Medical Center, Robin Sherman, Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority, Nancy Stoll, United Way of Berkshire County, Jenna Tetrault, Community Action, Lynne Wallace, HAPHousing,

Minutes of 6/4/15 Leadership Council meeting
Motion to approve: Charlie Knight
Seconded: Ken Demers
All in favor with abstentions from Joanne LaCour and Jim Seney

Network FY16 Budget Review
 No significant revisions since LC budget approval in June (based on receipt of the state earmark). The Network has received $6,400 thus far from Network partners in “sustaining contributions.”

FY16 State Budget Update on Housing/Homelessness Click here for information from Mass. Budget and Policy Center. Highlights for this fiscal year include: increase in MRVPs, increase in RAFT funding for prevention, restoration of HCEC funding to FY14 levels (Network priority), investment of $2 million in housing and services for unaccompanied homeless youth (Network priority), funding of Secure Jobs at $750,000 with instruction to use the Housing Stabilization Fund to ensure continuity of the program (Network priority).

Western MA Opening Doors Plan Update:
Pamela reported on the integration of the Plan in its committee work and the ongoing task of developing templates for data review and analysis. She also reported on the work that is taking place across committees around developing coordinated assessment tools, which is in keeping with HUD goals and requirements.

Gerry McCafferty reported on the Hampden County CoC: Our regional plan is tracking federal goals around ending homelessness for veterans, chronic homelessness and then families and youth.

Hampden County has made tremendous progress on both its veteran and chronic homeless population. Now getting to the place of tracking the population by name and connecting them on an individual basis to the services they need. The goal is to get veterans and chronically homeless housed as quickly as possible in an appropriate setting. Recent data shows 10 chronically homeless people in shelter (down from 100’s in years past). As more chronically homeless are housed, the region will be able to focus more on serving those who are most vulnerable to becoming chronic and house them before that happens. Coordinated intake and assessment is a critical part of this effort.

As to family homelessness, the Hampden County CoC has funded 2 projects for Permanent Supportive Housing for chronically homeless families (18 units total).

Discussion of need for affordable housing as a factor in meeting homelessness challenge. Gerry pointed out that Hampden County has a 7% vacancy rate, i.e., the need is for more subsidies, not more units. Their 10 year Plan set a goal of adding 250 units of Permanent Supportive Housing which has been met. The next focus for Hampden County is working on creating more housing options for families and youth. Since family homelessness is managed and paid for by the state, the region has relatively little control or capacity; however, it will use its impact to zero in on hardest to house families (those in need of PSH) and focus local resources there. try to free up In the Three County CoC, there is a need for more affordable units.

Dave Christopolis reported on the Three County CoC: The Three County CoC has converted 50 transitional housing (TH) beds to permanent housing beds (PH) (per HUD requirements). The reality is that many of the chronically homeless people in TH were in need of PH. As to veterans, most are housed through Soldier On in Grant Per Diem (GPD) beds (a total of 225). Those beds are transitional in nature but there is discussion around converting them to permanent. By the end of next year, there will be 44 new PSH units for veterans in Chicopee. Agawam is also converting the old state police barracks into veteran housing. These developments will make a very positive impact on housing the veteran population in the region.

For the 3 County region, it is important to work with local housing developers around setting aside units for the homeless population.

We also discussed the new focus within the Network to reach out to local housing authorities to set-aside project based units for homeless individuals. A sub-committee of the Network’s Individual Services Committee will be working on a targeted outreach plan. We are aware that for the outreach to be successful it must come from people in the community asking for it.

Dave also noted that Barton’s Crossing in Pittsfield, the primary shelter for homeless individuals, is in deplorable condition and attention must be paid to repair to meet minimal standards of human habitation.

It was noted that the Section 8 waiting list currently has 26,462 people on it. The need for affordable housing is vast. Some concern was expressed about the tension between pulling units off the wait list at housing authorities to house the homeless in the face of the level of demand – and multi-year waits – among the population struggling to stay in housing. One response was that if we start with the most vulnerable and house them, we are then able to shift more dollars to prevention.

It was noted that moving families out of motels and into scattered site (shelter) apartments – a top priority of the Administration – paradoxically take units off the market for rent and permanent housing (and with shelter stays lasting an average of 10 months, this has a real impact). This creates more pressure on the system.

We discussed the challenge of funding small scale development and account for the variables across the region, e.g., Hampden County mayors are clamoring for more market rate housing; the 3 County region sees the need for more subsidies and affordable housing. It was noted that Pioneer Valley Planning Commission has studied this issue on “uneven markets” and how this all plays out around income and racial segregation.   All agreed that enlisting DHCD support around funding small development projects should be a priority.

Next Steps on Implementation of the Western MA Opening Doors Plan

Dave Christopolis reported on the decision to allocate some Network funding to provide the Three County CoC technical assistance to support its efforts to reduce homelessness among its target populations. Dave will develop a Scope of Service that fleshes out the assistance in more detail; assuming a January start date.

Gerry reported on the decision to bring in more national expertise to support our regional effort. Last June, we sponsored a workshop by the National Alliance to End Homelessness that was very successful and people expressed an interest in receiving more. We will explore the appropriate workshop to bring the benefit of best practices from across the country to Western MA.

We will also work with committees to figure out how we start to use the data to better help us understand our populations and target resources in the best way possible.

Gerry also explained the purchase of Simtech’s data tool – AgencyDash – for the next 9 months; that it was necessary in this transitional phase where DHCD is not yet able to provide Hampden County the data it needs. AgencyDash will allow the sub-region to establish combined ways of looking at data. It is presumed this need will be met through other means by the end of this fiscal year (ideally by leveraging state buying power to have it provide what the region needs); this is a stop-gap measure.

The initial purchase of AgencyDash occurred last May. Simtech has continued to provide the tool at no cost during this interim period since the end of June. Hampden County has used the tool to a great extent and it has provided vital information around determining longest shelter stayers, patterns of shelter use, etc. Individual emergency shelters have also found the information useful.

Some Network partners expressed concern about the cost of the tool, and whether it is a duplication of resources and Gerry and Andrew responded with the answers above. Concern was also expressed that this tool only benefits Hampden County, not the Three County CoC since 3 County is using different tools (through the state ETO, which Hampden County does not use, hence the difference in needs). The TA provided to the 3 County CoC through the state funding is intended to address its particular needs. Concern was also expressed about a future earmark given the difference in needs between the sub-regions.

Ben Scranton, Realtors Association of PV – Thanks to Ben for providing this brief presentation on The Realtor Association of Pioneer Valley: it is a non-profit trade organization with 1,600 members in Western MA (partner organization is in the Berkshires). The RAPV is committed to community service and offers a variety of different grants to community organizations. Lindsay Errichetto shared how the Berkshire Realtors Association provided a grant to Louison House which made great impact. We are all encouraged to pursue funding for various needs; feel free to follow-up with Ben at 413-785-1328, [email protected] for more information.

Next meeting: Wed., Jan 20, Hampden County, meeting location to be determined

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