Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes
November 20, 2015

In attendance: Beth Barbra, Veterans Inc, Donna Bryant, Springfield Partners, Ben Cluff, DPH, Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Tony Forzgalia, Veterans Inc., Mike Hagmaier, SoldierOn, Scott Haskell, Turner House, Gerry McCafferty, Springfield Housing, Wilfredo Melendez, Holyoke Veterans Services, Lizzy Ortiz, Springfield Housing, Katherine Persons, Veterans Inc, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Katelyn Sweetser-Owens, VA, Sue White, VAMC, Sabrina Willard, Springfield Partners
Hampden County Report

The CoC is running reports every 2 weeks in HMIS to track homeless veterans who are in the system. Currently there are 2 veterans in individual shelter, 1 veteran family in shelter, two veterans on the street, one of whom has been contacted by outreach staff. The Springfield Police Dept. collaboration continues to be useful.

On the agenda is developing similar police/service provider outreach collaborations in other large cities in Hampden County, e.g., Holyoke and Westfield. Gerry will do a larger HMIS check that includes family shelters across the county and is in conversation with Jim Mahoney of Holyoke Veterans Services to build outreach and data on Holyoke veteran population (without an individual shelter, there will clearly be very few).

While the county is at “functional zero” – housing veterans at a rate greater than the number who are homeless – Gerry is not interested in declaring the “end of veteran homelessness” while actively working to house homeless veterans. The upcoming PIT count in January may be well-timed to announce mission accomplished, but that will remain to be seen.

Three County Report

The 3 County CoC has retained a consultant from TAC (Technical Assistance Collaborative) to help develop strategies on ending veteran homelessness in the 3 County region.   They will devise this plan over the coming month and implement between January and June.

Veterans Treatment Courts

We discussed the use of Veterans Treatments Courts now active in Holyoke and Northampton District Courts; one in Hampden County is starting up soon. There are 3 active cases in the Holyoke Court.  These courts identify veterans involved in the criminal justice system, post adjudication, to provide targeted support for positive re-entry into the community.

We also discussed the Valor Act and agreed it would be useful to get a summary of its provisions. Ben Cluff will provide that to the committee.

Opening Doors Workplan Discussion:

Pamela provided an update on the implementation of the Western MA Opening Doors Plan, which includes the development of a workplan for each sub-population. Our group noted that in the case of veterans, where we are on track for ending veteran homelessness, our committee contribution would best be to capture the work that has occurred with this population, the strategies enlisted and the outcomes all of which could better inform our work with other sub-populations.

The remaining issues for veterans pertain to ending homelessness within GPD programs, working with street veterans who are treatment resistant, building collaborations with police departments.

Pamela, Gerry McCafferty, Mike Hagmaier, Steve Connor will develop a broad framework for this conversation to be used as a springboard for discussion at our next veterans meeting.

Update on MA NAHRO meeting

Steve Connor shared his update on the MA NAHRO meeting where he learned that the innovation he developed with Northampton Housing Authority – creating an agreement with veteran tenants for Veteran Services to intervene and assist when tenancy threatened – had not in fact been delivered across housing authorities as intended. This raised the notion of needing to do local training for our housing authorities in Western MA, which could include outreach on the statewide goal to implement veteran preferences, and should incorporate other Network issues pertaining to housing authorities (and a statewide goal to implement veteran preferences). We will include this in our workplan conversation.

Next meeting: Friday, 12/18 9:15 Mental Health Association subject to confirmation

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