Veterans Meeting
June 12, 2015

 In attendance: Dave Christopolis, Three County CoC, Jim Clark, Pittsfield Veteran Services, Ben Cluff, DPH, Steve Connor, Northampton Veterans Services, Tony Forzgalia, Veterans Inc., Lisa Goldsmith, Dial/SELF, Heidi Gold, Simtech Solutions, Scott Haskell, Turners House, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS-Homeless Services, Luz Marcano, Springfield VA, Melissa Mateus, Springfield Partners, Gerry McCafferty, Hampden County CoC, Katherine Person, Veterans Inc., Pamela Schwartz, Network, Dom Sondrini, Soldier On, Kerry Spitzer, MIT student, Kate Sweetster-Owens, Springfield VA Clinic

Reporting out of Three County CoC Veterans Meeting:

This meeting took place the previous Monday in Pittsfield. Dave Christopolis and Sue White and others reported out on the decision to examine Soldier On’s veterans population to determine the chronic population.

Sue reported that she already looked at the VA’s HOMES Database and as able to get a list of chronically homeless at Soldier On. Data on veteran chronically homeless is also obtainable through HMIS, and Gerry pointed out that Simtech’s tool Agency Dash can run that data immediately. Heidi Gold of Simtech agreed to run that data.

Dom from Soldier On, Sue from the VA and Dave from the CoC will talk further and confirm data sharing steps in the Three County CoC and will report back to the larger group at the next meeting.

Sue White shared that there are 18,000 chronically homeless veterans nationwide – through their data base they are seeing 25 chronically homeless at Soldier On. These are the veterans the VA is clearly prioritizing for Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). It’s somewhat complicated by the fact that PSH is currently being built by Soldier On but it won’t be ready for occupancy for another year or two and the VA wants them to use HUD/VASH vouchers to get these chronically homeless veterans housed now.

Jim Clark of Pittsfield Veterans Services raised the question of data distribution once data is obtained. The VSO need to be an active partner; needs to know about the chronically homeless so they can join forces in providing maximum benefits.

Steve Connor of Northampton Veterans Services said he planned to look through the state DVS data system to see what can be gleaned there as well.

On release of information: the Hampden County CoC created a Release of Information form that explicitly lists data sharing partners and provides an MOU between partners to allow for data sharing. The VA is looking at this form and will hopefully sign on (similar forms exist in other parts of the country). Right now, the VA and Soldier On share data release agreements but no other agencies.

Homeless Youth Veterans

Lisa Goldsmith of Dial/SELF works with homeless youth in Franklin County and raised the question of the intersection of veterans and youth homelessness.

Ben Cluff distributed hand-outs showing the age breakdown of veterans statewide and the age breakdown of those veterans receiving medication assisted treatment.  Click here and here for hand-outs.

Dom agreed to cull data from Soldier On to learn more precisely the number of youth veterans (under the age of 25) in the system. We will discuss again at the next meeting.

Western MA Opening Doors Plan

The draft Plan (click here) includes potential strategies for ending veteran homelessness (federal goal: by 2016).

Additional possible strategies to consider:

  • Add veteran youth and families
  • Add outreach to family shelter system
  • Add partnership/collaboration using system data
  • Partnership, collaboration using data in the system

At last month’s veterans meeting, the group had an initial brainstorm of the “drivers” that impact veteran homelessness. The following drivers were identified:

  • Outreach and evaluation
  • Coordination
  • Housing
  • Supportive services and case management
  • Income
  • Mainstream services

We agreed to choose 3 to prioritize:

  • Outreach/Evaluation (reaching veterans, e.g., West Springfield has a homeless veteran population camping out)
  • Coordination (case level, system level, coordination)
  • Housing (e.g., matching veteran needs with available housing stock; affordability challenge even with a HUD/VASH subsidy; building relationships with landlords)

We agreed we need to get clear on the definition of what it means for a veteran to having a “housing plan.” Clarification needed regarding definition of “ending veteran homelessness” (different criteria than the typical HUD definition of all being housed within 30 days).

Other business:

Pamela will send revised and updated veterans resources hand-out, English and Spanish versions.

Katherine Persons announced a Veterans Stand-Down taking place next Thurs 6/18 (11-7) and Fri, 6/19 (9-3) at 69 Grove Street in Worcester. Resources and food and clothes available.

Next meeting: Friday, July 10, 9 am – 10:30 am, Springfield (will try for Mental Health Association space)

Agreed on following tasks before next meeting:

  • Read and give feedback on Draft W. Mass. Opening Doors Plan- All
  • Define terms: what is a housing plan? – Steve Connor  (Gerry will send most recent USICH guidance to Steve)
  • Accelerate the conversation about 6 VA-eligible veterans at FOH – VA, FOH, Gerry
  • Get report back from Springfield veterans outreach group, tell them about Veterans in motels in W. Springfield – Gerry
  • Work toward by-name lists: 3-County – pull data from HMIS – Simtech & 3 County providers
  • Work toward by-name list: Hampden – further refine list that has been created – FOH, VA, Simtech, Gerry

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