Individual Services Meeting
June 2, 2016

 In attendance: Elizabeth Bienz, ServiceNet, Allison Brown, Amherst Community Connection, Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Wendy Coco, Commonwealth Care, Jen Glover, Lifepath/FCHCC, Allie Haber, Network, Hwei-Ling Greeney, Amherst Community Connection, Chris Hughes, ServiceNet, Peg Keller, City of Northampton, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS – Homeless Services, Jade Lovett, Craigs Doors, Kim Majewski, Gandara Center, Gleidy Maria, Catholic Charities, Patty McDonnell, SMOC, Dave Modzelewski, Network, Mark Watkins, Gandara Center

Seasonal shelter reports and updates:

Cot Shelter, Northampton (Nov 1 to April 30):
Total sheltered: 207 individuals, 158 men, 49 women
60% ages 26-40
17% ages 41-55
15% ages 56-70
8% ages 18-25

Geographic breakdown:
Northampton – 24%
Springfield – 23%
Holyoke – 10%
other Hampden – 9%
Greenfield – 4%
Amherst and Easthampton – 3%
Other Hampshire – 4%
Out of area – 7%

On the last day of shelter (4/30), there were 10 individuals, 2 went to Grove Street Shelter, remainder went outside or are unknown

Craig’s Doors, Amherst (Nov 1 to April 30):
Total sheltered: 214; 170 men; 44 women
average 10 women per night
Majority of guests ages 35-44
20 people over 55
14 people under 25
Race: 56% White; 18% Latino; 14% African American
On average, every night:
52% struggled with mental health issues
35% struggled with substance use issues
26% struggled with both
Trends: increasing population of aging guests; greater influx of guests from Springfield/Holyoke area
Jade offered to obtain a more detailed breakdown of town of origin for Craig’s Doors.

Friends of the Homeless, Springfield:
Bill Miller reported via email that for the month of May the shelter averaged 160 people per night. Highest May ever. Unclear why .

There was some discussion about if/how the Network should approach Holyoke and other Hampden County communities regarding their local shelter needs. Outreach has occurred by Northampton to Holyoke but without results so far. The complexity of this challenge was named – the tension with Housing First , more pressure on lower-income communities . We will continue to discuss.

Barton’s Crossing cot shelter, Pittsfield:
Erin Forbush: will provide exact data but could estimate now that roughly 150 individuals were sheltered during the season. 17 people were sheltered when the season ended; some went on wait list for permanent shelter bed; others decided to camp.

Amherst shelter/town/business relations:
We discussed recent local media that has drawn attention to the spike in police involvement with individuals residing at Craig’s Doors.   Meetings are underway with the Amherst Police Department and shelter staff to problem-solve. Training of police officers to avoid de-escalation is also underway. Amherst police captain is very amenable to problem-solving. Craig’s Doors is engaging in public education campaign around the complexity of the population – that homelessness is a symptom of larger problems. The fact that the altercations involve almost exclusively “out of town” guests adds to the challenge. Many expressed the concern over maintaining a behaviorally based shelter (as opposed to creating a barrier of no substance use); that coordination, communication and education are key.   The Network will participate where possible and useful, e.g, attend meetings and/or write a letter to the editor.

TransAtlantic dialogue on homelessness:
Jay Levy reported on his hosting of Robin Johnson from England. He founded an approach based on “Psychologically Informed Environments” that is a “sister” to Trauma Informed Care. He offered the PETER Rabbit:
P: psychological orientation
E: environment – how to create a positive environment for the target population
T: training (for provider staff)
E: evaluation
R: rules of engagement and relationships
RABBIT: reflective practice

A fundamental principle of Action Learning – eschews formality at all costs, stresses learning through action

Review of performance measures template for quarterly committee evaluation:
As part of the Network work plan for this fiscal year, the CoC’s agreed to develop a template for reviewing performance measures (per HUD requirements). Simtech, as part of its work with the Hampden County CoC, provided the template as a starting point for discussion. We reviewed and provided these comments and questions:
People were also interested in knowing:

  • how many people are showing up at the “front door” in a given quarter – i.e., entering homelessness
  • how many people exited homelessness and entered affordable vs. market rent housing
  • place of origin prior to homelessness, both geographically and specifically (e.g., couch surfing or in their own home)
  • number of people at risk of homelessness in a given quarter (Steve Connor noted that 3 county is tracking veterans who are deemed “at risk” and he finds this very useful).

Is it possible to make the form more immediately comprehensible? We agreed that we would spend more time at our July meeting to discuss this and hopefully finalize our recommended template.

Hampden County CoC Update:
Gerry McCafferty provided this update via email:

  • The CoC has almost completed its transition to Homelink for its by-name list of chronically homeless individuals and homeless veterans. Beginning July 1, all CoC-funded PSH vacancies units for individuals (except RVCC and FOH) MUST be filled through Homelink.
  • The CoC, with our Zero 2016 coordinator and our Homelink staff person, is hosting an ACTION CAMP June 21 and 22. This very hands-on workshop is meant to improve the way we work together and increase the rate at which we are housing chronically homeless individuals.
  • The Springfield/Hampden County CoC expects to be eligible for approximately $500,000 in new funds in the upcoming CoC Program competition. The highest priority needs are for more permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless individuals and families. Organizations should be identifying possible new program now. While there is need throughout the CoC, areas outside of Springfield are particularly underserved.

Next meeting: Thursday, July 7, 10:30-noon, Friends of the Homeless, Springfield

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