Family Services Committee
October 25, 2016

In attendance: Jane Banks, CHD, Elyse Bianchet, ARISE for Social Justice, Yoshi Bird, CHD, Toni Bator, HAPHousing, Michelle Booth, Springfield Housing Authority, Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Hilary Cronin, VAMC, Juan Cruz, NEFWC, Anthia Elliott, Safe Passage, Fran Lemay, ServiceNet (Greenfield Family Inn), Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman House, Gerry McCafferty, Hampden County CoC, Gemini Murray, NEFWC, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Aisha Pizarro, CHD, Kristin Peterson, YWCA of Western MA, Ismael Santos, ARISE for Social Justice, Pamela Schwartz, Network, TJ Steele, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Janna Tetrault, Community Action, Lynne Marie Wanamaker, Safe Passage, Jen Wands, Springfield Public Schools

Family Services Meeting Schedule: We discussed that DHCD releases its monthly data on the last Wed. of the month (i.e., the day after our currently scheduled monthly meeting, the 4th Tuesday of the month).  This timing results in the group missing one of the key goals of our meeting time: to evaluate the data that reflects our progress in ending family homelessness and to have the most timely information to inform our discussion and strategies moving forward.

We revisited moving the meeting date to AFTER the release of that month’s data and discovered that the original reason for moving the meeting off of the second Tuesday of the month no longer exists so the group’s consensus, subject to the opportunity for email feedback, was to return to the second Tuesday of the month.

Data Update: We noted the follow-up questions from last month’s data re: the basis for the placement/application rate (i.e., basis for denials) and the returns to homelessness. We had no additional information at that time. However, Pamela spoke with Deputy Undersecretary Rose Evans following this meeting and learned that DHCD does not publicly release data on reasons for denial and released information re: returns to homelessness on a periodic basis depending on the time period they are looking to analyze. It is unclear when that information will next be available.

Family Services Work Plan Update: Currently, the draft is for Hampden County but we agreed we could make it a regional plan. Gerry clarified that the strategy pertaining to better coordinating prevention with permanent supportive housing and shelter refers to the “no wrong door” goal, i.e., for those who do not access services through the DHCD front door, ensuring that all other relevant resources are known and available at other points of entry. We agreed that the family services work plan is less about numbers per se (for veterans and chronically homeless individuals, the strategy of by-name lists and very specific numbers applies) and more about system planning.   We agreed we would focus more time on the work plan development, potentially in a separate sub-committee meeting.

Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project and brainstorm: Gerry McCafferty announced that Hampden County was applying for HUD’s Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project. This decision was processed in the Network’s Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Committee. The 3 County CoC was clear that it was not in a position to apply; the Committee as a whole is supportive of this application. It is extremely competitive – 10 awards across the country – and Boston (and Worcester?) are applying as well. It targets youth, 18-24 years old, including unaccompanied minors and parenting youth. The CoC applies to be a pilot community and if chosen it has 6 months to engage in more specific planning with HUD’s technical assistance. Following the 6 month period, it can receive anywhere from $1 million to $15 million for a 2 year period and then can be part of the annual renewal process. This would be an extraordinary opportunity to build on our youth services in the region.

Gerry invited a brainstorm of the barriers facing young parents in our system. Barriers included: lack of rental history; CORI, DCF involvement, lack of financial skills (e.g., bill paying).

It was agreed that there needs to be planning for young people’s refusal of services and repeated crises before becoming stabilized; different stages of gaining independence and stability; recognition of the role of inter-generational poverty and the resulting need for wrap-around services.

Housing Search Mini-Training: Thanks to Toni Bator for providing an informative training around housing search strategies. Here is the Housing Search Guide (in English) and in Spanish  and the powerpoint that were distributed. Toni also offered HAP’s Resource Room as a regular resource for housing search.

She noted discrimination as the leading barrier for housing, e.g., discrimination against families by not renting to apartments with lead paint. She referred people with discrimination issues to contact John Fisher, HAP’s housing mobility coordinator.

Michelle Booth of Springfield Housing Authority offered to provide a mini-training on how to support applicants through appeals of housing authority application denials. Pamela will follow-up to schedule.

Confidentiality mini-training: Special thanks to Lynn Marie Wanamaker and Anthia Elliot of Safe Passage for providing this important training on confidentiality, especially as it pertains to domestic violence victims. Please here for a breakdown of the basic concepts covered.

The group acknowledged the tension of wanting to provide relevant information (e.g., geographical location, family size) in search of a housing solution but affirmed the critical importance (as well as legality) of protecting all identifying information. This is especially vital when domestic abuse is involved.

The training confirmed the following principles and protocol:

  • No identifying information should ever be sent out over email. This is especially critical for the Network as it communicates with hundreds of people on various email lists. The group email list should never be used to problem solve individual housing crises. Please feel free to email Pamela individually, without identifying information, regarding a request for assistance and Pamela will assist in providing the appropriate referral.
  • The right to privacy belongs to each person; our responsibility is to protect that right.
  • Be as narrow as possible with any release of information; never a list of groups, always narrowly defined who is getting it and what is being provided. Look very closely at how much information you need to provide the assistance sought.
  • The Violence Against Women Act sets out very clear parameters, e.g., only aggregate, non-personally identifying information may be released.
  • Safe Passage is available for phone calls for consultation around emergency housing issues. Please contact Anthia Elliott at 413-586-1125 or [email protected] or their 24/7 hotline: 413-586-3742

Next meeting date: to be determined after email correspondence with committee. (Note: the next meeting date has since been determined: Tuesday, 12/13, 9:30 – 11 am, Northampton Senior Center)

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