Family Services Committee Meeting Minutes
September 27, 2016
In attendance: Jane Banks, CHD, Bonnie Caldwell, DHCD, Hillary Cronin, VAMC, Juan Cruz, NEFWC, Dawn DiStefano, Square One, Jill Fijal, Chicopee Public Schools, Jamal Jacobs, Community Action, Faith Lafayette, DPH, Jane Lindfors, DTA DV unit, Heather Marshall, Elizabeth Freeman House, Gemini Murray, NEFWC, Donna Nadeau, DHCD, Kristin Peterson, YWCA, Steve Plummer, Springfield Partners for Community Action, Jenni Pothier, Tenancy Preservation Program, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Tanya Sparks, WomanShelter, Janna Tetreault, Community Action, Luz Vega, WomanShelter, Janette Vigo, HAP, Lauren Voyer, HAP, Amanda Watson, Franklin County Regional Housing Authority, Mandy Winalski, Community Legal Aid, MaryAnne Woodbury, ServiceNet,
Pamela reported that the most up-to-date DHCD data will be made available on tomorrow’s statewide DHCD conference call and she will relay it to the committee after the call. We exchanged information more informally and confirmed that there are no families living in motels in Western MA right now (and statewide the number is down to 272). While this is great news, the reality continues that families are entering the system at the same rate (anecdotally reported) and the demand for affordable, decent housing remains extremely high and finding housing placements, especially for larger families with multiple challenges, continues to be very challenging.
Right now there are roughly 450 families in emergency shelter beds in Western MA and that does not include families in DV shelters or refugees (more refugees slated to arrive in Western MA in the coming months).
Donna Nadeau pointed out that the Western MA housing placement rate is among the highest in the state. Our providers are doing a fantastic job under these difficult circumstances.
Work Plan Review (Hampden County):
Gerry produced a draft work plan for Hampden County (click here). This can also serve as a springboard for 3 County and the region as a whole. The group reviewed the work plan and agreed we would discuss in more depth at our next meeting. Questions and comments included:
- Under 2nd strategy around coordinated entry – conduct strategy session to identify ways to better coordinate with DV services – Jane Banks provided an update on its meeting (along with Safe Passage) with Full Frame Initiative and Homes for Families to continue the dialogue on improving the response system for families experiencing domestic violence. We will stay tuned on next steps.
- Clarification needed for action step under second strategy around coordinated entry: “conduct strategy session(s) to identify ways to better coordinate prevention and PSH with shelter” – would like to better understand what the concept is around coordination
- There was agreement that increasing affordable housing is a linchpin to success in ending homelessness but the question is if/where the Network Committee work intersects with this goal (i.e., other entities working on this, e.g., the regional housing network and other housing development groups; also HAP’s development projects but Lauren pointed out that the process is slow – one building a year if lucky – and complex). The group agreed that the needs are different in each region, for example, here in Western MA we have more abandoned buildings that could be rehabbed (NEFWC is doing this right now with a building in Springfield); in Boston there is a far greater gap in available housing. Lauren suggested a review of HCEC’s booklet on housing search.
We agreed at our next meeting to allocate some time on our agenda to hear from HAP (Toni, Lauren) around Housing Search strategies as well as an update on RAFT’s expansion of eligibility to include individuals. Lauren will bring findings from HAP’s survey to landlords around their barriers/incentives for renting to families who are receiving HomeBASE.
Three County CoC Update:
Janna Tetrault of Community Action updated the group that Consortium funding has been spent (all on prevention; not enough funding to hire a coordinator); youth funding is being administered through DIAL/SELF and funding still remains (contact DIAL/SELF if you are working with a parenting youth at risk of homelessness).
Faith Lafayette of FOR families noted that with the end of motel use in the region, their staff is transitioning into shelter work (4 staff in Western MA) with HAP and NEFWC shelters. Getting referrals for families who have substance use or mental health issues or otherwise difficulty functioning.
Jill Fijal of Chicopee Public Schools provided an update on McKinney-Vento: the legislation was reauthorized and included some important changes: as of Oct. 1, any student has the right to stay in their feeder school in their home district if in shelter when ending one phase of schooling, e.g, from elementary to middle school. Also as of 12/11, children in foster care are no longer covered by McKinney-Vento, which means they are not provided transportation under M-V legislation. It remains to be seen how the transportation costs will be covered (presumably some split between DCF and school disricts but unresolved). A time of great uncertainty (and anxiety) around this change.
Next meeting: Tuesday, October 25, 1-2:30 pm, CHD, 51 Capital Drive, West Springfield