Veterans Committee Meeting Minutes
September 23, 2016

In attendance: Beth Barbra, Veterans Inc., Steve Connor, VSO Hampshire County, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS-Homeless Services, Chris Lizotte, VSO West Springfield, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield, Sue Moorman, VA HUD-VASH, Katherine Person, Veterans Inc., Sarah Polidore, Soldier On, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Sabrina Willard, Soldier On

Statewide Veterans Commission Update (Steve Connor):

Steve shared the new PROPOSED PROTOCOL FOR SECURING RE-ENTRY SUPPORT AND SERVICES FOR NON VA ELIGIBLE VETERANS LEAVING THE CORRECTIONAL SYSTEM (click  here), a product of collaboration among DHCD, DOC, DVS, DPH, and DMH, among others. The protocol will be distributed through the CoC’s.   Steve Connor and Steve Como of Soldier On have been directly involved in the development of the protocol and Western MA has served as a model for what is being proposed statewide, e.g., monthly roundtables at Hampshire County Corrections that include the Veterans Service Officer and SSVF brainstorming housing options for incarcerated veterans.   There are 17 Houses of Correction and the goal is to have a similar panel in place at each one.

We agreed on the following outreach plan for our region (and Gerry added it to the workplan):

  • Hampden County (Ludlow): Steve Connor
  • Franklin County: Sabrina Willard will reach out to VSO Tim Niejadlik
  • Bekshire County: Sarah Polidore will reach out to VSO Jim Clark 

Steve also provided an update about the Veteran Community Engagement Board, a national initiative under the auspices of the VA to bring together VA and community partners to advise the VA in respective areas. For our region, the Board is located in Boston, includes the directors of all VA hospitals in MA, the VA director of benefits and cemetery director. It is responsible for 2 forums each year and the first is on October 22 in Fall River. The general discussion topic will be presentation of the housing plan for homeless veterans, how the statewide system is working and a brainstorm on how we ensure veterans stay housed. There will be another forum in the Spring and the topic will be determined after this October forum occurs and the next focus (e.g., employment) becomes more clear.

Three County CoC Update (Steve Connor):

The 3 County CoC is hosting a training for community leaders and providers – police, shelter and food pantry providers, e.g., – on how to collaborate to end veteran homelessness. It is taking place on October 20, 3-4:30 pm, at the Northampton Senior Center and at Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority (with a satellite location TBD in Franklin County).

Steve will send the notice to Pamela who will post it on the Network blog and send out to all Network committees.

The 3 County CoC is also continuing to make progress on its by-name list.

West Springfield Update:

Chris Lizotte, West Springfield VSO, provided an update regarding the possible rehabilitation of a nursing home in West Springfield to provide a “Graduated Housing Program” that would be available to people who are homeless or at risk. The facility would offer two primary tracks for assistance: one for those who need permanent supportive housing and the other for those who need short-term assistance to help get back on their feet. The latter would be “fast-tracked” for condo homeownership. The Mayor of West Springfield is interested in pursuing this idea – consistent with urban revitalization and transforming blighted properties – and a Steering Committee is being created to further discussion. Grants and access to subsidies will be key to any success. Gerry suggested he get in touch to discuss more with the Hampden County CoC and Pamela offered the Network’s support in whatever way would be useful.

Hampden County CoC Update (Gerry McCafferty):

Gerry provided an update regarding the progress on their by-name list (approximately 20 people), zeroing in on those who are VA eligible – connecting them to VASH – and those who are not – searching out other available resources (SSVF if possible).   The outreach partnership with BHN and police is excellent and the flow of identifying veterans, determining eligibility, and making appropriate referrals is increasingly refined. One of the biggest challenges is veterans who may be in shelter for 3 or 4 days and then “disappear.” By having a good tracking record at each interaction, there is greater possibility of swift intervention when the veteran reappears. Steady progress is underway.

Work Plan Review (draft for Hampden County) (click here)
Proposed changes:

  • Add as first strategy: locating homeless veterans (e.g., via correctional facilitates and streets)
  • Include Chapter 115 benefits in Strategy 2
  • Outreach to VSO reps who are not currently engaged (Pamela will reach out to Ludlow, Franklin and Berkshire VSOs and invite them to join email list/committee) Eric Segundo, [email protected]; Tim Niejadlik [email protected]; Kimberly babin – [email protected] and see above for local provider outreach

We agreed all would review the plan in more detail and provide any additional comments via email and plan for in-depth review at our October meeting.

Amherst Homelessness Networking Group: Jay Levy provided an update regarding the town of Amherst’s (through Health Director Julie Federman) effort to bring together a local coalition of providers and leaders (shelter, police, fire, veterans, etc.) to improve the response system to homelessness in Amherst. The first meeting was held this week (Steve, Jay and Pamela attended) and it was very successful. Everyone expressed their commitment to continue meeting monthly, and the next meeting is already scheduled in October. They also committed to joining the 3 County CoC pilot of the AZ Matrix tool as an assessment tool. Jay reviewed the tool with the committee. All agreed it will be interesting to see the findings from the tool’s implementation.

Next meeting: October 28, 9:15 am, Mental Health Association


«   »

Return to full list of blog posts.