Unaccompanied Homeless Youth Meeting
February 15, 2017

In attendance: Jesus Arce, Springfield Office of Housing, Katrina Colon, STCC, Jenny Davila, CHD, Courtnee Godbolt, Friends of the Homeless, Lisa Goldsmith, DIAL/SELF, Rebecca Guinard, STCC, Natalie Hill, Gandara Center, Charlie Knight, Rainville, Kim Majewski, Gandara Center, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Jen Wands, Springfield Public Schools

Gandara Center Update (Hampden County CoC):
All rapid rehousing units full – 18 young adults living in apartments (subsidized for one year with slow reduction in subsidy as young adults raise their income)
1 youth in host home; 3 openings (predictably under-utilized due to nature of arrangement)
SHINE transitional housing (8 units; HUD funding ends September 30)
4 more units coming on line once additional state funding finalized

Discussion of program orientation: increasing income vs. increasing education. The group discussed the trade-off of short-term vs. long-term sustainability as the focus of the RRH program is on building economic self-sufficiency as opposed to attaining higher education. Right now, the program is primarily focused on employment in order to meet the immediate demand of housing costs.   We agreed that it would be worthwhile to focus on the question of whether there are ways to navigate this tension in order to support long-term economic gain. We will pick up this topic at the next meeting.

Point in Time Count:
Gandara coordinated 2 events, one at STCC and the other at Dunbar High School. Due to some administrative barriers at STCC, very little notice was provided. 15 or 16 individuals came to the event and just a couple met the criteria of homeless. The Dunbar event had fewer people and unclear whether anyone met the criteria.

CHD coordinated an event at HCC with 19 people attending and 2 meeting the criteria of homelessness.

DIAL/SELF Update (3 County):
The program is currently working with 75 people; 15 are being actively subsidized across the region, including Northampton, Easthampton, Greenfield, etc. Berkshire County is gearing up with a full-time staff person. There is an Americorp volunteer providing additional support to case managers.

Subsidies are provided as a stabilization resource for 3-6 months. Participants can apply to have subsidies renewed at the end of 3 months. This has occurred a few times thus far.

Statewide Demonstration Project Work Group:
Lisa provided an update on the group’s progress. The survey of all the projects is almost done and the information looks good so far. The next meeting is on March 3, where they will consider how to distribute the information. The intention is to use this document as an advocacy tool to better inform legislators about the impact of the program.

We agreed that our data collection and analysis are critical to understanding the program’s efficacy. We will pick up this topic at the next meeting with Gerry’s draft template.

Family Homelessness Retreat Update:
Pamela reported on the family homelessness retreat that took place on Tuesday, 2/14 at UMass Springfield. 35 people attended from across the four counties and many cross-sectors of service (housing, health care, child care providers; state agencies). The group agreed to move forward with a “surge event” for providers to better understand the services that are available to respond to families in housing crisis. We will be continuing this planning at our next family services meeting on 3/14.

Schools update:
Jen Wand of Springfield public schools reported that there are currently 955 homeless students in the public school system; 20 are unaccompanied homeless youth, although this number is widely acknowledged to be under-counted. Springfield schools has just stared a youth mentor program with Behavioral Health Network. In Holyoke, Rebecca Chavierri reported that Holyoke schools have counted 8 students as unaccompanied homeless youth but this is also understood to be an undercount.

Next meeting: Wed., March 15, 9:30 am, Gandara Center, 1236 Main Street, Holyoke

Agenda items:

  • Data template review (what do we want to know to evaluate the programs’ success and challenges and to better understand the population the programs are serving)
  • Discussion of rapid re-housing program balancing of goals between employment (immediate income) and higher education (longer-term higher income/job satisfaction)

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