Veterans Committee
January 13, 2017

In attendance: Beth Barbra, Veterans Inc., Nina Blokkin, HAPHousing, Cynthia Capella, HUD-VASH, Ben Cluff, DPH, Steve Connor, Veterans Services, Jim Mahoney, Holyoke Veterans Services, Vanessa Martinez, Springfield Partners, Melissa Mateus, Springfield Partners, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield/Hampden CoC, Chris Montemayor, HAPHousing, Digno Oritz, Friends of the Homeless, Sarah Polidore, Soldier On, Farah Rodriguez, HAPHousing, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Eric Segundo, Ludlow Veterans Services, Kate Sweetster-Owens, HUD-VASH

HAPHousing presented on its HUD-VASH program:
Thanks to Chris, Ben, Nina, France and Farah for attending this meeting to provide both background information on HAP and program information on its HUD-VASH program. The Committee had invited HAP to attend to learn more in general and in particular to follow-up around HAP’s unit inspection procedures.

Per our discussion, Chris provided this follow-up summary of the information shared at the meeting:

  1. HAP staff – Contact information for the VASH vouchers
    France Wolfe – VASH – Housing Counselors – 413-233-1525 – [email protected] (leaving position end of March)
    Nina Blokhin – VASH  – Housing Counselor – 413 -233 -1508  – [email protected]   (taking over France’s position)
    Farah Rodriguez – RA Compliance Manager – 413 – 233-1575 – [email protected]     
  1. HAP’s Initial Inspection procedures for VASH vouchers: upon receipt of a Request for Tenant Approval (RFTA) from a case manager, the Inspection Administrative Assistants will schedule an inspection date that is agreeable to the Property Owner.  Every effort will be made to schedule a date that is no more than two business days out from the date of receiving the RFTA.

Should the unit fail at initial inspection, HAP will not reschedule a re-inspection date until the owner has called and indicated that all violations have been corrected and he/she is requesting a new inspection.  Once the request is made by the property owner, HAP will schedule a new inspection date no more than two business days out from request by owner.

Finally, Chris will reach out to David Failey, who works as a Residential Coordinator at HAP in our Property Management Division about attending future meetings.

Discussion of provider-based unit repair system: Steve Connor shared his successful experience of pulling together volunteers from the field to complete necessary unit repairs to meet code requirements. They had great success. Committee members interested in following up to create a system for a quick repair system: Steve Connor, Jim Mahoney, Sarah Polidore, Beth Barbra, Katherine Person, Cynthia Capella, Ben Cluff. Pamela will connect them all by email.

Point in Time Count: It is taking place Jan. 25. Dave Havens and MHA coordinates outreach to the population living outside in Springfield; Jay Levy for the rest of Hampden County. Gerry will follow-up with Chris Lizotte of West Springfield Veterans Services who is interested in doing outreach on Jan. 25 as well. Gerry is looking for volunteers to interview guests at the Rescue Mission.

Hampden County CoC: About 20 active veterans on their case conference list; bi-monthly meetings are continuing, veterans moving into permanent and transitional housing.

Three County CoC: Also meeting bi-monthly (once by Skype) and reviewing veterans’ list. Roughly 180 veterans on the list have been processed. Soldier On has now changed its system to have an intake process that includes a housing offer. The VA’s changes are happening from the GPD program to distinct transitional housing categories (e.g., bridge housing, mental health, prison release/diversion, Safe Haven).   Steve noted that Soldier On has 10 non-VA eligible vouchers. It’s unclear precisely where they are coming from and the basis for their distribution (Hampden County interested, too!). More will be learned.

Hampden County Sheriff/VA provider meeting: On Jan. 11, the Network facilitated the convening of Hampden County Sheriff Dept. staff and veteran providers to discuss further collaboration around discharge planning. It was agreed that an adaptation of Hampshire County roundtable’s model (monthly convening at the jail with discharge staff and providers to discuss discharge plans in general and housing in particular) would be very useful in Hampden County as well. It was noted that the difference in numbers (Hampden County so much larger) would necessitate further adaptation. The Sheriff Dept. staff will follow-up with the incoming Sheriff to discuss this possibility. Steve Connor will facilitate a letter from the Veterans Services Secretary underscoring the priority of this roundtable approach. The staff is also interested in screening every single person entering the jail to verify veteran status. They are waiting on an additional “user name” to utilize SQUARES (the screening tool), which Gerry will provide ASAP.

Announcement: Springfield Partners is holding a blood drive on Feb. 24. It is also sponsoring a clothing contribution effort to female veterans and female active service members and spouses of veterans blood drive on Friday, Jan. 20, 11 – 1 pm at Springfield Partners, 721 State Street.

Next meeting date:
Friday, 2/24, 9-10:30 am, Northampton Senior Center (to be confirmed)
We agreed to return to our regular meeting day of the 4th Friday of the month.
Agenda items: Point in Time Count report; invite Northampton Housing Authority (Lisa Felty) to discuss its HUD-VASH program

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