In attendance: Pedro Alvarez, Tapestry, Grechar Aquino, FOH/CSO, Jessica Dorman, Mercy/Trinity Health,  Fina Fulla-Kay, City of Springfield, Sarah Hills, Eliot CHS, Janice Humason, FOH/CSO, Mark Jachym, FOH/CSO, Nichole King, FOH/CSO, Todd Koniezhny, Next Step Springfield, Jay Levy, Eliot CHS, John Maillet, DMH, Gerry McCafferty, City of Springfield/CoC, Lizzy Ortiz, Mercy Medical Center, Denise Rivera-Nunez, FOH/CSO, Christina Ruest, FOH/CSO, Pamela Schwartz, Network, Stephanie Tonelli, FOH/CSO, Lynn White, Viability, Inc, Chris Zabik, DMH

Built for Zero Update:Gerry reported that there are currently about 70 people on the by-name list. This is down from a high of 100 in Dec. 2018, and this work began in 2015.  The goal is to have a full list of all chronically homeless individuals in Hampden County and house them all.  Roughly 7-10 chronically homeless people have been housed per month.  The challenge is constant in-flow into chronic homelessness. Most of the people now on the list have been homeless 1-2 years.  Previously the list included many people with very long histories of homelessness, many of whom have been housed. It was noted in discussion that it is especially difficult to keep people who are episodically homeless on the radar.

With national BFZ support, Hampden County is working on 2 projects to address inflow: Foster Care/Homelessness Project and Health Care System Project with Mercy Hospital and Institute for Health Improvement.  

CoC NOFA (Notice of Funding Availability) – The NOFA was released on July 3, due 9/30. There will be a local competition for new and renewal projects; the RFP will go out on 7/31 and responses will be due back by 8/30. We will have the ability o increase funding through Bonus Funds ($200,967) and DV bonus funds ($397,989). An RFP will go out on 7/31, due back at end of August.  Renewal of any existing projects; availability of bonus project and DV bonus project funds. 

HMIS Capacity Building Grant: CoC was awarded $150,000 over 2 year period (beginning Sept. 2019).  The CoC worked with a HUD TA person who looked at the CoC issues and made recommendations about what would help improve our data.  The CoC is still finalizing with HUD but the capacity building grant will likely include:

  • some technical work with HMIS software to improve workflow
  • HMIS – review of capacity and support and plans to increase the City’s HMIS support for end users
  • HMIS training – various trainings onsite in Springfield, including more for city staff, for HMIS leads at each CoC/ESG provider; end user training and creation of materials for end users
  • Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) – capacity building, including support for TIC self assessment by each CoC agency and on-site assessment of 4 large shelter providers (Way Finders, NEFWC, CHD, CSO/FOH) with recommendations 

Legislative updates: Pamela reported on recent legislative activity regarding that involved Network advocacy. Today at the State House there were two Committee hearings on Network priority bills:

  • Right to counsel for tenants in eviction proceedings (in 2018, 92% of tenants went to housing court without a lawyer, while over 70% of landlords were represented; this imbalance has a direct impact on homelessness); and
  • Eviction sealing (HOMES Act) which would automatically seal an eviction record upon filing and only be released (for a maximum of 3 years) if there is a finding against the tenant.  Right now, the filing of an eviction becomes an instant public record regardless of whether the tenant did anything wrong or counter-claimed against the landlord or had their case dismissed or entered into an agreement.  This poses a significant barrier for tenants looking for housing. 
  • Reducing cliff effects : These bills would address the “cliff effect” – the sudden drop in income and other public assistance when there is an increase in earnings that puts the individual further behind in resources.  State data reporting would require cross-agency reporting to better understand who is impacted by the cliff effect and the pilot program would provide a test vehicle (with 50 families, located in Western MA) for reducing the impact. 
  • Act of Living bill which would create basic civil and human rights protections for people experiencing homelessness.

The Network submitting testimony on all these bills.  Our Western MA delegation is very supportive and frequently in the lead.  Please join the Network blog at to stay most connected to the Network advocacy and participate in it.

Network Training Calendar for FY20
We reviewed the Network training list from FY19 and recommendations from the family services committee on what to offer in FY20.  That list includes:

  • EA/HomeBASE system overview (fall)
  • Overcoming tenant screening barriers (fall)
  • legal services training (winter)
  • child care voucher system overview (spring)
  • SSI/SSDI systems overview (fall)
  • Advocacy: how a bill gets passed; how to advocate (winter)
  • Mental health/substance us systems overview (sub-group working on this)
  • DV best practices training around safety planning for DV survivors and use of Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) to get DV survivors rehoused (Sept.) 
  • Employment trainings (per HUD NOFA requirements, done by 9/30) – will discuss further at 7/22 career services meeting 
  • Racial equity continued (in discussion with Marc Dones) 

We gained greater clarity around the DV training – it is open to all providers, individual and family.  Gerry noted that the CoC is funding a bonus project with the YWCA and Womanshelter to add staff to provide specific housing support for survivors; the goal for other shelter providers is to know who to access for expert support when coming into contact with a DV survivor.

Additional training ideas from discussion:human trafficking (Gerry has a lead for a trainer) accessing DDS and Mass Rehab (traumatic brain injury) resources 

Next meeting date:  Tues., Sept. 3, 2-2:30 pm, following case-conferencing meeting (schedule variation is due to schedule conflicts on usual 3rd Tuesday).

«   »

Return to full list of blog posts.