DHCD posted an RFI for EA to inform the RFR. Wait…what???


Imagine a world without acronyms.  Let’s take some pause to explain what that means and give some history and context.

Translation: The Department of Housing and Community Development has posted a Request for Information relative to the Emergency Assistance Program to inform the Request for Responses, which is a bid or application for a contract and funding.

We should start with the question, “What is a re-procurement?” The answer, “to procure something again” is not exactly helpful, so turning we turned to Google:

procurementprocure

In this context, it is the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, specifically the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD), is seeking to obtain shelter units for families experiencing homelessness, to meet the state’s legal and moral obligation to ensure the safety and well-being of children. Because the state currently has contracts with nonprofit agencies to provide shelter, this is a re-procurement.  It is an opportunity to re-contract – potentially funding new programs and ending contracts with others, to adjust portfolio size and program models; to make financial adjustments; and to introduce new program components, outcome measurements, and expectations.

The Request for Information (RFI) is a key component to the “especially with care or effort” part of the definition. This is when the purchaser (DHCD) takes the time to understand the needs and nuances of the system and the people it serves through a formal written series of questions. Potential bidders (shelters) and the broader community have an opportunity to respond the the questions. Responding to the RFI is not mandatory; respondents are not required to answer all of the questions. Responses must be made through the state’s bid solicitation system (CommBuys) and are considered public information.

Q: What is being re-procured?

The Emergency Assistance (EA) Program, commonly referred to as Family Shelter. This program currently contracts about $170 Million per year across about 50 programs to serve approximately 3,700 households per night.

Q: What are the steps of the re-procurement?

rfr steps

Q: When was the last re-procurement and what changes were made? 

The last procurement process took place in 2008 and the new contracts were implemented in 2009.  As part of the last re-procurement:

  • The Housing Assistance Program, which was responsible for prevention and housing search, was dismantled and agencies were given the flexibility to bring housing search into programs or contract with an outside agency.
  • Stabilization was added as a responsibility of EA programs, again through direct programming and staffing or subcontracts.  Prior to the 2009-2019 contracts, stabilization was not a requirement. Some programs had outside funding and independent programs, but many did not.
  • There were a few programs that were eliminated, a few new programs added.  The overall shelter stock shifted – reducing the number of congregate shelters and adding more scattered site units. Rates, staffing patterns and program sizes also shifted.

Q: What was the context then and what has happened since? 

  • Around the time of the 2009 Procurement, a Commission to End Homelessness released a 5 year plan that included broader systems change efforts and investments, primarily in prevention pilots.  The vision was that investment in prevention would lead to a decrease in homelessness, and the money saved from the reduced need for shelter would be reinvested in housing.
  • The recession and housing crisis hit soon thereafter, and homelessness across the nation and in MA skyrocketed.
  • Since the 2009 Procurement, there have been many policy changes and shifts including:
    • Transferring the EA and individual shelter system oversight from the Department of Transitional Assistance to DHCD
    • The HomeBASE program was launched, revamped, revamped, and revamped
    • More restrictive eligibility criteria was implemented
    • The number of EA shelter units expanded by approximately 1,700 units, including the implementation of the co-shelter model
    • Diversion by EA providers was implemented in the local offices, including pilots for prevention
    • There have also been shelter contract funding cuts and re-negotiations
    • Over the ten year period, the nightly census of families in shelter increased from about 1,700 families to a high of 4,800 (with 2,400 in motels) and has plateaued to about 3,700 families (with 32 in motels)

So, while a procurement is certainly a time of change, it does not preclude other changes after implementation.

Q: What changes are anticipated in this procurement? 

That is for all of us to influence,  and for DHCD and the Baker/Polito Administration to decide. Here is the statement from the RFI cover letter with DHCD’s vision:

DHCD envisions an EA system that prevents families from becoming homeless, safely shelters families for whom homelessness is unavoidable, works to quickly find stable and sustainable housing for families in shelter, supports families in their transition into the community, and connects families with the services and supports they need. Consistent with a Housing First approach, DHCD believes that families can best address their needs when they are in their own homes.

The document asks specific questions in the following areas:

  1. Respondent’s Background Information
  2. Prevention and Diversion
  3. System Connections for Families in Shelter
    • Mental Health and Other Disabilities
    • Employment
    • Length of Stay
  4. Portfolio Mix and Size
  5. Housing
  6. Post-Shelter Stabilization
  7. Data and Finance
  8. Other

The RFI can be accessed here. Homes for Families will be looking to our community to inform our response and encourage agencies and individuals to submit responses as well.

 

LH

One thought on “DHCD posted an RFI for EA to inform the RFR. Wait…what???

  1. Myself, fiancée and our 13 month old daughter named are low income. I am disabled and on social security disability. Our daughter receives W.I.C benefits. My fiancée, disabled and denied disability, works part time. Our combined income is averagely $1,963.

    On August 1, 2018 my family received a 60 day notice to quit from our landlord as a result of our landlords decision to sell the building. Part of the sale agreement required the building to be vacant. With no place to go, as rent prices in Massachusetts are too high, the landlord filed for eviction. This was a No Fault Eviction.

    Because my family had no place to go and had no family support, we contacted @NorthShoreCAP for assistance. NSCAP never returned our calls or emails. As a result we contacted Congressmen @sethmoulton in hopes to get help with contacting NSCAP. Congressmen Molten emailed us the required forms to complete for his assistance. After completing and submitting these forms, Congressmen Molten had his aid’s go to work immediately by reaching out to NSCAP on our behalf to inquire about my family receiving NSCAP assistance. NSCAP never replied to Congressmen Molten’s aid’s. Ultimately, congressman Moulton’s aid’s instructed my family to go to NSCAP’s Peabody location for assistance rather then calling or emailing them. We did just that.

    My family went to NSCAP and filled out the intake form and we were told by a gentleman at the front desk that we would receive a telephone call from a woman named Erica within the next two hours. We never received a call from Erica. Weeks past and our attempts to communicate with NSCAP were unsuccessful. For weeks my family and the aid’s of Congressmen Moulton emailed each other back-and-forth along with telephone communication in an attempt to figure out why NSCAP would not respond to any of us. Finally, after weeks of waiting, we received a phone call from a Heidi Williams (NSCAP) who instructed us to the RAFT program in Lynn. That was it. They (NSCAP) did not stand by their mission statement. They simply passed the buck so they wouldn’t have to deal with my family.

    My family followed the instructions of Heidi Williams and went to the RAFT program in Lynn and enrolled however we are still homeless. RAFT verbally agreed to helping us IF we get an apartment HOWEVER giving the current housing crisis and high rental markets we have been very unsuccessful.

    On December 5, 2018 my family had a scheduled court date at NE. Housing Court in Salem. My family entered into a summary process for agreement to vacate by 12/31/18. The sales agreement required our landlord to complete the sale by January 4, 2018.

    On December 28, 2018 my family went down to the Department of Transitional Assistance in Salem. When we got there we told an older woman with blond hair who sat behind the glass partition that we wanted to apply for emergency EA shelter assistance. This woman behind the glass partition asked us who was the family head of household. It was at that time my fianceé and I both agreed and told this woman that I am the head of household. It was then the woman behind the glass partition asked us for our names. I told her my name and my fiancée gave her name. The woman behind the glass partition insisted my fiancée‘s name down on the pink piece of paper. We told this woman prior to her handing us the pink piece of paper that I was the head of household and this woman said “no you’re not, she is“. It was at that time we went and sat in the waiting area.

    After waiting for a period of time a woman exited through an ‘authorized personnel only’ door and called out my fiancée’s name. We signaled for this woman’s attention and she brought us over a packet of paper and handed it to my fiancée and instructed her to fill it out to the best of her ability. Prior to this woman leaving I informed her that I was the head of household and that is when she informed me that I was not and that she would be back in twenty minutes and then walked away.

    We filled out the form to the best of our ability. Prior to this women returning I went to get our daughter food because she was hungry. When I returned my fiancée and our daughter had already went into the back offices for the interview. I asked the blonde woman behind the glass partition if I could go back to where my family was to be a part of the interview. She told me I could not. I waited until my family was done with the interview and came back out to the waiting area.

    My fiancée shared with me a few concerning details of the interview. The first concerning detail my fiancée shared with me was the caseworker wouldn’t allow my fiancée to truthfully state who was the head of household. My fiancée requested three times to list myself as the HOH but that was denied by this caseworker.

    The second concerning detail my fiancée shared with me was the attempt by this caseworker to have my fiancée falsely state she is a victim of domestic violence three times during the interview and it was only when my fiancée firmly objected did the interview end. This caseworker instructed my family to leave the DTA building and that we would receive a phone call from her with our application decision. It was at this time I informed this case worker of our wish to remain at the DTA office in case an appeal is needed. This caseworker instructed us to leave again in informed us we would receive our decision via phone call and part of that phone call would include instructions on how to file the appeal. We felt that if we did not leave it would hinder our chance of receiving assistance. At 4:10 PM that evening we received an email from this caseworker informing us our application was denied. We immediately attempted to reach out to this caseworker via phone and email to no avail to begin the applet process. We even sent our appeal to the Boston office.

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