We held our annual member meeting and appreciation lunch on December 4th at Clark University, bringing together family shelter providers to show appreciation for their incredible work, celebrate success, and build agreement around policy advocacy priorities and questions for the year head.
Providers offered insight and reactions around areas of policy advocacy successes we collectively achieved in 2018 and voted on priority policy advocacy proposals for 2019. We honored both an agency and an individual with inspiring leadership awards: Community Teamwork Inc. and Shani DeSchamps from Citizens Inn.
Agencies had the opportunity to learn about each others’ work in an activity centered around these 5 questions that came from Visioning Day and other data Homes for Families has gathered over the past year:
Today is about appreciating you, our members! To do that, we want to give you an opportunity to brag to each other and share with each other. Please share a success or your proudest accomplishment in the past year.
With the implementation of diversion, many families with more short-term economic barriers no longer enter shelter, leaving a higher concentration of families with significant barriers and more history of trauma in your shelter programs. What steps has your program taken to adapt your practices as a result of the changing needs and dynamics within your programs?
Children make up around 2/3rds of the people in the EA program. What specific supports, practices, and/or initiatives do you have for children in your program, who range in age from newborns to teens?
We know family homelessness is a direct result of racist housing policies and that the nature of shelters – as rule enforcers and gate keepers – can perpetuate racism and systems of oppression. What have you, or your program, done or could you do to be more actively anti-racist and address organizational diversity and issues of race?
We all know that this work is hard and has been getting harder. Share how a family – be it a child or parent – has inspired you, made you laugh, or really validated your work.
We presented this video (we welcome you to watch the video, but note some of the content may be triggering and there is profane language). This spoken word drills down to the intersectional nature and reality that families (and some staff) within shelters are facing, taking the veil off of why families may behave the way they do sometimes: angry, frustrated, impassioned. It exposes the underlying systems of oppression and injustice driving these behaviors and emotions.
The afternoon included discussion around the EA system re-procurement. Participants worked at tables to answer the following questions:
- What are the top 3 issues that you hope the re-procurement will address?
- What “vision” do you have for a new system?
- DHCD has talked about “multi disciplinary” teams as part of their vision for stabilization. What are your top questions, ideas, excitements, and concerns about this approach.
The day ended with a sharing of affirmations, including: “Thank you for your work and commitment” and “You are keeping children safe and alive”.
There is much more to come: we will be continuing to call upon member agencies to engage in an organized, collective response to the re-procurement, and providing opportunities for staff and families to advocate collectively on priority policy proposals through MRVP Cookie Day, advocacy trainings, legislative breakfasts, ongoing work at the Policy Action Team table, Directors/CEOs meetings, and more to amplify provider and family voice.
We reiterate our appreciation for the work of our member agencies and the collective efforts to address family homelessness in the Commonwealth.