Putting Survey Data Into Practice: Part 4, Demographics

“If the providers understand the family’s perspective on things, they
are better able to help, are more sympathetic, and the family’s needs
can be better met.” 

— Homes for Families Consumer Advocacy Team (CAT) Member, 2017

In September of 2017, HFF released a full report on Family Experiences of Homelessness in Massachusetts. We are continuing to explore and build off of the survey data used in that report, and one way we are doing this is with this blog series, a continuation of the “Putting Survey Data Into Practice” document released in January. The series incorporates the perspectives of families and providers in relation to key data points, and works towards solutions for families and family-centered care.

Stay tuned every Monday in April at 10am for a new (coffee break) installment of this blog series!

Demographics

Important points from the survey results (page numbers correspond to the full report):

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We wanted to hear from families! What would be some of the best approaches to recognize and address the needs of families who identify as LGBT? The HFF Consumer Advocacy Team (CATs) shared their reflections, summarized here:

Are we doing enough to support the LGBT population?

  • As a community, there is not enough being done to support the LGBT population of families experiencing homelessness. 
  • There is a lack of understanding in what needs to be done to better support LGBT families, and the compounded challenges they may face.
  • More training around supporting LGBT families and removing judgement are important steps in the right direction.

 

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This post authored by I.W. & N.M.

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Recap: April Community Meeting (w/DTA)

Families, EA providers, and community members, and staff from the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA) came together last week  to discuss potential changes to TAFDC. 

The increased asset limit (to $5,000) was the only change to TAFDC included in the House Ways and Means FY19 budget proposal. 

Amendments have been filed for other proposed changes, see a full analysis by MLRI here (updated April 12th). 

In March DTA’s Commissioner McCue delivered his FY19 budget testimony. 

John Stella, Director of Economic Assistance & Megan Nicholls, Assistant Director of Family Assistance from the Department of Transitional Assistance presented proposed changes to TAFDC, and engaged in an in depth Q&A with more than 25 community members who attended.

After DTA’s presentation and Q&A, we heard comments and concerns around the potential changes to TAFDC and the work of DTA more broadly. Here are some of the points that were made:

  • Communication remains a challenge and barrier – program participants are not able to access information specific to their case, and the issue of accessibility is a concern for many in discussions around new/modified programs.
  • As of yet families have not vetted TAFDC proposals – DTA plans to incorporate this, but it is not clear to what extent family input will affect these proposed changes or future proposals.
  • Early and consistent communication with DHCD on proposed changes is important, for example adjusting DHCD program requirements to keep them in line with improved asset limits.
  • The relationship between the cost to families (time and resources) and administrative costs – limiting burdensome verification measures when implementing new or modified policies may reduce these costs both for families and for DTA.
  • Targeting reforms to more work-ready, non-exempt families is important. However, it is vital that changes are made to reflect the needs of all families.
  • Learn to Earn: there are diverse stakeholders in different fields who could inform, assess, and anticipate issues prior to changes being made; these stakeholders should be brought to the table early to take advantage of their expertise.
  • Reiterated support for the proposed asset limit increase to $5,000 (included in HWM) as a step in the right direction.

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Join us for the next Community Meeting on May 9th, 11am to 1pm in the first floor conference room at 14 Beacon Street, Boston MA— we will be discussing gentrification/displacement in the context of stabilization for families leaving shelter.

Putting Survey Data Into Practice: Part 3, Community Connections

“If the providers understand the family’s perspective on things, they
are better able to help, are more sympathetic, and the family’s needs
can be better met.” 

— Homes for Families Consumer Advocacy Team (CAT) Member, 2017

In September of 2017, HFF released a full report on Family Experiences of Homelessness in Massachusetts. We are continuing to explore and build off of the survey data used in that report, and one way we are doing this is with this blog series, a continuation of the “Putting Survey Data Into Practice” document released in January. The series incorporates the perspectives of families and providers in relation to key data points, and works towards solutions for families and family-centered care.

Stay tuned every Monday in April at 10am for a new (coffee break) installment of this blog series!

Community Connections

Important points from the survey results (page numbers correspond to the full report):

  • Families in congregate shelter were less likely to feel shelter staff helped them become aware of community resources (p. 18)

 

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We wanted to hear from families! What would be some of the best approaches to support and facilitate community connections for families experiencing homelessness? The HFF Consumer Advocacy Team (CATs) shared their reflections, summarized here:

How can organizations support well-connected relationships between families and community resources?

  • Keep in contact with families.
  • Maintain awareness of existing, new, and changing community resources and share this information with families.
  • Actively work to engage families in a community that may not be their own, recognizing and supporting the challenges that come with being in a neighborhood other than one’s own. 
  • Understanding families’ needs on a personal level and maintaining contact for as long as necessary to support community connections. 

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This post authored by I.W. & N.M.

Putting Survey Data Into Practice: Part 2, Children

“If the providers understand the family’s perspective on things, they
are better able to help, are more sympathetic, and the family’s needs
can be better met.” 

— Homes for Families Consumer Advocacy Team (CAT) Member, 2017

In September of 2017, HFF released a full report on Family Experiences of Homelessness in Massachusetts. We are continuing to explore and build off of the survey data used in that report, and one way we are doing this is with this blog series, a continuation of the “Putting Survey Data Into Practice” document released in January. The series incorporates the perspectives of families and providers in relation to key data points, and works towards solutions for families and family-centered care.

Stay tuned every Monday in April at 10am for a new (coffee break) installment of this blog series!

Children

Important points from the survey results (page numbers correspond to the full report):

  • 1 in 4 families surveyed indicated that they had additional children not with them in shelter (p. 10)
  • Nearly a third of families with school-aged children switched schools at least once (p. 16)

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We wanted to hear from families! What would be some of the best approaches to address children’s needs and support the whole family while experiencing homelessness? The HFF Consumer Advocacy Team (CATs) shared their reflections, summarized here:

How can we better support family re-unification and serving the needs of the whole family?

  • Connect families with the resources they need, working to thoroughly identify needs across the whole family.
  • Increase support teams who will listen to the needs of families and help prepare families for re-unification.
  • Provide stabilization and support systems that work for the whole family.

How can we better address issues related to children switching schools?

  • Having focus groups with parents to further explore the issue.
  • Minimize the need for switching schools (placing families nearby children’s prior schools, providing transportation, etc.)
  • Ensure proper support systems that recognize the effects that switching schools may have on the whole family.

Where can we do better by children and families by making needed supports for children truly accessible, while keeping families intact?

  • More personalized understanding of a family’s whole situation, deeper than what shows up “on paper.”
  • Ensure that when families identify needs, connections are made toward the proper resources. 
  • Support families’ needs early on, before separation occurs. 

 

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This post authored by I.W. & N.M.

Putting Survey Data Into Practice: Part 1 Health and Wellness

“If the providers understand the family’s perspective on things, they
are better able to help, are more sympathetic, and the family’s needs
can be better met.” 

— Homes for Families Consumer Advocacy Team (CAT) Member, 2017

In September of 2017, HFF released a full report on Family Experiences of Homelessness in Massachusetts. We are continuing to explore and build off of the survey data used in that report, and one way we are doing this is with this blog series, a continuation of the “Putting Survey Data Into Practice” document released in January. The series incorporates the perspectives of families and providers in relation to key data points, and works towards solutions for families and family-centered care.

Health & Wellness

Important points from the survey results:

  • Mental health is captured as a contributing cause of homelessness
  • A high percentage of parents reported their health and stress got worse after entering shelter.

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We wanted to hear from families! What would be some of the best approaches to address families’ health and wellness needs while experiencing homelessness? The HFF  Consumer Advocacy Team (CATs) shared their reflections, summarized here:

How can programs move toward addressing clinical needs?

  • Assessments—identify mental health needs and provide early support before homelessness, or challenges following homelessness, occur.
  • Front-door assessments are an opportunity to identify whether or not mental health may have been a contributing cause to a family’s displacement, and providing supports early on if they are necessary. 
  • Provide childcare to families—some are unable to receive proper care without it.

How can serving mental and emotional health needs be built into practice?

  • Recognize the different practical needs that families face compared to individuals—families should not have to choose between their health and their children. 
  • Trauma-informed care, a better understanding of the health issues associated with families being displaced; providers should have easy access to training, resources, and connections to health centers. 

How can we create a system that allows for greater flexibility and more specialization of services?

  • Find support early on, and do so through intake assessments to avoid making assumptions about a family’s specific needs. 
  • Staff training in specialty areas that address the different challenges families may face (domestic violence, substance abuse, etc.). 

This post is authored by I.W. & N.M.

MRVP Cookie Day 2018

Once again Homes for Families & partners rocked the house in the name of MRVP (Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program). The spirit of advocacy filled the air and halls of the Massachusetts State House as families, providers, and advocates raised awareness and demanded housing.

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Representation from across the state from more than 200 folks with a shared message made MRVP Cookie Day an event that unified everyone who was participating. More than 100 attendees hand-delivered messages to their legislators for increased funding for MRVP. This day of action is one that has a history of significant positive impact and could potentially, once again, have an important impact on this year’s state budget by way of increased investments to MRVP.

Chairman Honan and Chairman Boncore, co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Housing and co-sponsors of Cookie Day, began the day by emphasizing the importance of MRVP and the power of families’ stories for affecting change.

“There’s no one here who knows the significance of MRVP more than the families who use it.”

-Chairman Honan

“There’s nothing that means more to me than the individual stories of families who have been helped by MRVP.”

-Chairman Boncore

We were joined by Commissioner Bharel from the Department of Public Health, who spoke about the relationship between housing and health, making a clear case for stable housing as the foundation to healthy communities families and children.

“The power of place, where we access what we need for how we live, matters so much.”

-Commissioner Bharel, MD, MPH

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We heard from families who spoke to both the need for housing and the overwhelmingly positive impact that being housed provides.

The first family shared a powerful picture of what it means to be a survivor of domestic violence, trying to run with absolutely no where to go because housing is inaccessible and unaffordable, what that instability has done to her family and how an MRVP voucher could move her and her children from a place of trauma and devastation to a place of safety, security, and wellness.

“As for me I don’t know what I’m going to do…getting completely housing stable or becoming homeless again mean two drastically different things for my family. I cannot handle the thought of the three of us bouncing around or being in shelter.”

-Shanda

The second family was an inspiration to us all as she shared her message of hope after housing. Meshell’s recent move into permanent housing meant that her son, who suffers from a list of chronic conditions, finally has a space that is customized to his health needs and the type of round-the-clock care that he needs. In her update Meshell shared that, as a result of her new living conditions, her son is showing major improvements to his development. Meshell also shared how now that she is housed, she will be able to return to school in the fall to pursue a psychology degree.

“I can actually set aside time to work on myself. My main areas of focus now that housing is all set are education, financial stability, and self care…but, I also feel that it is really important to recognize that thousands of families have been shut out of this same kind of opportunity because they cannot access a housing subsidy.”

-Meshell

The Big Cookie, which Homes for Families has given for nearly a decade with the purpose of recognizing partners & elected officials who have shown themselves to be champions in their commitment to ending family homelessness, was awarded to Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay for her efforts and gains in the work to end family homelessness across the state.

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A big thank you to everyone who attended Cookie Day, including:

More than 50 parents and children

More than 80 shelter provider staff

14 State Senators and Reps or their staff

Our speakers:

            Rep. Kevin Honan

            Sen. Joe Boncore

            Commissioner Monica Bharel, MD, MPH

            Shanda

            Meshell

            Outgoing Undersecretary Chrystal Kornegay

Resource fair contributors:

            Casa Myrna

            Children’s Health Watch / Witness to Hunger

            Jane Doe Inc.

            ABCD

            BARCC

Promising Practices for Addressing A Fear Inducing Federal Policy Climate

Image result for immigration photoAt Homes for Families we look to families and the provider community to name the problems that perpetuate family homelessness and work with us to identify the solutions. Over the past year, family shelters in Massachusetts have been confronted with responding to a fear-inducing federal policy climate that is a continual threat to the families they serve, and the livelihoods of many of their staff as well. This is especially the case among immigrant families or families with members of varied immigrant statuses. In response to this challenge, we created a tool with promising practices and tips on how to respond to the federal climate we are operating within with a focus on immigrant populations.

Addressing Fears Amidst An Anti-Immigrant and Harmful Federal Policy Climate: Tips and Ideas for Family Shelter Practice

We hope providers find this tool insightful, as it showcases some of the innovative practices happening across the state currently. We welcome families to share their insights and providers to share other practices we have yet to capture!

-Liz

Director of Operations and Member Engagement