Local service providers, collaborating with Housing Courts and the Network, have established coverage at the Housing Court to ensure a homeless service provider is present to allocate resources and advocate for individuals and families facing eviction. Data systems have been put in place to record the interventions and results.
Western Mass Network-Comments on Housing Court collaboration by Judge Robert Fields:
I have numerous cases where without the funds and very importantly without the staff to stand before me in open court and report on the availability of those funds, I am certain that there would have been no basis to work out a payment plan and avoid eviction. In almost each case, the families would have ended up in shelter. Additionally, in two or three cases, DSS would have either not returned children to their families because of the housing situation or would have possibly taken them away due to homelessness.
Three cases I am referring to are those "one time" financial hits due to loss of wages but the tenants are now back to work and if not for the ICHH/HPRP monies, the financial hole was simply too big to fill and eviction was certain. My sense (and hope) in each of these cases is that the solution will be long lasting.
Lastly, I want to report that the crucial difference I am feeling in the court---in addition, of course, to actual funds being available---is that we now have actual staff from outside agencies present in court to process and report on these situations. By way of example, on January 12th, HAP had staff present during the court session and the staff person came before me with the tenant in at least four cases. She was the difference between eviction and tenancy preservation.
2. Client Coordination:
The Cape Cod and The Islands Regional Network has a Client Coordination Committee comprised of front line staff from various service providers that meet regularly to discuss clients they share in common. The partnership created a common "release of information" form that clients sign allowing the committee to provide a more holistic delivery of services and avoid duplication of efforts. The committee has had training in areas such as advocacy, mediation skills and fair housing and reasonable accommodations. It is comprised of 60 individuals representing 20 Regional Network organizations and agencies from Cape Cod and The Islands.
In partnership with Department of Housing and Community Development, all families deemed eligible for shelter within the South Shore Regional Network are assessed and triaged by Network partners, and then placed in the setting most likely to support their particular needs and successfully re-house them. Similarly, the individual shelter system in the region is now assessing and triaging all clients and placing them in the most appropriate setting based on individual needs. The model will inform state practice to ensure the right people are connected to the right resources at the right time. Between January 2010 and May 2010, The South Shore Network has assessed 180 individuals from motels, rapidly re-housed 20 of these individuals, and placed 111 individuals into the most appropriate shelter to get them re-housed quickly.
4. Chronic Homeless Initiative:
The Merrimack Valley Network has made immense progress in outreach and engagement of chronically homeless adults. This work has led to 96 individuals being placed into permanent housing between September 2009 and May 2010. Individuals are provided with rapid rehousing services that include rental support and case management. Additional services are provided through a variety of Network partners, including rep payee services, benefit maximization, health insurance applications, assistance with utility arrears, referrals to fuel assistance and food resource programs. Case managers have developed strong relationships with landlords across Haverhill, Lawrence, and Lowell, which have netted a readily available supply of affordable and market rate units into which these individuals can move with support.