With over 40 members in attendance the North Shore Housing Advocacy Group (NSHAG) held its quarterly meeting in collaboration with a group of Essex County Superintendents of Schools and representatives from both the Commonwealth and North Shore Community College.
The meeting was held by NSHAG co-chair Representative Brendan Crighton along with co-chair Laura MacNeil of the North Shore Community Action Program (NSCAP) and co-chair David Houlden of the Gloucester Housing Authority and centered around subjects concerning the Superintendents in the region and how NSHAG can use its resources to assist.
Linn Torto, Executive Director of the Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness (ICHH), spoke about the State’s program to fund regional consortiums in providing crisis intervention services to residents facing housing instability. Ms. Torto touched upon the intrinsic strengths of a regional approach and cited the importance of flexible funding in supporting each family individually as opposed to a one-size fits all approach.
NSHAG administers the state’s funding for the entirety of Essex County and has maintained its focus on assisting each city and town evenly. To date NSHAG has assisted 33 individuals/families and 29 youth with funding related to housing prevention, startup costs or arrearages.
Superintendent Latham (Lynn Public Schools) was in attendance and steered the conversation toward housing instability and homelessness amongst the youth in the city and regionally. Superintendents and their staff in attendance pointed out that youth do not realize that they are actually homeless. “Students think that because they have a place to stay tonight at a friend’s house that they aren’t homeless. They don’t consider couch surfing an issue or sign of homelessness and, therefore, don’t report.” Superintendent Latham said. Many people in the attendance agreed with this assessment and shared insight into youth not wanting to get caught up in state systems when they are so close to graduation. “Once they graduate, we have no way of assisting them,” Saugus Superintendent David DeRuosi, Jr. observed. “We have a very limited amount of time that we can identify and assist these students affected by homelessness.”
“I think the conversation at this meeting was very fruitful.” said Representative Crighton. “Hearing these accounts and these stories from the Superintendents and the people on the front line in the agencies that deal with this issue are exactly what I need be effective at my job on Beacon Hill.”
Laura MacNeil, NSCAP Executive Director, discussed the importance of learning about each NSHAG member’s agency and pooling these resources to assist individuals however possible. “Each agency brings something to the table that could assist a family or individual and each person in attendance walks away from these meetings with new resources and information about services that could help their clients. That is what makes these meetings so valuable.”
Anyone interested in learning more about programs or funding offered by NSHAG are directed to contact LHAND’s Family Success Center at (339) 883-2342