Over the past several weeks we at Arise have been hearing some very disturbing stories coming out of D.H.C.D. at the Liberty St. D.T.A. office. This is the new department that handles Emergency Assistance (temporary emergency shelter for families).
2 weeks ago several families slept on the steps of D.T.A because they were turned down for E.A. A shelter worker from Holyoke had been at the D.T.A. office and saw the families who slept there. She came to Arise and asked if there was anything we could do. We sent back some information and our phone number and within an hour we were down at welfare. By now there were 8 families who had been sent packing by the woman who ran D.H.C.D. here in Springfield.This is were Arise got involved. Many of the families were not allowed to even fill out an application. We were told of a worker who took an application and then just tossed it in the trash, one family was told "there is no money for shelter because families from other states come to Mass and take all the money" another "you're lying, you aren't homeless"
After speaking with the families and telling them their rights the most important at the time was that everyone has the right to fill out an application and that if it even looked like they might be eligible then they should be placed until they were able to get all the documentation needed.
Of the 8 families 2 left in disgust without going back in, 6 families insisted on filling out an EA application and 4 were placed in temporary shelter. The last 2 families 1 was originally from Springfield but had lived in Buffalo N.Y. for several years. The father had come back to Spfld. 5 months earlier to find work and an apartment, in the mean time the Mom was not able to support their apartment and was evicted. So she came be with the father of her children because there was not enough space where Dad was staying they went to D.T.A. The other family was from Brooklyn N.Y. and fled to Spfld. because they were targeted with violence by a woman who lived in the same housing complex (NY Housing Authority & N.Y.H.A. police said there was nothing they could do and refused to move either them or the woman to another location. These 2 families refused to be intimidated. They called Arise
Both families came back to Arise, the first call I made was to Gerry McCafferty at the Springfield Office for Housing she contacted others including H.A.P. Marsha and Ramona from HAP came to our office and worked on filling out papers for what ever was available. I started calls first to W.M.L.S. and then M.L.R.I. to get the ball rolling.
The next day Friday both families were again at Arise for help and we went back into action. Amid a plethora of phone calls both families went back to D.H.C.D. and they demanded to be allowed to fill out an other application for E.A. While they were waiting for a determination letter to be issued the supervisor of D.H.C.D.were told that if they did not leave, they were waiting on the office steps, D.C.F. would be called and their kids taken away.
Long story short The Office for Housing paid to house both families at a local motel for the night and H.A.P. paid for the next night. On Friday afternoon D.H.C.D. gave both families temporary approval for Emergency Shelter but wouldn't you know it D.H.C.D. sent one family to Worcester and the other to Pittsfield, the Mom is in family shelter, the Dad was placed in a single shelter but we are working on that and working to get both families moved back to Springfield.
Placing the families 45 min. from Arise in either direction and 1 1/2 from each other, they had become each others support system, maybe D.H.C.D. was hedging their bets and thought distance would deter our efforts. I guess D.H.C.D. forgot about the modern convenience called a phone for communication and if all else fails Pony Express have this new thing called a truck.
Thanks to Marion at WMLS and Ruth at MLRI for all their work and continuing work and to The City of Springfield Office for Housing, Gerry McCafferty, Marsha and Ramona from H.A.P. for all their work helping these families.