After a near three-hour conversation Tuesday, the Committee on Public Health and Safety set some goals for the community, City Council, and administration in regard to Pittsfield's homeless population.

From a news story on iBerkshires.com, after a broad discussion with service providers and city staff, committee members came up with a slate of action items.

In the immediate future, they agreed there is a need to find a space suitable for a winter shelter as well as better directing of the community's donations and support.

The committee also zeroed in on some longer-term goals and agreed to help local agency ServiceNet find a better, larger shelter as well as advocate for more state and federal funds to support the programs for the homeless.

Earlier this month, the City Council referred three petitions to the subcommittee having to do with the now-closed temporary shelter at the former St. Joseph's Central High School, the homeless encampment at Springside Park, and the general homelessness situation in the city.

ServiceNet managed the temporary shelter as well as the permanent facility at Barton's Crossing.

Jay Sacchetti, vice president of addiction and sheltering services at ServiceNet, said the shelter at the high school was never designed to be permanent. During the outset of the pandemic, it served nearly 50 residents. Once the weather warmed in the spring and summer, the numbers dropped to between 15 and 20.

He said discussions began in June with the city to decommission the shelter on July 13.

According to Sacchetti, "We told the city what we were experiencing and we felt it was time to close the resource," he said. "It was always meant to be temporary, and we let everybody know that."

Sacchetti went on to say that this was typical and that during the warmer months, they often close the winter shelter. He said ServiceNet restricts when people can enter the shelter and does not allow the use of substances. Because of this, many choose to go live elsewhere once it is warm enough to stay outside.

Residents at St. Joe were given three weeks' notice of the closure and ServiceNet contacted those who had already moved on so they had the opportunity to return to pick up their belongings, he said.

Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio said he thought the closure was abrupt and wished there was better communication between all parties. He also had questions about ServiceNet's finances.

This is a serious issue. We have a pandemic, we have homeless people living in parks, lakes, and now we have a headcount of nearly 80 homeless people. There is no reason why a temporary shelter could not be in place as long as the governor's state of emergency lasts. There needs to be some accountability."

Anthony Maffuccio

Sacchetti said at the time the decision was made to close, there was no certainty if any additional resources would be coming from the state and it was unknown if the shelter would be funded.

He went on to say that there is a need for funding and only a small percentage of money makes it out to Berkshire County.

There is much more to the story. For more information, including why many think Barton's Crossing(ServiceNet's current shelter) is not a suitable location, check out the full story at iBerkshires.com's website here.

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