Homeless shelter up, running on Wells Street

Recorder/Paul Franz
Kayla Sleeper and Melanie Maratea are staying at the new Wells Street Shelter in Greenfield. They also volunteer at ServiceNet and the RECOVER Project.

Recorder/Paul Franz Kayla Sleeper and Melanie Maratea are staying at the new Wells Street Shelter in Greenfield. They also volunteer at ServiceNet and the RECOVER Project.

GREENFIELD — The building on Wells Street that was once home to Del Padre Music is now an emergency shelter for 20 of the county’s homeless.

ServiceNet has opened its 20-bed overnight shelter and moved its resource center, which was housed on Main Street, to the Wells Street location.

“Things are going well,” said Jay Sacchetti, ServiceNet’s vice president of shelter and housing. “Everyone is moved in and it’s turning out to be an efficient way to case-manage people, just as we thought.”

Sacchetti said the nonprofit agency’s emergency shelter moved from Montague City a few weeks ago, and so far it has been quiet and there haven’t been any problems.

“It’s usually the people who are sleeping on a different couch each night who end up having issues with the community, because there’s no accountability,” said Sacchetti. “Here, there’s accountability.”

Sacchetti said residents of the emergency homeless shelter are required to work with a case manager to create a plan for finding housing and a job.

“We looked back over our time the past few years in Montague and found that there was very little need for local police to get involved with our residents,” he said. “This place is perfect, because we have everything right here and people keep busy, so there’s not a lot of time to just hang around. Besides, by the time a person gets here, it’s our experience that they are very serious about changing their lives.”

Sacchetti said the Franklin County Emergency Shelter moved from Farren Avenue in Montague City to 60 Wells St. because the old building was “tired.”

“It was just too expensive for upkeep,” he said.

Sacchetti said ServiceNet has been looking for a new home since at least 2009, because the two-story, weathered building it occupied was in need of major repairs and renovations.

“Now we’re all on one floor and it’s accessible,” said Sacchetti.

He said most of the people who were living in the emergency shelter in Montague City actually spent most of their days in Greenfield anyway.

“We didn’t expect anything to change for downtown Greenfield,” said Sacchetti.

He said during the day residents of the emergency shelter, which he said is always full, will be able to leave, but will most likely spend that time looking for jobs, going to medical appointments or doing something else that is necessary.

Sacchetti said the majority of the shelter’s residents are in their 30s and 40s, but ages range from 18 to 70.

He said typically a resident stays for 60 days, but some are given extensions if ServiceNet sees they are “working really hard” to get a job or housing.

The building is located across the street from Mill House Apartments. A call to management of the building for comment was not returned on Thursday.

According to Greenfield police, there have been no incidents involving residents of the emergency shelter to date.

ServiceNet worked with the town to bring the building up to code and make necessary improvements.

“It’s a safe, quiet shelter,” said Sacchetti. “Residents will probably eat one meal a day in downtown Greenfield, because we serve two daily. I’m guessing most of them will find meal programs.”

Sacchetti said ServiceNet is currently working with a couple of organizations to create a dedicated person to help the shelter’s residents find jobs.

“Homelessness is a community problem,” said Sacchetti. “I hope people understand that and can be compassionate about this shelter, because people who finally make it into a shelter like this are more successful and more accountable.”

Sacchetti said residents of the shelter are more supervised than the homeless who wander the streets.

“It’s a fact that there are fewer emergency room visits and fewer calls to police,” he said.

Sacchetti said he believes that the emergency shelter is “blending into the neighborhood” at this point.

“There don’t seem to be any issues,” he said.

ServiceNet, which also operates the Greenfield Family Inn on Federal Street, which houses six families, was able to move to Wells Street because the nonprofit is exempt from the town’s zoning laws. It also operates Silver Street Inn, a transitional housing program that provides long-term supported housing for individuals while they regain economic and housing stability.

The Franklin County Emergency Shelter was first opened in 1994 as a winter-only shelter, but now operates year-round.

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