Plan in place to help homeless families in hotels
GREENFIELD — People throughout Franklin County have stepped up to help homeless families living in local hotels, but the lead agency dealing with those families wants to ensure they feel respected and so does not want well-intentioned people dropping off donations at the hotels.
“The biggest ‘don’t’ is to go to the hotels, because it is important that we respect these families’ privacy,” said Charity Day, the local official coordinating care for the families. “We want to ensure that every family receives the assistance they need and that it is done fairly, equitably and confidentially.”
Day said she led a recent community forum at which individuals, as well as anti-poverty agency Community Action, the YMCA, Interfaith Council and many local church leaders, participated.
“We shared ideas and came up with a plan,” said Day.
She said if anyone wants to share more ideas, they should contact her at her agency, Franklin County Regional Housing and Redevelopment Authority.
“We are coordinating many efforts to assist,” said Day. “We appreciate everyone’s generosity, but we have to make sure it’s organized.”
Day said people should sign up with her agency to coordinate efforts by calling 413-863-9781.
She said nonperishable food items may be dropped off to the Center for Self Reliance on Osgood St. The center is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Day said tax-deductible contributions are also needed. Those may be sent to: Rural Development Inc., 44 Canal Road, Turners Falls, MA 01376.
Donated money is currently being used to buy vouchers for the Salvation Army store on Hope Street in Greenfield so homeless families may buy clothing. The money is also being used to buy bus passes, gas cards for families who need help with transportation costs to work and doctor appointments, school supplies and other necessities.
Day said the authority would also like to sign people up to help with the upcoming holidays. The authority plans to sponsor a toy drive and provide holiday food baskets.
She said the authority will assign a homeless family to each volunteer who signs up to donate goods and give them a list of the items age- and interest-appropriate for the children in that family.
“That’s what we would like everyone to do,” said Day. “There are also things we absolutely do not want people to do.”
Day said that includes going to the hotels, dropping off food that needs to be refrigerated or that can’t be cooked in a microwave.
She said people should not give the homeless families money directly, because the authority will make sure the funds and vouchers are distributed fairly.
Day also said that hotels do not want furniture, clothing or perishable items brought to hotels or to the authority’s office.
She said the authority would like people to wait until they are assigned a homeless family before donating items, because a list will be tailored specifically to the family assigned each person.
Though the number of homeless families in Greenfield hotels has decreased over the past couple of weeks, because some families were sent back to the eastern part of the state, where they originally came from, there are still 58 families — the most recent state count — living in the Days Inn and Quality Inn this week.
According to Matthew Sheaff, spokesman for the state Department of Housing and Community Development, there are 34 families living in the Days Inn and 24 families living in the Quality Inn. Only 15 of those are from the eastern part of the state, he said.
In September, the state said there were 30 destitute families living in one Greenfield hotel. By the end of October, that number had risen to 93 families living in two hotels.
Greenfield schools most recently said there are 68 students living in hotels with their families and attending Greenfield schools. At the peak, there were 90 to 100 students attending Greenfield schools.