Commission considers solutions to sheltering 

  • Greenfield City Hall STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 2/13/2019 3:22:17 PM

GREENFIELD — After recalling similar conversations it, city officials and community members have been having for at least the past year regarding homelessness and sheltering in extreme weather, the Greenfield Human Rights Commission is looking for a way to take more formal steps toward potential solutions. 

The commission is considering backing or leading a fundraising effort to help pay for more shelter space in the city during emergency situations. 

“There has to be a way for us to do more than just talking, even though some progress has been made,” said Human Rights Commission Chairwoman Loreen Flockerzie, who was in attendance at last month’s emergency public forum held around what to do for the homeless in the extreme cold weather. 

That meeting came in the wake of the news of a couple who were found dead in a tent behind the McDonald’s on the Mohawk Trail in Greenfield; the cause of death has still not been released by the Northwestern District Attorney’s Office as they await toxicology reports. 

“I realized there’s different factions, and everybody is talking about the same thing,” Flockerzie said at a meeting of the commission earlier this week, which was its first meeting since the death of the two individuals.

Flockerzie and the commission agreed it doesn’t want to duplicate any existing efforts, like with the Interfaith Council or other groups, but it does want to find where and how it can be most helpful. 

The commission is interested in advancing the effort that it spoke about a year ago, following a relatively historic cold snap, then again, in the summer during a homeless encampment on the Greenfield Common and now, once again. 

One of the core issues identified has been increasing the number of shelter beds to reduce the overcrowding in emergency situations. Some people in this most recent cold weather, with temperatures dropping into negative digits, were placed in motels for the night using money fundraised the night of the recent public forum. 

Two potential spaces that could be warming centers or shelters for people without a space to stay overnight are the second floors of both the ServiceNet Wells Street shelter and the Salvation Army Chapman Street building. Both of the spaces have run into funding problems — the ServiceNet facility remains $94,000 short for construction costs, despite $50,000 from the city and $51,000 from the state for operation costs, while the Salvation Army building may have similar building code problems for overnight use, like sprinklers, the commission noted. 

The commission expressed an interest in reaching out to both ServiceNet and Salvation Army to find out what is needed and to then find the best plan moving forward to fundraise for them. 

Commission member Gregory Corcoran agreed with the idea, but reminded the need to check to see what else the state can do financially to move along these shelter issues. 

Additionally, the shelter considered what it would take to be able to open up the Greenfield Public Schools for emergency situations. Mayor William Martin, who was in attendance for the meeting, said its up to the superintendent to make those decisions. 

The commission — and Mark Berson, the councilor-in waiting for the Precinct 2 vacancy — floated the idea of entering a memorandum of understanding with the schools to give the mayor power in these types of circumstances. Berson also posed the idea that he heard is being done in Albany by the public radio station there, which is fundraising for the homeless in extreme weather situations. 

The commission agreed to take a deeper dive into fundraising opportunities, as well as where that money can go, including possibly trying to raise enough money to open up more shelter space. 

“The city is taking big steps on this, like it never has before,” Corcoran said. “The progress made on the last year of this has gone a lot further than it has in the past.” 

You can reach Joshua Solomon at:

jsolomon@recorder.com

413-772-0261, ext. 264




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