Human Rights Commission holding forum on homeless

Recorder Staff
Thursday, February 08, 2018

GREENFIELD — The city’s Human Rights Commission will hold a public forum on the unmet needs of homeless citizens in the community on Monday at 6 p.m. in the Planning Office, 114 Main St.

The forum is prompted by the recent subzero weather and the filled capacity of homeless shelters in the area. The commission said in a news release that it has become aware that the ServiceNet overnight emergency homeless shelter is experiencing its greatest demand in the past 16 years, and has been full to capacity.

Furthermore, the commission said the shelter has been operating at excess capacity, hosting 30 adults during subzero temperatures — 50 percent more than its capacity of 20 adults. Officials have also reported a shortage of basic items such as blankets, pillows, soap and toothpaste for those in shelters, according to the release. ServiceNet also operates a Family Inn in Greenfield that only has space for nine families.

“Beyond the issue of extreme cold weather, there are other obvious structural factors that make clear that our community needs more space and resources for emergency sheltering,” Human Rights Commissioner Lewis Metaxas said in the release. “The shelters in existence often have waiting lists and do not allow those actively using alcohol or other substances to shelter overnight due to reasonable concerns regarding the safety of other residents. Or in the case of a family, that their family may be too large to accommodate.”

Metaxas said that these are the larger issues that the commission wishes to educate itself about, and hopes to creating a community dialogue about the problem.

The Human Rights Commission has invited representatives from ServiceNet and the Salvation Army as guest speakers at the public forum.