Interfaith Council of Franklin County to receive $25K in ARPA funds


Staff Writer
Published: 2/11/2022 4:38:39 PM
Modified: 2/11/2022 4:36:56 PM

GREENFIELD — A coalition of local agencies that has been working together over the last decade to provide housing assistance to families and individuals in need will benefit from a $25,000 allocation of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding.

“(The Interfaith Council of Franklin County) has a committee that meets every Tuesday to consider applications from people who are in danger of being evicted — so we can help them with rent or rental arrears — from people who are moving into housing for the first time, or from people who are moving from a poor housing situation to a better one,” explained Amy Clarke, a member of the council’s Housing Assistance Committee. “The ARPA funds are going to be able to help with those general missions.”

The $1.9 trillion federal relief package that was signed into law in March provides Greenfield with roughly $5.1 million that can be used to respond to the public health emergency with respect to COVID-19 or its negative economic impacts, as premium pay for essential workers, revenue replacement and for infrastructure projects such as broadband, water and sewer.

Previously, Wedegartner has said that $650,000 will be allocated to GCET (Greenfield Community Energy and Technology) for the internet service provider to complete its build-out, $24,000 to the Greenfield Housing Authority and $200,000 to purchase a Portland Loo.

In general, Wedegartner committed $100,000 to “community assistance,” which she noted encompasses the housing issues facing the city.

Housing “is consistently on our radar screen,” Wedegartner said last month at her State of the City address, “whether it’s finding shelter or permanent homes for our unhoused population or creating more market-rate housing to satisfy the needs of those who want to live here but find it harder and harder to find affordable rentals and homes for sale.”

Clarke said a contract was signed this week, and she anticipates having the money — which the Interfaith Council will have five years to spend — within the next month or two.

“It seemed a reasonable place to (Wedegartner), and I was happy she saw it that way and is making that designation,” she said.

The committee — which is made up of individuals from partner agencies including Community Action Pioneer Valley, Montague Catholic Ministries and the Salvation Army, for example — grew out of a desire to be more proactive in helping people secure housing.

More than a decade ago, Clarke previously explained, the Interfaith Council of Franklin County created a warming center in the basement of the Second Congregational Church that closed after about two months, in part because it wasn’t financially sustainable, given the small number of people who depended on it each night.

“We thought … ‘Let’s see if we can make an impact … before people need shelter,’” Clarke said.

And so, the Housing Assistance Committee was formed. Before the pandemic, the group met weekly on Tuesdays at the Second Congregational Church in Greenfield to review applications. Currently, it meets weekly via Zoom.

The money distributed by the Housing Assistance Committee is a legacy of the Church Street Home Fund of the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts, from which it receives about $15,000 per year, as well as donations from the Salvation Army, the United Way of the Franklin and Hampshire Region, churches and individuals.

Clarke said as a volunteer organization, every dollar it receives goes directly to assistance. In the committee’s decade-long history of providing people financial help, it has typically offered people between $300 and $400.

“Now, we’re able to help considerably more than that,” she said.

Amy Putnam of Greenfield is among the many families in the area who can speak to the support the committee has been able to provide.

“I’ve known (Mary Conway) for a long time,” said Putnam. “Mary has helped me with everything from snacks for school to signing up for jackets last winter.”

Most recently, Putnam said, she worked with Conway, a member of Montague Catholic Social Ministries, to receive rental assistance through the Housing Assistance Committee after losing her job due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We know how to get by, but once the pandemic hit, all bets were off,” Putnam said.

With the help of the committee, she said, she was able to get caught up on rent.

“It was huge not having to worry about going to court, and having a place to give my children a home,” said the single mother of two. “It’s bigger than the check they wrote to the management company.”

Putnam said she’s never met a group that has made her feel so comfortable.

“I know that next time I need them, whether it’s (to lend) an ear or for snacks for my kids at schools, they’re always there,” Putnam said.

Clarke noted that after a period of decline in applications last year, “it’s picking up” again.

“Some of the funding programs are ending,” she said, noting the committee recently received an application for tires from someone living out of his car. “Motels are not generally in our mission, but this year it’s a need.”

In general, she said, the ARPA funding will allow greater flexibility in the help it can offer people, and will also allow the committee to provide greater amounts of financial assistance.

Clarke acknowledged the generosity of the community, while also emphasizing that the committee’s ability to help is among the “patchwork” of solutions.

“We know the answer is more housing,” Clarke said. “There’s efforts, but it’s time-consuming. … It’s nothing immediate. But where is somebody going to go on a zero-degree night? We will have to have the immediate ability to respond. It’s not ideal, but it’s something.”

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne


Support Local Journalism

Subscribe to the Greenfield Recorder, keeping Franklin County informed since 1792.

Greenfield Recorder

14 Hope Street
Greenfield, MA 01302-1367
Phone: (413) 772-0261


Copyright © 2021 by Newspapers of Massachusetts, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy