Agencies to open 20-capacity warming center Nov. 1

BY ANITA FRITZ

THE RECORDER

OCTOBER 24TH, 2019

GREENFIELD — Winter is approaching much more quickly than many would like, but as it nears, ServiceNet and the Salvation Army are gearing up to expand options for the homeless in an attempt to keep them warm and safe until the end of next April.

In addition to its shelter on Wells Street, which houses 20 adults each night throughout the year, ServiceNet will soon open a warming center in collaboration with the Salvation Army.

The center, which will be staffed by ServiceNet, will be located inside the Salvation Army building on Chapman Street. It will be open Nov. 1 through April 30 from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m.

The center will provide a warm place for another 20 adults at a time to take a shower, have a meal and be safe for the night. It will offer chairs but not beds.

The state Department of Housing and Community Development is providing a one-year allocation of $150,000 for the warming center, recognizing the rising need for emergency shelter in Greenfield, particularly during the winter months.

The opening of the warming center follows months of planning by ServiceNet, the Salvation Army, the mayor’s office and multiple other community groups concerned with housing and homelessness. It also follows an encampment of homeless people on the Greenfield Common last summer and the death of two people in January.

Kathleen Grady, 50, and Clayton “Aaron” Wheeler Jr., 51, were found dead in a tent behind the McDonald’s on the Mohawk Trail. Grady and Wheeler died of carbon monoxide poisoning — they had been using a space heater to keep warm on a night when temperatures hovered in the single digits and wind chill brought those readings into the negative numbers.

Local leaders said at that time that they never wanted something like that to happen again in Greenfield.

“This is a temporary solution to an ongoing problem,” ServiceNet Vice President of Shelter and Housing Jay Sacchetti Sr. said of the warming center. “We are grateful for the funding and look forward to working with the Salvation Army to provide this new service.”

“Through our daily meal programs, we’ve built a relationship with hundreds of people who are homeless or on the edge of becoming homeless,” Greenfield Salvation Army Capt. Scott Peabody said. “This is a natural partnership with ServiceNet.”

Peabody said last summer’s encampment on the Greenfield Common, followed by the death of Grady and Wheeler, brought the community’s awareness of homelessness to the forefront.

“We started thinking about what more we could do right now, and through meetings with ServiceNet, the mayor’s office and others, we came to the warming center idea as a start,” Peabody said. “It’s a way to at least keep people safe as the community looks at how to make housing more affordable for people working their way out of homelessness.”

Sacchetti said that while ServiceNet works on this collaboration, it is also continuing to explore more permanent ways to address the growing need for shelter beds in Greenfield. Last year, ServiceNet sheltered 118 people at the Wells Street shelter, up from 82 the year before.

Sacchetti, who also oversees ServiceNet’s shelter and housing programs in Northampton and Pittsfield, said the increased need is not just in Greenfield, but consistent with the rest of Western Massachusetts.

ServiceNet will accept applications for warming center counselors as it moves forward to “staff up” for the winter. To apply, visit:servicenet.org.

ServiceNet also invites volunteers to support the work of the warming center and shelter staff, and welcomes contributions of blankets, collapsible travel pillows, pillow cases and towels. For more information, email Elizabeth Bienz at: ebienz@servicenet.org.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-0261, ext. 269 or afritz@recorder.com.

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