Greenfield groups outline vision for emergency shelter system
BY MARY BYRNE
THE GREENFIELD RECORDER
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 1, 2022
GREENFIELD — In an effort to better identify the needs of the city’s homeless population, a group of organizations has prepared a document outlining the vision for an emergency shelter system.
Susan Worgaftik, a member of Housing Greenfield, a local group exploring housing issues, said the primary areas of improvement the region needs include increased staffing, a more coordinated effort between agencies and better transportation to the Wells Street homeless shelter.
The process in creating this document, which Housing Greenfield recently shared with social service agencies region-wide, was prompted by a request for responses (RFR) from the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development for services between April 1, 2023 and June 30, 2024.
“We believe that the organizations that apply for these funds should have an understanding of what the community believes are essential if an emergency shelter system is to meet the needs of those who come to Greenfield for these services,” said Worgaftik, recognizing Greenfield’s role in supporting Franklin County and North Quabbin region.
Worgaftik explained the information compiled in the document was the result of a meeting held in late April and emails from individuals who subsequently viewed a recording of the meeting.
“We needed to be able to have that information in order to say, ‘This is really what we need here,’” Worgaftik said.
In addition to the members of Housing Greenfield, the document was compiled with input from service providers, community meal providers, members of the faith community, housing advocates and people with lived experiences of homelessness.
“There were a number of people who had been unhoused and had very specific ideas about what they needed,” Worgaftik said. “We wanted to make sure they were involved in the process.”
Erin Forbush, director of shelter and housing with ServiceNet, a nonprofit human services agency that operates the homeless shelter on Wells Street, said including the perspectives of those who use these services is helpful for seeing “what we can bring to the table next.”
“We’ll always have the community’s input to add to whatever we’re looking at doing, and to see how this fits in with what funders are offering at the same time,” she said. “One thing that has come out of this process and the work we’ve done is there’s never a one-size-fits-all to any issue or problem. There needs to be a variety of different models that fit the needs of the individuals we’re serving.”
Worgaftik said in general, the region needs increased staffing, a more coordinated effort between agencies and better transportation to the Wells Street shelter.
“We need to be able to find transportation,” she said. “If we have people in South County who need shelter, we need a way to get them (to Greenfield).”
Currently, she said, that need is fulfilled by volunteers, members from service organizations or relatives.
“It’s not in such a state that, like in Boston, there’s public transportation,” Worgaftik said.
The report also identifies the need for street outreach workers; a fully staffed triage/diversion system to help connect people to emergency shelters and services; fully staffed emergency overnight shelters; support for year-round shelters that provide bathrooms, showers and laundry facilities seven days a week; and support for people “living rough,” or in tents, sleeping bags or tarps.
“We want anyone who is considering applying to provide emergency housing here in Greenfield to understand what is really needed here and that we want a system of services, not simply a building where people can come to escape the cold, rain or extreme heat,” said Amy Clarke of the Interfaith Council of Franklin County. “We want to meet the real needs of our unhoused neighbors.”
Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4429.