Housing Specialist Alanna Tiernan Serves as Advisor and Advocate for Families at ServiceNet’s Greenfield Family Inn

Alanna Tiernan works as a housing specialist at ServiceNet’s Greenfield Family Inn, a family shelter in Greenfield, Massachusetts.

The Inn offers comfortable, home-like environments for parents and children experiencing homelessness. The Inn also provides services to help families find and secure permanent housing and to develop the means to support themselves in a home of their own.

Alanna serves as a key point of contact when a family enters the shelter. She acts as an advisor, consultant, housing coach, and advocate from the beginning of the housing process until the end. Even after a lease is signed, Alanna works with the families for their first year to assist in any way they need as they settle into their new housing.

“Once a family leaves the shelter, you don’t want them to feel like they are alone,” Alanna says. “I check in on families at least once a month for that first year, sometimes even longer. For some of them, this is the first time they have lived on their own, and I want them to feel there is always someone to call if they need it.”

For Alanna, working as a housing specialist at the Greenfield Family Inn is personally and professionally fulfilling for many reasons, including that she was a shelter resident six years prior.

“Because of my own experience, I have a sense of where they’re at in the process,” Alanna says. “I think a lot of times when people who don’t know much about the issue hear that someone’s homeless, it’s ‘well they must have a drug addiction,’ or, with domestic violence, ‘they should have gotten out of that sooner.’ I think it is important to remember that anyone can fall on hard times. I was married, and we had everything we ever needed. And then one day, all that was gone, and I was left with two kids on my own and had to start from the ground up.” 

Six years after starting from the ground up, Alanna is flourishing. Although she was unfamiliar with western Massachusetts when she and her children came to the Inn six years ago, Alanna has since made Greenfield her home. Alanna lives in the apartment her housing specialist helped her find and kept in regular contact with the former Greenfield Inn director, Fran Lemay, from when she was housed up until Fran’s recent retirement.

“I think this shelter is unique compared to other family shelters,” Alanna says. “You feel like you are a human being and part of a family. You build bonds with the staff and other families while you are here, and these can last longer than shelter.”

This unique structure is a big part of why Alanna loves her work. “I have worked in human services before, but there is no place like this Inn. The staff and management are so warm and supportive. I know how lucky I am to wake up excited to come to work every day.”

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