ServiceNet has completed its move into The Pearl, a new shelter within the First United Methodist Church




PITTSFIELD — Homeless residents of the city can now spend the night at The Pearl, a new shelter downtown for those facing housing insecurity.

The new shelter is in the same building as the First United Methodist Church on Fenn Street, but its entrance is at 21 Pearl St., just around the corner from the church’s main entrance.

ServiceNet, the nonprofit human service organization that operates the shelter, moved into the new space after months of a planned transition. For the past four years, homeless residents have taken refuge in a temporary emergency shelter at the former St. Joseph’s Central High School at 22 Maplewood Ave. That shelter is now closed.

Erin Forbush, director of shelter and housing at ServiceNet, said the new space provides 40 beds, plus overflow space for people who need a place to spend the night, loosely between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. The shelter has had people in overflow since it opened, with fluctuation in numbers depending on the weather.

The shelter is already at capacity, but Forbush said there is a waitlist for people who need a bed. The shelter also won’t turn anyone away who needs help, and can assist people with case management, housing resources and treatment options for those with mental health and substance use needs.

New availability could open up at any time; Forbush said that ServiceNet got around 50 individuals into permanent housing in the past year.

She highlighted a number of differences between The Pearl and the St. Joe’s shelter.

“The first thing people notice right away is the color,” Forbush said. “Our walls have color on them. It’s a bright spot, and that’s what people will keep saying, ‘I can’t believe how bright it is.’”

The other major difference is that the shelter has beds — mattresses on bunk frames, in contrast with the St. Joe’s shelter where people slept on cots. The new space also comes with three washing machines and four dryers for laundry services, which were not available at the St. Joe’s location.

The shelter has a kitchen and dining space which it shares with the church, and brand new bathroom facilities. The new space is smaller than St. Joe’s, which held anywhere from 50 to 60 people at its maximum capacity, but has more amenities for people staying there.

Forbush said that while the new shelter was a vital resource, it still wouldn’t be enough to keep up with growing demands for emergency housing. As a community, residents need to continue coming up with creative solutions to help those most in need, she said.

But The Pearl is ready to help those who need assistance today, and is open 24/7.

“We are open, available and nonjudgmental,” Forbush said. “We want to be there to support the folks that need that in our community.”

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