Pittsfield emergency homeless shelter closes, advocates raise money for survival gear

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PITTSFIELD, Mass. (NEWS10) — The closure of an emergency homeless shelter in Pittsfield has advocates coming together to care for those now living in homeless camps.

“When I saw family pictures in there, that hurt,” said Michael Daly.

He’s talking about the heaps of discarded items, including prescription medications, clothing, and shoes that he said are the precious belongings of some of Pittsfield’s homeless population.

“Some of them said that they returned to get their stuff and the doors were locked and that was it,” said Daly, who runs a community Facebook page called “It’s Pittsfield Tonight.”

When the pandemic struck, the usual 20-bed capacity at Barton’s Crossing was cut in half so ServiceNet, which gets funding from the city, opened a temporary shelter at the former St. Joseph’s Central High School. About three months later, funding ran out, and it closed.

“It’s a lot to ask of them should be immediately be able to mobilize and take care of themselves in this way,” said homeless advocate, Anne Marie Jones. She started a fundraiser on behalf of the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community.

“It was urgent, and we needed to provide these people shelter from the elements; that was the most important thing. Sleeping bags, clothing, bug spray, sunscreen,” explained Jones.

“The homeless camps are going up at numbers we’ve never seen before,” said Daly.

He said he’s spoken to more than 40 people who stayed at the temporary shelter and are now living outdoors.

Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer said she, too, is concerned about the homeless population. In a statement she wrote:

“ServiceNet provided guests with three weeks’ notice of the closing and residents were informed that if their personal items were left unattended for 10 days, then they would be considered unwanted, and subsequently, discarded by ServiceNet.”

“No official word came out to any of the community resources, of which there are several, that could have kind of banded together and tried to help,” said Jean Marie-Laurin, with the Western Mass Recovery Learning Community.

Advocates said they wish the city had reached out to them ahead of time, but with more than $7,800 dollars raised, the community’s response has been overwhelming.

“The community members love everybody, especially those who are down and out, our most vulnerable folks,” said Regina White, another homeless advocate.

Now they’re calling for greater unity among existing services and a shelter that can house more people.

Despite fundraising efforts by the advocates, the Mayor’s Office is encouraging anyone who wants to help the homeless to first reach out to ServiceNet at (413) 448-5353.

ServiceNet posted to their Facebook page Wednesday evening:

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