PITTSFIELD -- As many as 15 homeless families in Berkshire County may soon have both housing and the skills to maintain employment at a living wage thanks in part to a grant from the Paul and Phyllis Fireman Foundation.
The $300,000 grant will help launch the Secure Jobs Connect pilot project, a program designed to remove employment barriers for the homeless in Western Massachusetts.
Brad Gordon, executive director of the Berkshire Regional Housing Authority, and Jay Sacchetti, vice president of ServiceNet Inc., which helps connect homeless families with job opportunities, on Tuesday were at Holyoke Community College, where the grant was announced to discuss how the project would benefit Berkshire County.
"By combining a variety of services to sustain housing we'll be able to help 10 to 15 homeless families sustain housing," Gordon said. "This is a great step in the right direction to help people get employment and maintain a living wage so they can avoid being homeless or resolve it."
One of the major problems facing local homeless families, Sacchetti said, is educational opportunities and training for skilled jobs.
Funding from the grant will help people attend schools like Berkshire Community College, or enroll in local job placement offices to act as a "bridge" to sustaining a home and employment.
"If we're going to have long-term success, these households need access to viable employment opportunities that ultimately lead to an income,
Several of the families Gordon and Sacchetti have worked with are second- and third-generation homeless, a cycle they both agreed needs to be broken.
"This is a really good investment," Gordon said. "By just giving people money or a place to live it acts like a Band-Aid and doesn't really address the actual problem. This program will provide those solutions."
Although an exact timetable hasn't been established, homeless families in the Berkshires can apply for the pilot project by contacting the Secure Jobs Connect program office at (413) 536-5403, ext. 229 or e-mail cpmet@ partnersforcommunity.org.