Fenn Street Community Center emerges in wake of day facility's closing

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PITTSFIELD — The Fenn Street Community Development Corp., a nonprofit organization based at the First United Methodist Church, is stepping in to provide services after the closing of the Pearl Street Day Center in October.

The Rev. Ralph Howe, pastor of the Methodist Church, said the new Fenn Street Community Center is open in the church building at 55 Fenn St. and is providing a free breakfast from 8 to 9 a.m. Mondays through Fridays. Dinners also will continue at the church at 5 p.m. Tuesdays.

He said the plan is for the new center to also work with the homeless, those in poverty, or with disabilities or other issues — interviewing people, offering encouragement and assistance and referring them to a range of services in the area.

Howe, who founded the Fenn Street CDC several years ago, said its focus has been on local youth, through programs and services at The Hub center at 243 North St. But with the closing of the Pearl Street Day Center in October, he said there is a clear need to replace some of its services.

The Fenn Street Community Center won't seek to provide a similar space for people to congregate during the daytimes, but it will seek to interview people about their needs and to match them with existing services, Howe said.

"We want to have more of an impact and bring change if people are interested," Howe said, "rather than having a place to hang out."

The center also will collaborate with South Bay Mental Health, which he said has an office at 100 North St., and will refer individuals to other services as needed. About a half dozen people have thus far met with South Bay personnel.

Howe said the center hopes to recruit and train a group of volunteers to work with vulnerable people, helping with appointments for services and transportation and guiding them through the paperwork required to apply for the services.

"We want to develop a strong relationship with all the services [organizations] in our area," he said.

Many people coming to the morning meals, Howe said, are homeless, live in poverty, are unemployed or underemployed or have a disability. "They have fallen into a rut, and it is very hard to get out of that," he said. "We would like to meet that population and connect them to the services that are already here."

The CDC also runs a food pantry and the Berkshire Food Hub, which hosts free dinners at 5 p.m. Tuesdays featuring fresh and frozen vegetables from local farms.

Community ReStart, which operated the Pearl Street Day Center on Pearl Street for about five years, offered temporary day employment and fresh produce to meals programs, as well as group home residences. The nonprofit previously was known as Berkshire Co-Act but had rebranded itself in the spring.

The former day center provided services to the homeless and others. That included transitional services and resources, such as a computer lab, telephone and voicemail service, bathrooms, showers, as well as counseling programs.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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