Pittsfield nonprofit Community ReStart reorganizing programs


PITTSFIELD >> Community ReStart, formerly Berkshire Co-Act, has separated from its longtime executive director and is restructuring its operations with a focus on providing transitional housing.

The Rev. Ralph Howe, pastor of First United Methodist Church, said the board of the nonprofit community organization met Thursday to discuss the future of Community ReStart after the departure of executive director Paul Deslauriers, who held the post since the organization's inception in 2008.

The nonprofit also closed its Pearl Street Day Center in October and has at least suspended other assistance programs as well.

Howe said he had resigned as a Community ReStart board member recently, but on Thursday he rescinded that decision and returned to the board. He is now the board president.

"[ReStart] is in the process of tightening up all its accounting and government reporting and business practices," Howe said.

In addition, he said, "[ReStart] is focusing on efficient ways of providing transitional housing that is connected with social services programs, and we are seeking partners."

The nonprofit has acquired five residential properties on Faulkner Place and Francis Avenue, Howe said, one has become a group residence for women and another for men, while the others are rented at market rates at this time and help support the transitional housing program.

The goal of the board is to "simply make sure the housing stock is used for the intended purpose," he said, and that existing agencies or organizations are brought in as partners to provide professionally managed "social programming and accountability."

Those in the group homes are transitioning from mental health or addiction treatment facilities or have other problems to overcome, Howe said, and the rents will be heavily subsidized while they work toward acquiring permanent housing on their own.

Howe declined to comment on the management of programs that were developed under Deslauriers' leadership, but he said that "there are no [outstanding] legal matters I'm aware of, or expect," relative to the former executive director or the nonprofit itself.

Deslauriers will be allowed to occupy one of the apartments until the end of 2015, he said.

There have been some landlord-tenant issues, Howe said, adding, "that I hope are in the process of resolution."

Deslauriers could not be reached for comment on Friday.

James Conway, a ReStart board member who donated some of the real estate used by the nonprofit for its housing program, said Friday, "I know there have been all sorts of rumors, but we had a board meeting and everybody left feeling positive Community ReStart was back on track. There was a feeling of renewed energy."

Deslauriers is "no longer is the executive director," Conway said, "but he has helped us as a volunteer [offering advice]. He is relocating."

Conway added, "I think the problems have been addressed, and they are the same thing that happens with any organization as it grows."

He said the nonprofit owns properties at 211, 213 and 217 Francis Ave., and at 11 and 19-21 Faulkner Place. The latter building will soon see some rehabilitation work with the help of volunteers after the current tenants move at the end of the month.

The Co-Act (Community Organizing for Action) nonprofit, which Deslauriers had announced in the spring was rebranding itself as Community ReStart, has yet to officially change the name of the 501 (c) 3 corporation, Howe said, although that has been the intent.

Bruce Beston is the chief operating officer.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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