Some Pittsfield homeless programs under new management starting Monday


PITTSFIELD -- Three local programs designed to help homeless individuals and families will be under new management effective Monday.

After decades of running the Our Friend's House, Barton's Crossing and Summer Street programs, Berkshire Community Action Council Executive Director Deborah M. Leonczyk said the nonprofit, due to its own fiscal and other constraints, is handing over control to Service Net.

Leonczyk said the transition will offer programs to participants other than giving them additional forms of support offered by Service Net.

Our Friend's House will continue to operate as it has, while the emergency shelter and Transitional Housing Program from Barton's Crossing will be relocated to multiple new, separate sites in Pittsfield by Jan. 1, 2014, she said.

Jay Sacchetti, vice president of vocational, substance abuse, shelter/housing and Berkshire services for Service Net, said the transition will give people in need access to other services including medical, mental health, child and adolescent services at one central location.

Based on current funding projections, the emergency shelter will become a 14-bed overnight program open from 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. on weeknights, and a 24-hour facility on weekends and during extreme weather conditions.

Sacchetti said if more funding becomes available the facility could relocate to an even larger space and expand operating hours.

"We're very excited about the opportunity to provide all our services along with meeting the housing needs of Berkshire County," Sacchetti said.

With the transition, people will have more access to job trainings, child care, transportation and can be given the tools to stand on their own and retain housing, he said.

Sacchetti said all residents of the shelters and transitional housing units will be expected to work on individualized treatment goals that emphasize "self-sufficiency."

"That's a dimension and level of care we could never bring to the community," Leonczyk said of Service Net.

Service Net will also work with and utilize community services to assist the residents of the shelter and housing programs with things like food stamps and fuel assistance.

Berkshire Community Action Council's decision to hand over the reins of these programs comes on the heels of a massive reduction in its funding.

Leonczyk told The Eagle the transition was nearly a year in the making.

"We wanted to ensure the community needs were met and addressed," she said. "We're trying to refocus on our strengths of helping with weatherization, fuel assistance and small community-based programs."

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