PITTSFIELD — A temporary warming center could be set up in the coming weeks on the property of the Christian Center.
“We’re moving forward with efforts to get it in place as soon as possible,” Community Development Director Deanna Ruffer said Tuesday.
Betsy Sherman, executive director of the Christian Center, said that, before the holidays, her staff applied for a permit needed to place a 24-foot-by-60-foot trailer next to the community garden that would serve as the warming center.
Pending approval, the trailer — it’s the type that school districts sometimes use as classrooms — will be leased for four months, she said. It could be delivered as early as Jan. 18, but it was unclear how soon it could open once delivered.
Plans are to open the warming center from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays, except holidays, Sherman said. The Christian Center will supply lunch, and ServiceNet will provide staffing. ServiceNet’s winter shelter at the former St. Joseph’s Central Catholic High School is open 24 hours on weekends, but on weekdays, barring extreme cold, it closes from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m.
Before the coronavirus upended normal operations, she said, the Christian Center served as one of the city’s “de facto” warming centers, providing a respite to those who need a break from the cold. Amid continued coronavirus safety concerns, it became clear that the center‘s existing space would not work out this year.
“That’s when this became a crisis,” said Sherman, who praised efforts by the city and ServiceNet to find a suitable location.
When those efforts failed, the Christian Center realized its vacant lot could be an option.
“We simply reached out to the city and asked if we could help,” she said.
Sherman started looking into the mobile structures, and she said the city embraced the idea. She said the city will put money from the CARES Act toward the project, which she estimates will cost about $30,000, with utilities.
Renovations also are underway at the Christian Center’s duplex at 183-185 Robbins Ave., in order to create a code-compliant indoor space where representatives from various social services agencies can meet with clients while keeping social distance, Sherman said.
“The city will be providing at least a portion of the funding necessary to put both the meeting center and the warming center in place,” Ruffer added.