New life for Pittsfield's homeless committee possible after OK from City Council's rules panel

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PITTSFIELD — The City Council's Ordinances and Rules Committee preliminarily approved a petition to reinstate the city's homeless committee.

Councilors and community activists agreed Monday the city should have its own board addressing the issue, acknowledging existing boards do so from a countywide perspective. A final draft of the ordinance will go to the full City Council during its Sept. 25 meeting for approval.

The city used to have a committee devoted to the issue, but it fizzled out during the 1990s.

Ed Carmel brought forward the petition last spring to relaunch it, and Councilor At Large Melissa Mazzeo and Ward 1 Councilor Helen Moon both sponsored the measure. Carmel told councilors he'd like to see the city doing more to help homeless people in Pittsfield, because "life is hard."

Mazzeo noted that "cold weather is coming."

"I would just urge this committee to expedite this process," Moon said.

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Superintendent Jason McCandless spoke in favor of the committee, noting the number of Pittsfield students who are homeless. He said that number is currently 47, formally, and he expects that number to double by the end of the school year. And that official number captures about one third or one quarter of the actual number, he said.

"It's a real issue," he said. "It's a real issue in schools."

Deb Vall, social worker and assistant director of the Christian Center, said that in her work she sees an unfortunate amount of homelessness in Pittsfield.

She said she was surprised to find Pittsfield didn't have a board devoted to what she sees as a pervasive issue.

"I really think that Pittsfield's better than that," she said.

Amanda Drane can be contacted at, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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