GREENFIELD – Greening Greenfield and Franklin County’s Political Revolution Continuation (FCCPR) continued their series of Housing Forums Wednesday afternoon, this time focusing on the homeless in the county and beyond and the challenges they face in securing housing.

During the last virtual forum, “Homelessness: Our Housing Crisis and Our Call to Action,” featured speakers: Lyndia Downie, President and CEO of the Pine Street Inn in Boston; Shaundell Diaz, coordinated immigration specialist for Community Action Pioneer Valley; and Keleigh Pereira, program director for Three County Continuum of Care.

The three talked about how to take a “moment-in-time snapshot” of the homeless in any community at any time, but the main causes are what needs to be addressed by that community and these can include addiction, abuse, and loss a job, eviction, insanity, physical illness and more.

Diaz and Pereira said shelters and temporary shelters did everything they could during the COVID-19 pandemic, but public health regulations didn’t allow so many to share rooms. Also, people have had to deal with eviction notices, and although the state has imposed a moratorium on evictions – that moratorium ended in October 2020 – it is not clear what will happen in the future. After the end of the state moratorium, a federal moratorium set up by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) came into effect until June 30th for qualified tenants who provide landlords with a written statement.

Courts accept filings, process cases, and may pass judgments, but only issue an enforcement order after the CDC order expires – the court order that enables a landlord to evict a tenant. Protection is limited to households that meet certain income and vulnerability criteria.

Speakers at the forum on Wednesday agreed that equity is essential to access to housing in Franklin County and western Massachusetts.

Pereira explained that there is “acute” homelessness, where someone has recently become homeless, for example surfing on the couch, and chronic homelessness, where someone has sometimes been homeless for many years.

“We have to look at the housing options,” said Pereira. “We need to work with partners – housing and temporary accommodation – for young people and adults.”

Diaz said people had to stand up for them. She said that while homelessness cannot be resolved overnight, the work must start now.

“We have to take a holistic approach to the problem,” added Pereira. “We need to look for legislative support and an increase in housing money, and we need more people to get involved.”

“We have to listen to the lived experience of others,” said Diaz.

Both speakers said that community leaders, developers and landlords also need to be involved.

Emily Greene, host of the Homelessness Forum, said while everyone is primarily focused on adults with addictions and other problems, as well as teenagers, they also need to think about the elderly, some of whom need help staying in their homes.

“Some live solely on social security and cannot afford it,” she said. “This will also be a tsunami if nothing is done beforehand.”

Downie talked about what the Pine Street Inn in Boston did and suggested that Franklin County seek financial and legal aid from the government. She said there is government funding to buy real estate to provide affordable housing for those who don’t seem to be able to find any.

The three organizations mentioned should work with housing authorities, senior centers, independent housing organizations, nursing homes, and anything else they can think of.

“At some point the pandemic will end, but the effects will not end, so we have to be ready,” said Pereira.

You, Diaz, and Downie said everyone not only needs to take a “broadline” approach to homelessness, but now they need to take a deeper dive and a “finer” approach.

“There are people who need a place to stay and cannot find an apartment,” said Diaz. “We have to stay with them so they don’t fall through the cracks.”

Upcoming forums

Greening Greenfield and Franklin County Continuing Political Revolution will hold the next Housing Forum on Wednesday May 5th at 6:30 pm

Athol City Administrator Shaun Suhoski, Montague City Planner Walter Ramsey, and Greenfield Community and Economic Development Director MJ Adams will be the speakers for the “Reclaiming Abandoned Community Buildings” forum.

After the forum on May 5th, there are two forums left. “How do we pay for the living space we want?” And “Achieving Affordability With Clean Energy” is practically happening on May 12th (6:30 pm) and May 19th (6:30 pm).

Register for future forums or watch videos from previous forums on Housingishumanright.com.

Reach Anita Fritz at 413-772-9591 or afritz@recorder.com.

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