PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Numbers at the Springside Park homeless encampment continue to decrease and city employees are cleaning up vacated campsites.
Parks and Open Space Manager James McGrath told the Parks Committee on Tuesday that, as expected, the people who have been camping there are moving on as summer turns to fall.
"We are seeing the numbers of those living at the park go down," McGrath said. "Certainly with the cooler weather that is upon us, I think we will continue to see numbers fall."
With the closing of the temporary homeless shelter at the former St. Joseph's High School in July, an influx of homeless residents made Springside Park their home this summer.
This issue was compounded with COVID-19 social distancing restrictions, and the current shelter at Barton's Crossing can only house 10 beds.
The city has allowed the homeless to stay in the parks and have supplied portable toilets and hand-washing stations.
McGrath said he believes there are now between 12 and 20 people staying at the park. This number was more than 50 over the summer.
ServiceNet and other providers are still meeting with these residents and meeting their needs, he said.
"They are really trying to access their needs," he said. "If there are requests that are made for various items that are needed ServiceNet does the best they can to match those folks with what they are needing."
McGrath said city staff are keeping track of camps that appear to be vacant. After a period of time, they call in ServiceNet, which will determine if the site is abandoned and if there are are any personal belongings to collect.
"We look over these encampments and determine if they really are abandoned and if there is anything of value," he said. "... We give them a week to 10 days in case someone comes back."
He said these items are then given to ServiceNet, which will store them. McGrath said as a safety precaution, city staff are not responsible for returning any items or holding on to them.
"From a safety perspective, we understand that there is drug activity there, and we want to make sure our city workers are safe," he said. "There is a real team approach to understanding and reviewing these sites."
In other business, Recreation Activities Coordinator Becky Manship gave her report and said the annual Halloween Parade has been canceled because of the pandemic.
"It was a hard decision to make," she said.
Manship said she will be working with Pittsfield Community Television to develop a special looking back on the parade.
"So not all is lost," she said. "I am looking forward to that."
As for Halloween itself, Manship said they have yet to make a decision and are waiting on state guidance before canceling or setting guidelines.
"We are still undetermined on that, but as soon as we have an update, we will be sharing that with you," she said.
Manship said since high school athletics in the city canceled for the fall, the fields have opened up. She said there are many groups that have not used the fields in the past requesting use.
She said because of the unique situation this year, the department has decided not to charge for the extra field usage this season. But the city is not supplying lining services
Commissioner Simon Muil said he thought it was a good idea to encourage people to safely use the city fields.
"We are really just supplying the green grass, and at this point, I am in favor of anything that can get the kids running around," he said. "... as long as they are practicing the best practices."
Manship said each group is given up to date regulations and must sign a COVID-19 affidavit.
The commission reappointed Michele Matthews as is representative on the Community Preservation Act Committee.
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VFW Post 448 Holds 68th Anniversary for 'Forgotten' Korean War
By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
A monument commemorating the city's losses in the Korean War is situated outside City Hall.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 448 held a brief ceremony Saturday morning for the 68th anniversary armistice of the Korean War, also known as the "Forgotten War."
They gathered at the Korean War Memorial in front of City Hall and sounded a bell as each of the 20 names of Pittsfield residents killed in action during the conflict were read aloud. Taps was played by honor guard member Joseph Difilippo.
"Today, in behalf of the brave men to which their names appear on this monument, and to the 36,516 that lost their lives in the Korean conflict, and the 1,243 that lost their lives thereafter, often referred to as the second Forgotten War or the DMZ wars," Post Commander Arnie Perras said.
"And to the many others that have served their country without recognition, and to those still serving. We wish to honor them all in appreciation of their sacrifice and contributions towards the preservation of our freedoms and our values of the United States of America, and its allies."
The Korean War began on June 25, 1950, when North Korea invaded South Korea after border conflicts and insurrections in the south. Hostile action ended unofficially on July 27, 1953, in a truce.
Project elements include widening of the existing roadway, turn lanes at intersections, a 14-foot grass median, reconstructed traffic signals, and infrastructure that is currently lacking.
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