image description
Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio has asked for an investigation into why more people aren't taking advantage of the homeless shelter at St. Joe's.

Advocates Concerned for Pittsfield Unsheltered as Winter Deepens

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
Print Story | Email Story

Tents sprang up around the city this past summer.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — As 2020 drew to an end, around 70 individuals remained unsheltered or housing insecure in Pittsfield as winter weather descends on the county. 
"I don't believe our homeless are being well taken care of, I believe the city is painting a pretty picture when there's not one there," Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio said. "People are treating these individuals like a pack of wild animals and not like human beings, and I have an issue with that."
Local homelessness advocates say the city needs to take a different approach to aid the unsheltered population.
At the time of Pittsfield's last City Council meeting, non-profit Western Massachusetts Recovery Learning Community reported that 72 individuals in the city were currently unsheltered. This number included people tenting throughout Pittsfield, sleeping in empty buildings, sleeping in cars, and those who are couch surfing.
County coordinator Jean-Marie Laurin said this number hasn't changed drastically since.
Some suggested actions include utilizing collaboration, investigating claims made about ServiceNet's shelter at the former St. Joseph's High School, providing a warming shelter for daytime hours when the shelter is not open, adopting trauma-informed care, and using a "Housing First" model approach with the end goal of providing permanent supported housing to these individuals.
"So much of it is just letting folks know that they have someone to listen, and someplace safe and warm to be," Laurin said.
Maffuccio has not been happy with the progress that his petition calling for the investigation of abuse and human rights violations at ServiceNet's shelter has made since the last council meeting.
He said things are moving slowly, and it seems that the city does not want to go down that path because ServiceNet is its only shelter provider.
"There has to be an obvious reason on why at least 70 individuals are living in the wilderness when there are beds available," Maffuccio said.  
Volunteer homelessness advocate Regina White is on a first-name basis with many of these unsheltered folks. While assisting them over the summer, she said she was surprised to learn they hadn't been advised to fill out permanent housing applications by ServiceNet's shelter at St. Joe, which was then closed. White was able to help them submit nearly 82 applications to the city.
White commended Western Mass RLC, which raised more than $13,000 for survival gear to support those displaced by the closing of ServiceNet's shelter over the summer, opened its doors to the unsheltered population so they can have a warm place to relax and to use a computer, and give them assistance with various forms of paperwork.
The RLC, which is in an accessible location on North Street, is currently open Wednesdays through Fridays, though somewhat limited in access by COVID-19 restrictions.
Since securing funds to provide unsheltered folks with tenting equipment during the warmer months, Laurin and RLC team have been since focusing on assisting them with important paperwork from entities such as the Department of Transitional Assistance, Social Security, apartment searches, personal identifications, and birth certificates.
"We're a fairly small organization just doing a lot," Laurin said.
Laurin is more than disappointed that the city has not provided a warming shelter yet. In early December, Mayor Linda Tyer announced that the final elements of a daytime warming center at the Christian Center are being put into place, but it has not come to fruition yet.
"This is something that should have happened back in June, we knew winter was coming," Laurin said.
The RLC, along with other advocates, is more than concerned about the multifaceted homeless crises that have exploded in Pittsfield. Laurin said the immediate crunch is the fact that temperatures are dropping, there are reports of abuse and misconduct at the reopened St. Joe's shelter, there is a lack of transparency and accountability over whether these claims are true or not, and there is no warming shelter.
"I would like to say that trauma-based care would just be common sense," Laurin said. "But I think you're looking at an entire system of exhausted people and I think we could be doing a lot better."

Tags: homeless,   

If you would like to contribute information on this article, contact us at

Berkshire Museum presents 120th: Building the Museum

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Museum announced the second installment of its 120th-anniversary celebration, an exhibition that takes visitors on a journey through the history of the Museum and the world during the 1940s, '50s, '60s, and '70s. 
Titled 120th: Building the Museum – 1939-1978, this exhibition is set to be on display from Oct. 7, 2023, through Jan. 7, 2024. 
Focused on the leadership of Stuart Henry – whose tenure as Director of the Berkshire Museum spanned a total of 39 years. This exhibition offers an opportunity to step back in time and explore the Berkshire Museum through the headlines, stories, and cultural phenomena that shaped an era. 
Under Henry's visionary guidance, the Museum not only weathered the challenges of wartime but also thrived, becoming a cultural hub for the community. 
From the formation of the Junior Naturalist Club in 1945 to the growth of the Museum's Camera Club and the filming of the 1968 NBC Children's Theater adaptation of "The Enormous Egg" by Oliver Butterworth, this exhibition captures the essence of an era marked by innovation and cultural exploration. Notably, the exhibition showcases four triceratops models designed by the renowned Louis Paul Jonas Studio, creators of the Berkshire Museum's beloved "World in Miniature" dioramas. 
A significant portion of the exhibition features artworks and objects donated to the Museum between 1939 and 1978. These contributions include pieces from A.E. Gallatin's collection of abstract art, the Spalding collection of Asian art, and the Hahn Silver Collection. By highlighting these donations, the exhibition sheds light on the enduring support and enthusiasm of the Museum's dedicated patrons. 
In addition to exploring the Museum's evolution, 120th: Building the Museum – 1939-1978 delves into the rapid growth of General Electric in Pittsfield during this period. This local industrial giant left an indelible mark on the region's population and economy, a story told through the exhibition's immersive displays and engaging narratives. 
View Full Story

More Pittsfield Stories