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Homelessness Advisory Panel Reprimanded For Internal Disrespect

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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Chairwoman Kim Borden warns advisory committee members to be on their best behavior after 'inappropriate' communications.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- The Homelessness Advisory Committee reportedly experienced recent issues with "highly inappropriate behavior and communication, threats and the spreading of misinformation" and Chairwoman Kim Borden is not having it.

At the third meeting as a newly established committee on Wednesday, Borden shared her thoughts on the current climate of the committee.

"In the last month, I've been subjected to highly inappropriate behavior and communication, which has include bullying threats and the spreading of misinformation," Borden said. "At this time, I will not identify the specific depict individuals as I do not believe in public shaming. This is not what I signed up for and more importantly, I do not believe that other committee members should be subjected to this extraordinarily destructive dynamic."

This type of communication or behavior may result in a request that appropriate steps be taken to remove the person or persons creating a hostile and/or unproductive environment, she said.

At this time, no committee members are being removed. If any are removed, they will be replaced with individuals with an "appropriate level of civility and a desire to work together as a team and respect others."

Community Development Program Manager Justine Dodds, in an email, said neither she nor Borden wished to comment any further and would allow Borden's speech in the meeting to stand alone because any further comment would be counterproductive to the mission of the committee.

Borden reflected on her time as a member of the first homelessness committee in the mid-1990s, during which she said they analyzed and deliberated in a collegial manner to determine what resources or assets were available as a community to address challenges fueling housing instability and homelessness.

What the previous committee did not do, she said, was "backbiting, undercut each other, bully, make threats, have backdoor conversations to try and bring someone or some agency down, misconstrue words to use against one another, use their position to force others to adhere to their demands, or have idle gossip."

"Through this collaborative process, we were able to help Berkshire County and key homeless service providers identify what was new to the region's federal resources through the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance grant program. As a direct result of this process, funding was secured to support the county's first-ever homeless shelter for individuals apartments crossing, as well as funding per small family shelter in Pittsfield and shelter support in the northern and southern parts of our region," Borden explained.

"The committee's success was driven by its unwavering commitment to collaboration and unselfish teamwork. The committee's efforts have literally ensured for over two decades that the committee counties homeless service programs shelters, received critically important federal resources and are utilized to help our homeless population every single day."

In October, the previous homelessness committee panel was questioned by the City Council on how productive it had been in addressing homelessness after not meeting for months during the summer. This felt like an attack to some members.

Previous Chairman Ed Carmel said the committee had been trying desperately to find higher ground to support the homeless and that it has been dumbfounded by some of the critiques because of the lack of information it had been given.

"I take my role chairing this committee seriously," Borden said as part of an effort to set up the committee for success in handling the ongoing homelessness epidemic in Pittsfield.

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Veteran Spotlight: Sgt. Maj. Michael King

By Wayne SoaresSpecial to iBerkshires
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — This week's Veteran Spotlight subject is retired Army Sgt. Maj. Michael King, who now leads the Berkshire Veteran Outreach Center.
King grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and served his country from 1993 to 2015. He enlisted at the age of 18 and was sent to basic training at Fort McClellan, Ala. 
"It was definitely a culture shock," he recalled. "I learned about biscuits and gravy from the mess hall, which I found delicious ... remember an obscene amount of heat and humidity."
King's first assignment was at Fort Huachuca, Ariz., where he served in law enforcement as an military police officer. From there, King was assigned to the former Johnston Island Air Force Base — 800 miles southwest of Hawaii — that is now a wildlife preserve.
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