City and town chiefs from across Western Massachusetts responded to the call this week from the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness (“Network”) to join together to create regional solutions to homelessness.
On January 25 at the Springfield Sheraton Hotel, the Network hosted: Springfield Mayor Dominic Sarno, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse, West Springfield Mayor Greg Neffinger, Chicopee Mayor Michael Bissonnette, Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, Easthampton Mayor Michael Tautznik, Greenfield Mayor Bill Martin and Amherst Town Manager John Musante. The city and town leaders joined the Network’s quarterly Leadership Council meeting of over 50 members, including faith, business, education, state agency and non-profit leaders, as well as elected officials, from across Western Massachusetts.
“We wanted to give new and returning mayors an opportunity to learn about the Network’s ‘housing first’ mission, to invite them to join us and to offer our support in their efforts to end homelessness in their communities,” said Lynne Wallace, the Network’s Leadership Council chair and vice-president of Dietz & Co. Architects.
Former Northampton Mayor Clare Higgins, now a Leadership Council member as executive director of Community Action of the Franklin, Hampshire and North Quabbin regions, spoke to the mayors in attendance, urging them to participate in the regional effort to end homelessness with housing.
“I experienced a lot of things over my 12 years as mayor,” Higgins noted, “but nothing was more satisfying than seeing the effect on formerly homeless individuals with keys to their own homes.”
Bob Schwarz, executive vice-president of Peter Pan Bus Lines and a Network Leadership Council member, offered to the mayors, “Ending homelessness is not only the moral thing to do,” he continued, “it is good for business and for the community as a whole.” He urged mayors to reach out to their local business leaders to enlist them in the effort.
Chief among the mayors’ concerns included the number of families living in hotels in the region, costs associated with the transportation of homeless children living in motels in one community to their home school in another, the need for additional permanent supportive housing and greater public education on homelessness.
“We are thrilled with the mayors’ participation and the commitment they expressed at this meeting,” said Pamela Schwartz, Network director. “We look forward to building on the energy in the room with very concrete, coordinated responses to their needs.”
The Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness’ mission is to create collaborative and innovative solutions to end homelessness through a housing first approach that prioritizes prevention, rapid re-housing and housing stabilization. For more information on the Network, please visit: http://westernmasshousingfirst.org.