Area housing and human service agencies to merge

Staff Writer
Published: 7/27/2016 12:28:05 AM

NORTHAMPTON — One of the region’s largest human service agencies is merging with an emergency shelter and housing provider in Springfield in a move designed to strengthen services for clients at both organizations.

The boards of directors of Clinical & Support Options Inc. in Northampton and Friends of the Homeless Inc. in Springfield each voted to pursue the merger, which will combine the senior management of the nonprofit organizations and also allow for administrative and operational efficiencies.

“We think it’s a terrific partnership and we’re looking forward to pulling things together,” Bill Miller, executive director of the Friends of the Homeless, said Tuesday. “Culturally, they’re very mission-driven, we’re very mission-driven and we think there’s a good match there.”

Clinical & Support Options is a behavioral health service agency that serves adults, children and families from 11 locations throughout western Massachusetts and the north Quabbin region. The agency operates on an approximately $26 million annual budget with 580 employees who serve about 12,500 people annually. Its headquarters are at 8 Atwood Drive in Northampton.

Friends of the Homeless provides emergency shelter, housing and support services for low-income residents of Springfield. It operates on a $3 million budget with 50 employees and serves more than 1,000 people a year from its Worthington Street site, according to Miller.

Karin Jeffers, president and CEO of Clinical & Support Options, said the merger will benefit CSO by having in-house expertise in housing, which is a continuing need for many of the agency’s clients.

“The expertise that they (Friends of the Homeless) have in a very targeted area is something that will add tremendous value to our larger scope of services,” Jeffers said. “It’s a huge need. It’s something we haven’t had … that internal expertise.”

In similar fashion, Friends of the Homeless will gain access to CSO’s behavioral health services for its clients with new opportunities to serve the housing needs of communities in Hampshire and Franklin counties, according to Miller.

Friends of the Homeless operates an emergency shelter 24 hours a day, 365 days a year as well as a meals program and some clinical support services. The shelter is averaging about 150 people a night and the agency also provides 110 units of permanent apartments in downtown Springfield.

“They (CSO) have a footprint in all four counties (of western Massachusetts),” Miller said. “They’ve seen what we do here, and for the work that we do, we have a strong reputation and they seem to appreciate that.”

The boards of both organizations are expected to collaborate to create “broader and deeper” representation in the region, according to a joint announcement released Monday. In addition, both agencies are expected to maintain their brands and no staff reductions are planned at either agency with the merger.

“It’s our goal to maintain all current jobs as well as all levels of pay,” Jeffers said, adding that the merger is likely to provide new career opportunities for employees at both agencies.

The merger requires approval from the state attorney general’s office, which regulates nonprofits. The agencies plan to complete the merger by the end of the year.

Dan Crowley can be reached at dcrowley@gazettenet.com.




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