Working to end homelessness: Legislators, providers to attend annual resource fair

  • Homeless people camping on the Greenfield Common, July 28, 2018. Paul Franz—FILE PHOTO

For the Gazette
Published: 6/6/2019 4:00:41 PM

Homeless support organizations, state agencies and providers from across the region are expected this Monday, June 10, for the third annual Western MA Homelessness Resource Fair for Providers at the Kittredge Center, Room 301-303, at Holyoke Community College.

State legislators including Sen. Jo Comerford and Reps. Lindsay Sabadosa, Mindy Domb, Dan Carey and Natalie Blais will give their opening remarks from 9:30 to 10 a.m. Providers participating in the resource fair, which will run until noon, include those working in child care, health care, career centers, community colleges, domestic violence centers, food pantries and services for youth and veterans.

Pamela Schwartz, director of the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness, said providers need to have a network to connect people experiencing homelessness with resources that don’t fall into their area of expertise. The fair “is one of many opportunities where we bring together providers who work in different sectors from across all four counties,” Schwartz said. “The goal is to create linkages so that every agency is in their most ready position to provide resources for the particular family they’re serving.”

The fair has evolved based on past feedback. Although in previous years the event has included both workshops and a resource fair, this year the event will include only the resource fair, while workshops, Schwartz said, will be held at other events. This year’s fair will also place a greater emphasis on thanking state legislators — as many services represented at the fair receive public funding — and informing them about the work providers do.

According to a report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development published in December 2018, the homeless population in Massachusetts rose 14 percent in one year, compared to a 0.3 percent rise nationally. Last year, there were an estimated 20,000 people in Massachusetts who were homeless. 

Although the fair allows providers to learn about each other’s resources and services, Schwartz said it also serves as a way to foster community with other people working toward the same goal.

“It’s a way for people to learn about and identify additional resources to help people,” she said, “but it’s also an opportunity to feel the power and determination of others trying to end and prevent homelessness.”

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