The Community Development Board in Pittsfield has approved the development of a homeless shelter at First United Methodist Church.

The board approved the shelter’s application Wednesday with 12 conditions, one of which gives the downtown community two years to find an alternate location.

The Fenn Street church, in conjunction with shelter operator ServiceNet, is planning to turn the classroom wing into a 40-bed homeless shelter.

Iberkshies.com reports that Chairwoman Sheila Irvin said

We appreciate the time and energy and concern that all of the parties involved have expended in trying to make this initial step and whatever comes next possible, It shows that our community is concerned about homelessness.

The conditions state that the permit is valid for two years from the date of approval. During that time the operator of the shelter and the downtown business group will work to identify an alternate location of the shelter.

Within 18 months if these efforts do not result in the execution of a purchase and sale agreement or lease of at least 10 years for a new location, the special permit would be renewed without a termination date.

With this, the Department of Community Development, the shelter, and downtown abutters worked out some 10 conditions that set up regular lines of communication with the downtown community as well as security and maintenance measures.

The conditions mandate that the shelter operators establish a volunteer corps to work with the downtown to address loitering and unacceptable behavior near the shelter.

Conditions also include creating a designated smoking area, queuing area for shelter use, and the shelter must post visible contact information so the public can report observed concerns.

Finally, if ServiceNet were to no longer manage the center the board would have to grant approval to a new operator.

The board also agreed to some newly submitted conditions agreed upon by the shelter and the abutting CPA firm Lombardi, Clairmont & Keegan.

These conditions included:

  • ServiceNet will maintain the cleanliness surrounding the entrance of the shelter and the abutter's entire property at 35 Pearl St. Also, two times per shift, staff must walk around the building to maintain cleanliness and discourage loitering.
  • Staff must supervise and not allow people to congregate around the entrance of the building and the alley between the shelter and 35 Pearl St. will be fenced and secured. This alley cannot be used as a smoking area.
  • Cameras will be installed at the entrance of the shelter and the rest of the perimeter of the building.
  • LCK will be given ServiceNet's contact information and meet with them to go over operations in relation to the conditions.

This past Wednesday morning, the Homeless Prevention Commission endorsed the project, and City Planner CJ Hoss noted that the majority of communications the city received were in support of the shelter.

During the meeting, dozens of callers spoke in support of the shelter and urged the board to approve the permit.

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