Pittsfield Homeless Committee has hope for community health worker / iBerkshires.com

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Homelessness Advisory Committee got a look inside the city’s new community health worker station on Wednesday.

Gabrielle DiMassimo has been in the role for about three months and works within the Health Department. The committee hopes he can be a resource for DiMassimo and a support network.

She explained that community health workers are often trusted members of the community and serve as a cultural bridge between providers and community members.

“Our goal is to help clients move from case management to self-management by providing them with the right health, education, empowerment and resources to help them improve their quality of life,” said DiMassimo.

“Currently, this role is focused on connecting vulnerable populations in our city to health care and other service providers by advocating for and helping patients navigate health care and service systems. social.”

She stressed the importance of using a culturally appropriate and trauma-informed approach, keeping up to date with all the resources available to city residents, and working collaboratively with other community services and agencies.

The role is still evolving as it is new to the department. DiMassimo said she renewed her community health worker certification last month and was approved for software to track clients.

She is also involved in the Pittsfield Hub Initiativewhich provides comprehensive services to people at acute risk in the community.

“Our goal at the Department of Health is to provide outreach and health education to city residents,” DiMassimo said.

“We plan to do this using our mobile health unit, which is a trailer that we just acquired about a year or two ago. It hasn’t been released in the community yet. We launched it at the third Thursday, but we’re really pushing to be able to provide residents with health services such as blood pressure tests, advice on their prescribed medications and vaccines.”

Committee member Katelynn Miner said she spoke with homeless people on North Street and noticed some going to the toilets where they were parked. There was reportedly a significant amount of human waste in the entrance to the Lantern Bar and Grill, which has been closed for six months.

DiMassimo said the resource control officer can handle such situations and pointed out that there are public portable toilets at the Common.

The committee also discussed a petition from City Council requesting demographics and plans for the winter shelter. Parameters requested included health status, drug use, mental health, employment status, marital status, geographic distribution and citizenship.

Committee members pointed out that there was a presentation on Community Action Pioneer Valley’s annual “Point in Time” count in May that provided answers about homelessness in the city.

But many of the requested categories were not included in this tally.

Chair Kim Borden suggested that the committee respond to the board telling them to review this meeting and send the materials.

ServiceNet’s Erin Forbush said the St. Joseph shelter will be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week starting November 14 with a capacity of about 50 people.

Prompted by the board’s communication, the panel also discussed potential clients refusing services and the threshold for a guardianship process, which would be quite high.

“To be honest, I’m pretty proud of our city and our departments in our city because we have such a wonderful collaborative effort from all departments,” Borden said.

“And we’re doing more to prevent homelessness and to help homeless people find affordable housing than most places really do and more than we’ve ever had the capacity to do before.”

Community Development Director Justine Dodds said she will draft a response with the suggestion to review the Point in Time presentation, an update on the winter shelter and the role of the committee.

The committee was reinstated in 2020 after the COVID-19 pandemic caused an increase in homelessness in the city. The old committee, re-established in 2018, and the current committee were questioned by the city council for its effectiveness.

The panel has not taken a voted action since January, when it sent recommendations to Mayor Linda Tyer. The meetings largely consisted of presentations from local service providers.

Key words: homeless,

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