This Week’s News from the ICHH Regional Networks and the Right Resources Bulletin Board
November 24, 2009
Innovation in the Spotlight:
The Western Massachusetts Network Publicity Campaign
In a remarkable display of inter-network collaboration, the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness (WMNEH) has sparked a flurry of activity across its region to raise awareness of regional homelessness issues in the context of this year’s National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (November 15-21, 2009). Gerry McCafferty of the Springfield Housing Department and Pamela Schwartz, Network Coordinator of the WMNEH, created a template for regional representatives to write op-eds in their local newspapers and all 4 counties successfully took up the call. Because its mission of advocating for the housing first approach dovetailed nicely with the Awareness Week, The Network has been able to mobilize a region-wide effort to drive a crucial message home in the lead up to the holiday season.
The diligence and determined efforts of many Network members has contributed to this publicity campaign’s success. Two Leadership Council members, State Senator Ben Downing and Brad Gordon, executive director of Berkshire County Regional Housing Authority, jointly wrote an op-ed titled “Meet Challenge of Homelessness” http://www.berkshireeagle.com/ci_13811647?IADID=Search-www.berkshireeagle.com-www.berkshireeagle.com in the Berkshire Eagle on November 18, in which they brought to light both state-wide and local efforts pertaining to homelessness. Northampton Mayor Clare Higgins, co-chair of The Pioneer Valley’s Plan to End Homelessness and Lynne Wallace, Leadership Council co-chair and Vice President of Operations for Dietz and Company Architects, jointly published an op-ed in The Daily Hampshire Gazette titled “‘Housing First’ Endeavor Tackles Challenge of Reducing Homelessness,” http://www.gazettenet.com/2009/11/19/housing-first-endeavor?SESS6108f76f8d159c19c5c7ea1eb16e71a3=gnews in which they too addressed state-wide and local concerns.
In the coming week, expect to see similar op-eds in The Springfield Republican by Gerry McCafferty, Evan Dobelle and Lynne Wallace, Leadership Council Chairs, and The Greenfield Recorder as Robin Sherman and Jane Sanders, two executive directors of prominent NGOS, and Father Stan Aksamit of a Turners Falls Parish, spread the message to their community.
The experience of such an effective mobilization of local knowledge and regional networks around a central issue has been both exciting and gratifying for Schwartz, who acknowledges the tremendous responsiveness and involvement of local leaders and Network members as key to the publicity effort’s continuity. It has been the local partners who have cultivated their relationships with local media outlets and brought the issue of homelessness to the forefront of local news.
In a related yet separate instance of support for the Western Mass Network’s publicity effort, United Way recently announced a $60,000 grant that was highlighted by 22News on November 18, 2009. http://www.wwlp.com/dpp/news/local/big-boost-to-end-homelessness-in-western-mass The collaboration between funder and Network led to the Western Mass Network receiving a television spot on their local news channel, in what has been described as an extraordinary boost for the Network.
**Information for this article made available through an interview with Pamela Schwartz, Network Coordinator of the WMNEH**