TLC #51: The Undead StandOut to Protect Obamacare, New Life at Louison House

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We speak today with Sherwood Guernsey about the standout planned for 5:00 p.m. in Park Square in Pittsfield to protest the latest effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. And we hear from Kathy Keeser, who explained how recent funding news means improvements and repairs that directly impact Louison House’s ability to serve homeless clients.

Fire displaced more than a dozen residents of the Louison House in 2016—funding announced by Director Kathy Keesler is expected to mitigate damage to the physical structure; submitted photo.

Fire displaced more than a dozen residents of the Louison House in 2016—funding announced by Director Kathy Keesler is expected to mitigate damage to the physical structure; submitted photo.

Entire Berkshire delegation joins healthcare protest at Park Square

Monday’s Standout Organized by Berkshire Democratic Bridges with the Four Freedoms Coalition, the Berkshire County Branch of the NAACP, the Hoping Machine, and Others

(Pittsfield) In concert with hundreds of other protests across the United States, the Berkshire Democratic Brigades, Berkshire County’s official Democratic organization, has organized a standout to protest the Senate Graham-Cassidy bill, which could result in over thirty million Americans losing healthcare coverage if it passes this week.

The standout will be held on Monday, September 25th, from 5pm to 6pm, at Park Square, located at the corner of South, West and North Streets in downtown Pittsfield, and is open to all. The protest is co-sponsored by the Four Freedoms Coalition, a non-partisan coalition of over 140 local organizations, and the Berkshire County branch of the NAACP. Musicians from the Hoping Machine will lead songs of social change, and the entire Berkshire legislative delegation will be in attendance.

Attendees are encouraged to wear black, dress as zombies, and bring headstone shaped signs to emphasize the danger the proposed healthcare bill embodies. Per Pittsfield law, signs should not have sticks attached to them. The Berkshire Theatre Group will open the Colonial Theatre lobby at 111 South Street to attendees before and after the protest for respite and conversation.

State Senator Adams Hinds encouraged residents to attend, stating, “quality healthcare is a right for every American and should never be threatened for short-term political maneuvering. The current approach to developing health care policy at the national level is appalling. So we must stand to protect our basic right to health care.”

State Representative Smitty Pignatelli emphasized, “I’m urging everyone to pay attention to this debate in Washington. This will have serious consequences for the Commonwealth. We were the first state in the country to have “health care for all” and have continued to be leaders on a national stage for research and development. If Graham-Cassidy passes it will have an $8 billion impact over the next 10 years for the taxpayers of Massachusetts. Penalizing progressive states like ours for the benefit of less interested states sends the wrong message to the world. I hope that Congress will put politics aside and choose to stand for healthcare for all.”

When asked why the Brigades were organizing the protest, Sherwood Guernsey, co-founder of the Berkshire Democratic Brigades, said, “Over 20 million people lose health care. Millions cut for nursing home, disabled and pre-existing condition coverage. No hearings. People will die. It’s an outrage. Shame on the Republicans.”

Louison House announces receipt of funding

Louison House announces receipt of funding on behalf of the Baker-Polito Administration from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) has conditionally reserved funds in the amount of $250,000 from the Affordable Housing Trust Fund (AHTF) and $617,000 from the Housing Innovations Fund Program (HIF) for a permanent mortgage loan for the Louison House Transitional and Supportive Housing project.

The Louison House project will total 27 units of rental housing, consisting of 22 units of Transitional Housing and 5 units of Supportive Housing (supportive apartments). The loan is without interest for at least 30 years without accrued interest or periodic payments and requires residents to be low income. In addition, the five units will have Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program (MRVP), Project Based Voucher (PBV) Assistance: meaning rental assistance vouchers that are project based (to be used at the Louison House sites only, not moveable with the residents) for rental to qualifying low income households.

For Louison House, this means that the Adams and North Adams facilities will be completed with upgrades necessary to meet all code compliances. The heating system, roof, siding, stairs and other parts of the house will be updated and the 22 unit (bed) transitional shelter and the staff office will return to the Adams location (395 Old Columbia Street). Additionally, a one-bedroom handicap apartment unit on the first floor, an accessible 1st floor bathroom for the shelter residents, and a 3rd floor one bedroom apartment will be added to the Adams house. In North Adams, 149 Church Street (the Flood House, named for the Flood Family former owners) a first floor handicap accessible one bedroom apartment and two second floor two bedroom apartment units will be added. Administrative office space and other open rooms will remain at the North Adams location.

Community donations from Williams College, Adams Community Bank, Mountain One Bank, and private donors were used as a match for the state DHCD funding as a part of the program’s Rebuilding Hope campaign. Louison House will finish architectural and engineering work this fall to close on the loan with DHCD early in the new year. Construction is expected to start as soon as the loan is closed.

Louison House, Inc. is a private, 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization that was established in 1990 by local agencies to address the issue of homelessness in Northern Berkshire County. For more than twenty-seven years, Louison House has provided homelessness prevention and housing services to over 5,000 individuals and families throughout Berkshire County.

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