“We’re working to develop a set of recommendations on what we can actually do about homelessness,” Ellen Semonoff told a gathering of about 20 people at the Cambridge Community Center Thursday evening, June 25. Ms. Semonoff is Assistant City Manager for the City of Cambridge's Department of Human Service Programs.
The meeting was the second of two held last week that are part of a CSH process called a charrette, a multi-stage community effort to gather opinions and recommendations about a single issue from people who have a stake in the outcome. In this case the stakeholders include residents, consultants, City officials and staff as well as people experiencing homelessness and those who work with them.
The earlier of the two meetings was at noon on Wednesday, June 24. The organizer for both events was Shelly Chevalier, Planning and Development Manager for the Cambridge Department of Human Service Programs. The charrette process is part of a collaborative effort launched by the City to create a plan for addressing homelessness, she said; participants include multiple local government departments, nonprofit partners, and the Cambridge Homeless Continuum of Care.
"We get it," Ms. Chevalier noted at Thursday’s meeting. "We have to try and do things differently, and it requires pushing beyond what we know."
Leadership for the project is organized through a 15-member Charrette Steering Committee composed of representatives from a cross-section of community organizations.
Acting as moderator Thursday evening was Larry Oaks, CSH director in New England. CSH promotes supportive housing as a way of addressing chronic societal problems and is the facilitator for the City’s planning process, according to Ms. Chevalier.
Mr. Oaks introduced two participants in the evening’s discussions, both of them members of the Charrette Steering Committee:
--Sean Terry of the New England Center for Veterans described the organization’s housing services and its work with homeless veterans.
--Liz Mengers of the Cambridge Department of Human Services noted that this is the second month of the “brainstorming” process and said that further discussions during the summer will be followed by another round of meetings in September.
“This meeting is part of a larger city planning process,” Oaks said. “Our mission is to make sure that issues relating to housing and homelessness remain front and center in that process.”