Human Rights Commission finds no harassment at Greenfield shelter

Guests socialize outside the homeless shelter on Wells Street in Greenfield, which is now run by Clinical & Support Options, in June 2022. It was formerly operated by ServiceNet.

Guests socialize outside the homeless shelter on Wells Street in Greenfield, which is now run by Clinical & Support Options, in June 2022. It was formerly operated by ServiceNet. STAFF FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

By MARY BYRNE

Staff Writer

Published: 01-09-2024 5:36 PM

GREENFIELD — The Human Rights Commission discovered no evidence of harassment or intimidation at the Wells Street homeless shelter following an investigation into two brothers’ allegations of bullying and discrimination by Clinical & Support Options, which manages the shelter.

“I didn’t find evidence of harassment or intimidation on the behalf of CSO,” Human Rights Commission Chair Mpress Bennu said during the commission’s Monday meeting.

The brothers, Chris and Brian Heath, alleged bullying and discrimination by CSO staff, the use of drugs and alcohol by guests at the Well Street homeless shelter, and a failure to connect guests with necessary services such as housing. Chris Heath, who is the caretaker for his brother Brian, claims he was removed from the shelter more than two months ago for not getting rid of the television he had in his bedroom, which was against shelter policy.

Chris and Brian Heath first appeared before the Human Rights Commission Chair last month, with several members of the community speaking on behalf of them as witnesses.

“I feel like me and my brother were discriminated against personally ... by this organization that’s supposed to be here for the community,” Chris Heath told the commission in December. “We’ve received no help whatsoever.”

At the same meeting, CSO’s Director of Shelter & Housing Keleigh BenEzra told commissioners that nobody would be kicked out over a TV, but that there are guidelines in place to ensure an “environment of safety and care.” That includes limiting food consumption in sleeping areas to avoid attracting pests.

Upon hearing the Human Rights Commission’s findings on Monday, Chris Heath said, “All I did was look for help, and you let me down,” before leaving the City Hall meeting room.

Bennu said after last month’s meeting where the complaints were aired, she met with CSO staff. She said the Human Rights Commission plans to work with the agency on setting up a time for commissioners to visit the shelter and discuss ongoing and future programming.

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Commissioners Bekki Craig, Kathleen Kenny, Quinn Mass and Grady VerPlanck voted to accept the findings of no harassment or intimidation at the shelter, with Lance Smith abstaining.

Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter (X): @MaryEByrne.