HCN News & Notes

Westfield Gas + Electric Powers MHA Work

WESTFIELD — For the second consecutive year, Westfield Gas + Electric (WG+E) is providing funds to help a vulnerable population transition to independent living.

The utility has given $3,000 to sponsor, for another 12 months, a Room to Recover in Safe Haven, a Westfield-based program of the Mental Health Assoc. (MHA). The program provides temporary housing and a range of services to help individual men and women end homelessness.

“WG+E is very pleased to continue our sponsorship of a Room to Recover at Safe Haven in Westfield,” said Tom Flaherty Sr., general manager of Westfield Gas + Electric/Whip City Fiber. “This organization does inspiring work for residents of our community. It is our honor to support their efforts to get people back on their feet while providing a sense of dignity and a safe place to rest, grow, and learn.”

The Safe Haven program, established by MHA with state funding in 2016, is staffed 24/7 and provides a variety of supportive services to address issues behind homelessness, including mental health and substance use. Safe Haven has a 98% success rate in seeing participants placed in independent living remain in that housing.

Key to the success of these adult clients, who are referred by the Department of Mental Health, is the unrestrictive funding MHA raises through campaigns like its Room to Recover, which, to date, has drawn support from 10 local companies who give $3,000 to sponsor a room for a year.

“This type of funding is critical in our ability to establish independent, successful living for our folks,” said Kimberley Lee, vice president of Resource Development and Branding for MHA. “The money we receive from the state we are very thankful for, but it is very defined, meaning it is to pay for things like food, the operation of the program, and staff.”

She added unrestricted funding that can be used for any purpose helps a client “who wants to go back to school and needs a laptop or someone who comes into the program and does not have enough clothes, or, when it is time to graduate from the program, they need pots and pans and furniture for their independent-living situation.

“We are beyond grateful for this type of funding, which, in terms of Room to Recover, goes directly to support the individuals who call MHA’s Safe Haven program home,” Lee added.

She noted that the program always has a wait list. Clients stay, on average, from nine months to a year, and many move to housing within a convenient distance to the program.

“The majority of those who are served through the program fall in love with the Westfield community, and they like the fact they remain close to the house and are able to drop over for dinner and continue to engage in some of the groups we offer,” Lee said. “This proximity to the house and feeling of connectivity is really what helps so many maintain their housing, their sobriety, and mental health.”

She added that “we run nutrition programming, support groups that assist in helping maintain sobriety when that is appropriate, and we help with job search and employment and, if they are interested, going back to school for job training — any supports and services they need as they transition back into the community.”