Thursday, July 24, 2008

Open Pantry backstabbers: bad reporting assists cowards

I was at the Open Pantry press conference yesterday, where the agency asked for the community's help. We were asked to help convince legislators to override Gov. Patrick''s veto of funds for the agency.

After the press conference, when some of us were milling around talking to each other, there was an odd moment when I realized that the agencies and individuals who had come to support the OP-- not the best-heeled groups in the city-- had gradually been infiltrated by people from the community who were there to get food. We were pretty indistinguishable from each other.

This morning I went to MassLive to read the Springfield Republican's coverage of OP's plea. Why I should be surprised at what I read I don't know, but several paragraphs referenced 'homeless advocates" and Noonan's "detractors" without ever saying who those people were! What kind of reporting is Stephanie Barry's piece supposed to be?

"Noonan's detractors say he should not be seeking "new funding" from a barren state budget. Moreover, others say the $400,000 Noonan is seeking is simply an attempt to recoup funds he lost when the Open Pantry's Warming Place shelter at the former York Street jail closed last year.

"We're not able in this fiscal climate to provide funding for services that are not being rendered," Patrick spokeswoman Cynthia M. Roy said."

Barry only quotes Patrick's spokesperson Cynthia Roy-- who gets it wrong. Wonder where Roy got her information? And who are those "detractors" and "others?" Could Barry be referencing those anonymous posters on MassLive? Or is she talking about Springfield officials who lack the guts to go on the record and prefer to do their backstabbing behind closed doors?

"While funding to feed the needy and homeless may seem an unassailable pitch, homeless advocates say there is a statewide movement afoot to standardize help and move away from so-called emergency services such as temporary shelters and the like.

To that end, the Patrick administration is discouraging additional funding for emergency services and is devoting any new funding to prevention and a longer-term approach to homelessness, experts say."

Again, just who are those "homeless advocates" and "experts?". And another point here-- just because Patrick is moving away from emergency funding, does that mean it's a good idea? I'm a homeless advocate, and I have seen Patrick's 'either-or" approach as short-sighted and ill-timed. I'm all in favor of prevention and long-term approaches. But let's call a euphemism a euphemism. If there was ever a time when our local, state and federal governments needed to maintain emergency services, this is it.

Remember that line from Airplane!, when Lloyd bridge's air traffic controller character says, "Looks like I picked the wrong day to give up smoking?"

Shame on the cowards for not going on record and shame on Stephanie Barry-- and her editors-- for allowing it.


VanDog said...

I couldn't resist commenting about this topic in my blog.

Gerry McCafferty said...

I don't know why Stephanie Barry wrote the article this way. I spoke with her on the record. The comment about the state providing new money directed toward emergency homelessness responses is mine. I don't know who else she is refering to in the plural "experts" and "advocates." I also told her that the City is not taking a position (in support or opposed) on Open Pantry's funding request to the state.

My comments to her concerned the context of Open Pantry's plea for new funding. I indicated that there has been a tremendous amount of planning around the response to homelessness at the state and local level, and efforts are being directed toward obtaining funding for long-term solutions, not toward expanding emergency solutions.

I know that Open Pantry does not consider this to be "new" money, but it is to the legislature. The $400,000 that Open Pantry "lost" was buying emergency shelter beds, and is now buying those beds, for $400,000, from Friends of the Homeless.

How far could new funding of 400,000 a year go toward long-term solutions? It could fund housing subsidies for over 60 people. In fact, I believe that a key component of Springfield's 39% reduction in street homelessness last year was due to the City dedicating just about $400,000 toward housing subsidies for people who have been chronically homeless.

Meanwhile, Open Pantry operated its food pantry and soup kitchen without this funding for the fiscal year that ran from July 1, 2007 to June 30, 2008. (The Warming Place funding of $400,000 stopped June 30, 2007.) I know that their food programs have multiple funding sources, including $145,000 from the state, $20,000 from the City, FEMA funds, and contributions from the community.

As this funding debate goes on publicly, I think these are important points that should be taken into consideration.

Marisa said...

Apparently Ms Barry loves supports cowards all of the time. She does the same the next day!