The Spruces and Higher Ground in the Boston Globe

It has been a big day for Higher Ground in the news. Today an article appeared in the Boston Globe detailing the difficulties and frustrations the Sprucians have been feeling since Tropical Storm Irene hit Williamstown. From the article:

Flooding from the adjacent Hoosic River scattered the residents, mostly people over 55 and on low incomes, throughout the region – to apartments they cannot afford, to the homes of relatives, or to motels where they pay the bill with what is left of federal disaster checks.

“It’s been hell, that’s what it’s been,’’ said Arthur Smith, 82, who lost the trailer he shared with his wife, plus another he had bought for his sister.

It has also been a continuing primer in emergency response for a bucolic college town of 6,000 full-time residents. Indeed, the park owner’s attorney said he believes that no other mobile home site in Massachusetts has ever been hit as hard.

In all, 158 of 225 trailers have been condemned. To compound the pain, scarce resources to help the displaced have all but dried up.

Higher Ground and Williamstown Affordable Housing Committee to Host Public Meeting

The Housing Committee for Higher Ground and the Affordable Housing Committee of Williamstown have been planning a public meeting for Tuesday, April 3, 7-8 p.m., at the Williams Inn. Below is the text from the press release.

Affordable Housing to be topic of public meeting

Williamstown, MA – A public informational meeting to examine how articles up for vote at Williamstown’s Town Meeting could increase affordable housing will take place at The Williams Inn, 7-8 p.m., on Tuesday, April 3. The meeting is co-sponsored by the Williamstown Affordable Housing Committee, the Williamstown Housing Authority, the Williamstown League of Women Voters, and Higher Ground, a non-profit organization serving flood survivors and working toward community housing solutions in the area. All Williamstown residents are encouraged to attend.

To be voted on at the May 15 Town Meeting are proposals to award $107,500 in Community Preservation Act funds for technical services to evaluate sites in Williamstown for affordable housing; to establish an Affordable Housing Trust; to award an additional $200,000 in CPA funds as initial funding of the trust; and to award $80,000 in CPA funds for predevelopment work by Berkshire Housing Development Corp., which seeks to add 20-25 units of senior housing at Proprietors Fields.

Additionally, the Williamstown Planning Board is asking for bylaw revisions to allow properties zoned for single-family use to be adapted to accommodate a second household.

Before the flooding caused by Tropical Storm Irene, half of the approximate 450 low-cost homes in Williamstown were in The Spruces Mobile Home Park. Up to 160 of 225 homes at The Spruces are permanently uninhabitable. The remaining 65 continue to be at risk of flooding.

Community housing is housing that is affordable to low- and moderate-income individuals and families – working, disabled or retired – through a variety of housing options. Homes may be single-family or multi-family, with construction costs subsidized by public funds so that rents and purchase prices can be affordable. Area affordable housing communities are fully occupied, with waiting lists equal to the number of existing units and waiting times as long as 3-5 years.

The Williams Inn is located on the Town Green at the northern intersection of Rts. 2 and 7 in Williamstown. Refreshments will be provided by Junior Girl Scout Troop 40036. For more information, contact wmst.housing@gmail.com.

Higher Ground on Willinet

The team at Higher Ground has been hard at work producing a tv show for Willinet to share information with the community about what we’ve been up to. At the time of writing, episode one, which focuses on the experiences Strafford, Vermont had in dealing with the disaster in their town, has already been shown. However, it can still be seen online here.

The second episode can be viewed here. We’ll post additional videos as they come out.

Words from Peter Fohlin, Town Manager

Today, Town Manager Peter Fohlin posted the following to the Williamstown website.

The earthquake analogy applies to The Spruces. Rescue workers continue to search days after any hope of finding an earthquake survivor has been lost. And so it has been at The Spruces for five months. We have inched our way up from 60 to 63 legally occupied “Green” trailers and 3 more “Yellow” trailers with realistic prospects of recovery for a total of only 66 of 225 homes. Friday trailer number 67 appeared out of nowhere. The second home owners had been working quietly and diligently under the radar to reclaim their trailer. Thursday they called for their final gas inspection and passed. While this is not a primary residence, the good fortune of one of our seasonal survivors is to be celebrated. Yet this good fortune does not diminish the loss for our neighbors who were not so lucky.

It’s great to hear some good news for our neighbors as we continue to move forward as an organization.

Williams XC Team Raises Money for Spruces

Higher Ground has one former Eph runner on its crew, so we were particularly excited to hear about the cross country team’s efforts to support the Spruces:

The Eph teams raised the money by conducting a twelve-hour Run-a-Thon on the College’s Tony Plansky Track October 1 from 7 AM-7 PM.  Pairs of runners ran 20-minute segments before tagging a teammate to continue the relay.  Supporters pledged donations based on the total number of miles covered, and the final tally for the day was 223 miles!

Good luck at your NCAA Championships this weekend, Williams XC!