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Participants join in Construct Inc.'s 2018 Walk This Way to prevent homelessness on September 23. Photo courtesy Construct Inc.

Construct Inc. aims to foster vibrant and healthy community with housing for everyone

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By Sunday, Nov 25, 2018 Life In the Berkshires 1

Great Barrington — We are a nation of overwhelming riches and resources and yet, for far too many, there is a constant struggle to meet the demands of everyday life. And in times of need, those for whom days are most hard must often rely on the kindness of others to lift up their spirits and station. Such is the mission of Construct Inc., now about to mark a half century in its quest to make the Southern Berkshires a welcoming home to all who reside therein.

In 1969, in response to President Johnson’s “War on Poverty,” a group of interfaith clergy, laypersons and concerned citizens founded Construct Inc. Today, as then, its hope is to change and save lives through housing options and a range of related services. Today, as then, it relies on our better angels, our compassionate souls to give solace and structure to those who are hurting.

Rep. William ‘Smitty’ Pignatelli, D-Lenox, speaking at the groundbreaking of Construct Inc.’s Forest Springs development in Great Barrington in April 2017. Photo: Terry Cowgill

The stated vision of Construct Inc. is to help foster a socially vibrant and economically healthy south Berkshire community, providing housing for everyone, including those who are the most vulnerable residents.

In its formative years, Construct created or rehabilitated six homes for low-income first-time homebuyers and sponsored the affordable housing projects known as Bostwick Gardens and Christian Hill Commons. Over the ensuing decades, it has responded to the changing housing and economic needs of the most vulnerable residents working and living in the 15 towns that now comprise its service area.

The range and scope of its efforts is ever expanding. Construct Inc. has now developed over 80 units of housing since 1995, the most recent being an 11-unit mixed-income household development in Great Barrington known as Forest Springs, completed just this year.

But beyond creating permanent housing, there were other urgent needs that Construct Inc. met. The recession of the late 1980s brought with it a wave of homelessness across this nation, including the Southern Berkshires. In response, in 1990, Construct Inc. developed Project Home, an emergency and transitional housing service program, utilizing funds raised at the first annual Walk.

At the 2017 Construct Inc. march, Great Barrington Selectboard members Bill Cooke, at left, and Ed Abrahams, at right, with Construct executive director Jane Ralph.

The 30th annual Construct Walk for the Cara Davis Project Home (now named for a former director of Construct) took place in Great Barrington this past Sept. 23. Jane Ralph, the executive director of Construct, stated that “those who need Construct’s help are our neighbors, friends, their children and parents. We walk to raise money, yes, but also to show community support because so many are just a paycheck away from needing assistance. Construct can provide coaching, financial management, microloans and much more than one time assist.”

The services offered range from crisis intervention and economic stabilization to mobility monitoring, housing counseling, adult education, referrals and collaborative services. It is an all-out effort to create not just a better today but a better tomorrow for the many tomorrows to come.

Kids as well as adults joined in Construct Inc.’s 2016 Walk to Prevent Homelessness. Photo: Leigh Davis

Ours is a community that understands that we are no better, no happier, no fuller than when we are doing not for ourselves, but for others. The list of sponsors for the Walk is long and reflective of the commitment many feel to make all feel welcome among us. Our most recognizable names like Fairview Hospital and Jane Iredale are among those who provide financial aid, but there is a sense by all, large and small, that this is a shared undertaking to protect and preserve.

Perhaps you are much like me, a longtime resident of the Berkshires who knows only a little of the full range of what Construct has to offer. Over the next year, I and others hope to write a series of articles that will introduce you to its vast array of benefits and the impact Construct has had on improving the quality of so many lives.


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