Our work began in 1969. President Lyndon B. Johnson had just given his State of the Union, which would famously become known as his “War on Poverty” speech. His words—“Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it“—were our call to action. The country was in turmoil at the time over the Vietnam War, civil rights, and the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. In response, a group of interfaith clergies, laypersons and concerned Berkshires citizens founded Construct to fight poverty and provide enough stability to shore up our community.
When the economy changed from manufacturing to become more hospitality and service based and the need for affordable housing became more apparent in the 1970s, Construct was there to bridge the gap for our vital workforce. During the recession of the 1980s, Construct’s programs supported many during a time of crisis and transition back to stability. In 1990, with funds from Construct’s very first—now annual—WALK, Project Home, an emergency housing service program, was founded. Transitional housing units for homeless men and women were built in 1999 and 2005, respectively.
To date, Construct has purchased, rehabilitated and/or built over 80 permanent, affordable housing options in southern Berkshire County, plus 10 comfortable transitional housing bedrooms in two houses for individuals coming out of homelessness. We’ve grown to meet the needs of 600+ families per year. 2020 was very difficult for many in our service area, and our waiting lists grew exponentially. During this time, we have provided vocational training to 33 young adults through the Pathways to the Trades program—a joint venture with area high schools, Greenagers, and the Railroad Street Youth Project. As one of the first nonprofits in Massachusetts to provide COVID-19 rental assistance, we offered financial help to over 200 families during the pandemic.
Our service area includes the southern Berkshires region, including Lenox, Lee, Richmond, West Stockbridge, Stockbridge, Great Barrington, Housatonic, Sheffield, Ashley Falls, Monterey, New Marlboro and Mill River, Otis, Becket, Sandisfield, Tyringham and people living in border towns in the Pioneer Valleny, Litchfield County, CT and Columbia County, NY.
Rooted in the Berkshires, Construct was founded on the promise to care for our community. The organization continues to respond to the changing housing and economic needs of the most vulnerable of our citizens. Economic downturns, industry upheaval, global and political turmoil, pandemics—all, of course, have an effect on our populace. Our neighbors. Our home. The recent Covid-19 pandemic has once again strained our most vulnerable, including our very vital and essential workforce. With the help of area partner organizations, as always, Construct is here to help weather the storm.