(WWLP) – The Western Mass Network to End Homelessness convened virtually on Friday for their 6th annual gathering, bringing together community members along with state and local leaders.

The Mayors of Holyoke and Greenfield joined State Senators and housing advocates to discuss methods and goals to end homelessness in the state.

The network presented its data on how the pandemic impacted homelessness in western Massachusetts and advocates focusing on ways the state could tackle the issue on a policy level.

A major issue was the end of the Massachusetts Emergency Rental Assistance Program.

Pamela Schwartz, Director of Regional Coordination at Western Mass Network to End Homelessness, told 22News, “We know we’ve got more to do! We need to directly invest in ERAP the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, and/or allocate RAFT Rental Assistance to match the ERAP guidelines because right now there’s been a huge loss since April 15th in access to rental assistance based on the end of ERAP.”

Another issue raised at the conference was the racial gap in homelessness in our region. According to the network’s data, minority populations suffer homelessness at up the 3 times the rates of white people.