During a recent interview at Another Way — the drop-in and activity center at 125 Barre Street in Montpelier — I talked with executive director Will Eberle and outreach specialist Lauren Sales.
Another Way has been serving people in crisis here for more than 30 years and though we talked about all that Another Way does for people who are contending with mental illness or unemployment or homelessness or addiction (or any combination of these) at the center of our conversation was an innovative project that is just getting launched.
The centerpiece of that new project is a free-standing “tiny house” that was donated this past fall to Another Way and is safely parked in Montpelier. There’s no question this tiny house is tiny by any standard (8.5 feet wide and 18.5 feet long). But as small as it is, it’s large enough to accommodate the needs of a single person.
More about the tiny house project later. But first, a few more words about Another Way, which first and foremost is a welcoming and safe place to go.
Talking about how Another Way works with people in need, Will Eberle said, “People walk through the door. We are able to help them out. There is no formal intake.” No masses of paperwork to fill in. No red tape. Which means, you can come in, meet with the friendly staff, share a community meal, join a discussion group, pursue an art project, learn basic carpentry, work in the greenhouse and in good weather work in the garden.
One thing that Another Way is not equipped to offer is housing. “No overnights,” said Eberle, firmly. But just because Another Way can’t offer housing doesn’t mean that housing is off Eberle’s list of urgent concerns.
Said Eberle, “We work with around a dozen people a day who are homeless. They leave here at night and sleep outdoors or wherever they can find temporary lodging. They’re not able to use the local homeless shelter because of such things as addiction or PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Then Eberle rounded on what needs to be done. “Housing programs are full,” he said. “We desperately need more low-barrier shelter resources and housing resources in general.”
Finally, Eberle went on to talk about the men and women who are leaving substance abuse treatment programs or getting released from prison. “The thing we are seeing a lot of,” he said, “is people being released from treatment facilities and incarceration into homelessness.”
Eberle said that Another Way is serving something like 40 people per day and 300 “unique individuals” a year.
Returning to the Tiny House Project, Eberle said he’s convinced that some of the people Another Way is serving might do very well living on their own in a tiny house. He talked about people who might not thrive in a group or communal housing situation, people, for example, who “are on a slow path dealing with addiction. Or some people who are contending with mental illness and “hearing voices.”
Both Will Eberle and Lauren Sales talked about housing as a basic, fundamental need for people who are trying to put their lives back together again. When people have a place to live that is theirs, they emphasized, it can give them hope.
“I don’t think there’s a lot of realistic hope around,” Sales said. But if the Tiny House Project can succeed and can be a model — it could be a breakthrough.
“There’s a lot of buzz about this,” said Eberle. People in state government are interested. “They’re attending meetings,” he said. “If it is successful, people will see it. We want it to succeed. We want it to be a model.”
Right now, Another Way is accepting applications from anyone who is interested in the Tiny House Project and applications are due at Another Way no later than March 1, 2016.
A single page application from Another Way essentially asks each applicant these four questions.
First, are you in need? Second, where will you put it? Third, do you have the skills to fix it? Fourth, if you were given the tiny house, could you afford it?
Anyone who is interested in the tiny house project or seeks additional information should contact Another Way staff at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 595-2987.