Thirty-five unhoused souls will have a sheltered place to rest their heads this summer, if all goes as planned.
The Good Samaritan Haven organization, headed up by Executive Director Rick DeAngelis, is in the home stretch of converting the former Twin City Motel on the Barre-Montpelier Road into a 35-bed shelter for those without a roof over their heads. The organization secured funds over the course of 2021, during which time they searched for a property on which to either build or convert an existing structure into a shelter. Once settling on the former Twin City Motel, they closed on the property in late August, DeAngelis told The Bridge April 20. Then, the work began in earnest.
Construction company Naylor and Breen Builders, Inc. were brought in to supervise work and hire subcontractors.
DeAngelis said that originally people thought they would be able to open by winter, but “that was never a possibility.” The property, although well maintained by the previous owners, still needed a lot of work.
“The extent of work we had to do to make it a durable, modern property was significant,” DeAngelis said.
The bedrooms in the motel part of the property are nearly done and newly painted. Still on the list is a significant landscaping job. It includes a requirement from the Town of Berlin to put in a sidewalk and a bus stop in addition to the trees and plantings. With this project nearing completion, and with this past winter in the rearview mirror, DeAngelis is looking toward next winter.
“There has been a sizable street population in Montpelier these last few years,” DeAngelis said. “We’ve been running the overflow shelter at the Christ Church. It just closed (on April 15). We just ended that. I am curious how that is all going to play out locally.”
In other words, next year Good Samaritan Haven will not be taking care of and supervising the homeless individuals who sheltered at Christ Church the way they did this winter. Where are those without housing going to go? “The question is, what are we going to do next year?” DeAngelis said he does not envision Good Samaritan Haven running the Christ Church overflow shelter with the new homeless shelter on the Barre-Montpelier Road. “We are already going to be running three full-time shelters and the idea of running yet another shelter in the winter… .”
DeAngelis described the job of the person who supervises the overflow shelter. You arrive at 8 o’clock at night and spend the night in the facility. You have to be awake all night to keep an eye out for the group, and at 8 o’clock in the morning, you have to wake them and get them up and out. DeAngelis said it requires someone to take care of a group of people “who are in various degrees of broken lives.” They can be abusing substances, and sometimes can be violent, unpredictable, and with serious mental health issues. “It is a challenging job.”
The new 35-bed shelter, called “The Welcome Center,” is scheduled to open July 1.