With the opening of new facilities at the former Twin Town Motel, the Good Samaritan Haven is taking a major step in its mission to provide emergency shelter and support services for people experiencing homelessness. The aim is to create stability, safety, and hope for people who too often have none.
Currently, more than 400 individuals are homeless in Washington County — living on the streets, in shelters and in motels, according to the Good Samaritan Haven.
While the plan was for the new shelter to begin welcoming the first residents on Monday, July 18, unexpected circumstances led to the first move-in happening on Sunday evening. Co-executive director Rick DeAngelis reported by email on Monday morning, “We had two cases of COVID in our congregate shelter in Barre (on Sunday). After numerous unsuccessful calls to obtain a room somewhere in central Vermont, we opted to open a night early and provide single rooms for the individuals. I talked to one of the guests. She is a senior — she was so grateful to be safe and thought she would need to sleep on the streets last night. Her younger brother died of COVID in 2020. We took her to Express Care and then the welcome center. This case illustrates why we pursued this project. I felt so grateful.”
The initial occupancy will be people transferring from Good Sam’s existing shelters in Barre and Montpelier. An official grand opening of the new shelter, and the welcome center and offices on the hillside above the shelter units, is scheduled for Thursday, August 11.
DeAngelis is quick to note the organization’s appreciation for the support received from several Montpelier businesses and institutions. While giving a tour of one of the shelter units, DeAngelis explained that truly useful furnishings have been provided by the Capital Plaza Hotel and the VSECU. “The bedside tables from Capital Plaza are especially helpful,” he said. “The security safes we have for locking up personal items of the guests fit into the tables perfectly.”
Transfers to the new facility will be gradual. “We’ll take it slow this week with a maximum of ten guests — there are still a lot of punch-list items,” DeAngelis said.
Each of the units, which include the A-frame that was formerly the motel office and one of the restored cabins at the opposite end of the shelters, is designed for two occupants. In all, the shelter will provide secure space for up to 35 people.
In addition to the shelter units, the spacious, former private home of the motel owners has been renovated to include a welcome center area for interviewing people seeking shelter. Equally important to the operations of Good Samaritan Haven will be offices, a conference room, and a kitchen. “We’ve never really had facilities for offices or a place for staff to meet in the 35 years we’ve been providing services,” DeAngelis said.
The design for the welcome center and offices has been contributed by GBA Architecture & Planning, a Montpelier-based company located on Granite Shed Lane, overlooking the Winooski River.
Total costs for the new facility, including acquisition and soft costs, $5.5 million; construction $3.5 million.
Downstreet Housing is the development partner.
The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board provided most of the funding.
The community has contributed $430,000.
The city of Montpelier’s trust fund provided $100,000.