If all goes well, Montpelier will have an emergency winter overflow shelter for the unhoused as soon as Dec. 1, despite concerns that it might not happen this year. Approvals and grant-funding are not yet final, but according to leadership at Another Way in Montpelier and the Good Samaritan Haven in Barre, it’s highly probable that Christ Church will again be hosting a 10-bed overflow winter shelter with trained staff and volunteers.
Homelessness advocates are painfully aware of the need for increased shelter space in a region where winter hits hard. There are more than 450 people identified as homeless in central Vermont — 40 of those on the streets in Montpelier right now, according to Ken Russell, executive director of Another Way, a “sanctuary for psychiatric survivors” on Barre Street. Russell is also chair of Montpelier’s Homelessness Task Force.
Despite the need — and funding sources being available — up until recently, there was no qualified staff available for a winter overflow shelter in Montpelier as it has been the past several winters. It looked like it might not happen.
Russell changed that. When it became clear there may not be proper staff to run it, he recruited a shelter manager – Rhonna Gable, who also works at Washington County Mental Health — and he rallied other staff and volunteers to make the 10-bed accommodations in Christ Church an option again this year.
He said the board of Another Way has conditionally approved Another Way’s role in the overflow shelter, but it’s happening in partnership with Good Samaritan Haven, which itself is running three shelters, two in Barre and one in Berlin.
“The Another Way Board approved the project subject to review of the budget and legal review of an Office of Economic Opportunity grant,” said Rick DeAngelis, co-executive director of Good Samaritan Haven. DeAngelis said Good Samaritan is submitting the grant as well as a city permit application this week.
“Good Sam will serve as a subcontractor to Another Way,” DeAngelis said, “providing: planning, training, documents, and procedures, including communications log, guest log, house rules, etc. We will also provide state-required screening of prospective employees.”
The plan is for the shelter to be fully grant-funded, Russell said.
In addition to the overflow shelter, Russell said the city Homelessness Task Force is looking into warming space during the day.
“The library is welcoming,” he said, “[And] City Hall is looking at warming space.” Plus there’s the Another Way drop-in for psychiatric survivors, and folks affiliated with the homelessness task force putting together a proposal for a “hard-covered” shelter “like the Guertin shelter — but better.”
Details about the hard-covered shelter will be discussed at the task force meeting this week, Russell said, and the overflow shelter should be open by Dec. 1.
How to Help
Want to help but not sure what to do? Here’s a list provided by Another Way of things you can do or donate to help those experiencing homelessness in our community:
Call Another Way at 802-229-0920 or Good Samaritan Haven’s Street Outreach Worker Dawn Little by text: 802-272-7914. Equipment needed:
Quality winter sleeping bags.
Mentorship — relationship building with folks on the street.
Medical supplies, such as Narcan, first aid supplies (call for more ideas).
The Dollar Store, Walmart, Dunkin’, Shaws.
Pay it forward meals or drinks at local restaurants.
Ready for anything volunteers.
Blessing bags for panhandlers.
Delivery of food and/or water.
Delivery of home-cooked meals.
Transport of people’s items.
Weekend or After Hours Transportation
To places like work, campsites, food, laundry.
Letters to the Editor.
Provide human connection.
Talk to people, get to know them, ask how you can help.