In an effort to provide overnight shelter for a number of individuals currently living outdoors in the Brattleboro area, we plan to open the new Drop-In Center for 24-hour shelter, seven days a week, starting Monday, August 16th.
The new South Main Street Drop-In Center can provide shelter for up to 34 people per night. The program (formerly known as the Seasonal Overflow Shelter or “SOS”) will launch with the hope that funding will allow the shelter to remain open for overnights year-round. Increased funds were available this year from the Vermont Agency of Human Services’ Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO)—extending the duration of the shelter season. However, an ongoing funding gap will need to be filled in order to prevent the shelter’s closing in future warmer months. We remain hopeful that we can fill that gap and keep the shelter open around the clock next summer.
In order to open this month for overnight shelter in the midst of staffing shortages, we plan to scale back the 24/7 presence we have maintained at the Quality Inn since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, a variety of services will remain in place there, such as daytime staffing, case management services, and food distribution. The State of Vermont’s General Assistance emergency motel program has provided motel rooms to shelter Vermonters experiencing homelessness throughout the pandemic. The model—funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as a public health measure—while extremely effective, has proven cost-prohibitive and has begun to unwind. The State introduced eligibility criteria in June and July that forced a number of people out of motel rooms; many of whom have had no choice but to camp outdoors.
“Our operations team has put together a well-thought-out plan to use the resources we have to meet the need through a variety of programs,” said Executive Director Josh Davis. “It is no small feat that we’re opening the much-needed emergency shelter in a new space, as the pandemic carries on, and while our capacity has never been more greatly tested.”
While the organization’s focus is on opening and maintaining emergency shelter operations, Groundworks and other community case managers will continue to meet with clients onsite at the motels as well as at the new shelter on South Main; and are working diligently to find sustainable housing solutions in Windham County’s prohibitive rental market.
“We faced an extremely low vacancy rate for affordable housing prior to the pandemic,” said Groundworks’ Director of Operations Rhianna Kendrick. “COVID has exacerbated the housing shortage in our community and we now have people who’ve been approved for housing subsidies and simply cannot find a place to live.”
The 24-Hour Shelter at Groundworks Drop-In Center provides food, overnight and daytime shelter, showers, laundry, and supportive services such as Case Management and a Representative Payee service. While we are maximizing meal support from Loaves & Fishes, Brigid’s Kitchen, and Everyone Eats, we plan to re-engage the program in which volunteer Meal Teams provide dinners for shelter guests; starting with three nights each week (Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays). If you are interested in providing meals, you can email Meals@GroundworksVT.org for more information.