Welcome You Home: Interfaith movement to help Vermonters get out of motels and homelessness | New

ST. ALBANS – As part of a new initiative, the warm hearts of the state are about to open their doors, closets and pantries to help fellow Vermonters get back on their feet and into a good house.

“This is a way for us to say that you are an important part of our community and we want you to be here,” said Reverend Jess Moore of St. Albans First Congregational Church. “When you’re so out of place for so long and feel like you don’t belong, or feel like people are looking at you, it’s just to say ‘We like you’. We want to make your transition easier. Please feel welcome here. ‘”

The Welcome You Home initiative is an interfaith collaborative effort between Franklin Grand Isle Community Action, Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, Phoenix House, Grace Episcopal Church, First Congregational Church and Sheldon Methodist Church Food Shelf to welcome families to new homes secured in apartments. or homes with supplies, food, and comforts to take the pressure off their purchasing budgets.

“You’ve been living in an apartment for a year, so you need some household items,” said John Gorton, director of the Sheldon Methodist Food Shelf. “You might not have dishes, you might not have pots, but we have this to-do list with families to figure out what they need and then we’ll have collections and, hopefully, donations. And these will not be materials used. They are going to be brand new.

“They shared their information with us, and that’s where Welcome You Home was born,” Moore said.

Transition to post-pandemic housing

The idea germinated several weeks ago and draws on initiatives elsewhere in the state, including Addison County, when communities began to come together to prepare for the pending changes. Ministry of Children and Families’ hotel / motel housing initiative that has been expanded to help those experiencing homelessness due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a recent press conference, Social Services Agency Secretary Mike Smith provided an overview of changes to the state’s general assistance housing plan in an effort to shift Vermonters using from hotels and motels through this program to more permanent housing or shelters.

Smith said the program was becoming less sustainable as the state began to emerge from the pandemic, and noted that by July 1, the state projects that there will be 250 fewer motel rooms available in due to use by travelers and tourists. He said during the coldest pre-pandemic nights, the state would use between 200 and 300 rooms for Vermonters in need, which compares to about 2,000 rooms that have been in use since the start of the pandemic.

The administration submitted to the legislature a plan developed with the contribution of partners and community organizations. Smith said the plan is dependent on legislative approval of Scott’s $ 250 million housing proposal outlined in the administration’s intended use of US bailout funds.

How it works

The idea behind Welcome You Home is simple: let others help you store your home. Families in transition and those in need can contact CVOEO and Jess Graff, the Community Action Housing Coordinator, or one of their partners, and families will be identified as in need of a ” Welcome to the house “.

“This year we have 185 people… a 140% increase in the number of homeless in Franklin County over the past year,” Graff said. “People have been homeless for a long time… they need to be welcomed, they need to be de-stigmatized and they need to ensure that their basic needs are met.

All the comforts and household items, such as toilet paper, shower curtain rings, shower liners, soap, deodorant, toothbrushes, laundry detergent, brooms, mops, cleaners aerosol and garbage bags will be housed at First Congregational Church in St. Albans, while all food and personal care items will be stored at the Sheldon Methodist Food Shelf prior to distribution.

Once the families have been identified, the work will begin: the volunteers will gather in their bushels of rainbow potatoes and carrots, cabbage and peanut butters, toothpaste and fresh towels to form Welcome You Home packages for families so that ‘they can rest easily in their new homes instead of worrying about where to have their first and next meals.

“You move into an apartment and the fridge is empty, your cupboards are empty, the freezer is empty, so we at the food shelf are going to prepare a big package of food to fill their cupboard and fill their fridge and freezer. of all that. food products, ”Gorton said.

But initiative, Graff said, is not enough. In addition to resources for food and household items, many Vermonters do not yet have a place to go because housing stock is low and needs are high.

“People need homes to move into,” Graff said. “It’s wonderful, but it’s only a small part of the homeless people who will receive this help for the simple fact that there is no housing available for people to move into. Yesterday on Craigslist there were five or fewer apartments available throughout St. Albans City and St. Albans Town. As of yesterday, we have 175 people literally category 1 homeless. In a shelter or in a motel. Richford had a list. Enosburg did not have one. Georgia did not have one. Fairfax did not have one.

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