Shelter adds new service coordinator

VERGENNES — Amy Kittredge set a goal-scoring record as a star striker with the Vergennes Union High School Commodores around a dozen years ago.
Now 31, the Addison resident has returned to the Little City with another kind of goal in her sights — serving the most impoverished citizens of the community. Kittredge was recently hired as program director at the John Graham Emergency Homeless Shelter, where she joins the ongoing effort to feed, clothe and find places to live for many homeless people who have exhausted all other avenues to get back on their feet.
“It’s great,” Kittredge said on Wednesday of her impressions of her first three weeks on the job. “It is fast-paced, and there is a lot of energy here. There is always someone to sit with and help.”
Shelter Executive Director Elizabeth Ready is confident Kittredge will excel in the newly created post, which replaces a recently vacated staff psychologist position at the shelter. Ready explained the shelter now has a contract with the Counseling Service of Addison County to deliver psychiatric services to homeless clients. So shelter officials saw an opportunity to go in a different direction, personnel-wise.
“We had been thinking about going a little bit broader with the position,” Ready said, a thought process that intensified following a statewide summit on opiate addiction held this past spring at the request of Gov. Peter Shumlin. “We wanted to think in terms of mental health counseling. People here at the shelter are facing some of the most difficult times of their lives. Oftentimes, homelessness is triggered by an episode of domestic violence, the loss of a job, or a health issue. People are in a very vulnerable position, and I think our board felt that we really wanted to have somebody with the clinical skills that Amy brings — not only for the residents, but also to help the staff place some of these issues in perspective.”
Kittredge, a Castleton State College graduate, worked at the Howard Center in Burlington for eight years prior to her arrival at the John Graham Shelter. She spent several of those years as a substance abuse technician at the Howard Center’s Chittenden Clinic, which provides medication assisted treatment for opiate addicts. She has also worked as an autism interventionist in schools.
She holds a master’s degree in community mental health counseling, and by all accounts has a knack for working with people. She finds it particularly fulfilling to make connections with people that result in positive life changes. Kittredge said she’s learned, among other things, that it’s not enough to simply give addicts substance abuse medication and expect them to turn their lives around. Those people also need help overcoming personal crises and the stigma associated with addiction, she said.
“I’ve learned the importance of sitting with people, listening to them and not judging them,” Kittredge said.
She’s doing a lot more than listening in a job that features many duties. They include:
•  Helping manage day-to-day operations and emergencies at the shelter and its three transitional housing facilities.
•  Providing case management and clinical services to homeless individuals and families, ultimately helping them transition to homes of their own, whenever possible.
•  Referring homeless clients to any state or federal supports for which they might be eligible — such as health care, employment, food and child care services.
•  Ensuring that shelter staff are well trained and professional in delivering services to clients.
•  Networking with directors of other area nonprofits in helping the county’s homeless population.
•  Developing an array of services for shelter clients.
“She will have a high-level view of all the services we are providing, giving it a little more of a clinical orientation,” Ready said.
The shelter is providing more services than it used to, as its focus has shifted from simply providing beds for a few nights to delivering a variety of services to the homeless to set them up for self-sufficiency and a permanent place to stay. To that end, the shelter now has 11 full- and part-time employees, along with some AmeriCorps VISTA workers.
Kittredge is glad to be contributing to the effort.
“I have been wanting to be back, serving the community that I love,” she said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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