Warming shelter gets new location

MIDDLEBURY — There will again be a warming shelter to help the homeless this winter, but it will be located in the Congregational Church of Middlebury’s Charter House on North Pleasant Street instead of at the Memorial Baptist Church.
The warming shelter was developed last year as a partnership of the Charter House Coalition and Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects (HOPE). It was based in the Memorial Baptist Church as a warm place for homeless people — regardless of their circumstances, providing they are not a danger to themselves or others — to get shelter and some food during the coldest nights of the winter, when temperatures dipped below 10 degrees.
Local groups are hosting a sleep-out to raise awareness about homelessness. See that story here.
Organizers have elected to switch the location to the Charter House this winter, thereby consolidating several services for the homeless under one roof. The Charter House has for the past few years been serving as winter housing facility for up to five families at a time from November through April. It is staffed 24/7 by trained volunteers. The Charter House Coalition works closely with HOPE, the Parent-Child Center, Mary Johnson Children’s Center, WomenSafe and the Counseling Service of Addison County to assist homeless clients in finding appropriate jobs, housing, counseling, educational opportunities and child care.
Now the Charter House will also be open to homeless individuals looking for shelter on cold nights. The shelter opened Nov. 1 and is currently serving six to nine individuals. The capacity is 10 to 12.
“Consolidating the warming shelter with our other programs that operate out of Charter House, such as community lunches, Saturday breakfasts and winter transitional housing program for families, improves our efficiency; is more convenient for our guests; and allows us to extend our hours of operation,” explained Doug Sinclair, a leader of the coalition.
The shelter opens at 7 p.m. every evening, regardless of the weather. Guests must register between 7 and 10 p.m., or may pre-register by calling 989-9746 by 5 p.m., according to Sinclair. Guests are provided dinner, a warm place to sleep, support with winter clothing and footwear, and referral to other services and partner agencies as appropriate. Guests may stay at the shelter until 9:30 each morning. Most guests who have not yet found jobs also participate in the community suppers, lunches, and Saturday breakfast. Guests volunteer as they are able with the food programs and assist with the set up and take down of the bedding materials each morning and evening.
Men and women guests sleep in separate spaces. All guests and volunteer staff share a family-style evening meal around a large table.
“The shelter is operated in the Vermont tradition of neighbor helping neighbor,” Sinclair said.
Volunteers manage the shelter. Overnight staffing is provided through paid, trained staff — one man and one woman, according to Sinclair.
“Our goal is to remain open every night through at least the middle of March,” Sinclair said. “The closing date depends on the success of fundraising efforts currently in progress. We have sufficient donations from the community to date to remain open through early February.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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