Middlebury’s Charter House to double capacity to help homeless

MIDDLEBURY — The Charter House Coalition will double its capacity to serve homeless families this winter at its Middlebury headquarters, this in response to an increased demand for emergency accommodations.
The Charter House Coalition is a nonprofit dedicated to providing housing and food to those in need in Addison County. During the course of last winter, the coalition provided a temporary home to 55 different individuals and six families at the Charter House at 27 North Pleasant St. in Middlebury.
In response to what officials called “a clear need,” the coalition is upping its Charter House accommodations from the current two rooms, to four rooms.
“It will be a little tighter, but we have the staff to make that work,” Coalition board President Doug Sinclair said.
Plans call for the Charter House Shelter to be open from Oct. 15 to April 15. Resident families will receive free meals and accommodations that will include a common area that features a kitchenette, eating area, TV area, bathrooms and shower. The residents will also receive counseling to work through any problems they might have, and receive help in pinning down employment and more permanent living quarters.
“We will be working more intensively with the families to help them move on,” Sinclair said.
Coalition officials will again offer, on the lower level of the Charter House, a separate emergency shelter for individuals. That shelter, once based at Middlebury’s Memorial Baptist Church, will feature separate sleeping quarters for men and women who will be offered dinner after evening check-in and breakfast the following morning. To register to stay at the shelter, guests can call 989-9746 between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and must arrive between 7 and 8 p.m. to hold a cot or room.  Guests can also register on-site between 7 and 10 p.m., space permitting (up to 12 guests). Guests of the shelter for individuals must leave by 9:30 a.m.; doors are locked at 10 p.m.
No individuals are excluded, as long as they follow the rules of the guest agreement and are not a danger to themselves or others. Violation of the rules is grounds for eviction from the Charter House Shelter.
It used to be that the shelter for individuals was only open during the coldest nights, when temperatures dipped below 10 degrees. That is no longer the case, Sinclair said, noting it became difficult to accurately determine, in advance, if it would become cold enough to warrant opening the shelter on a given evening.
A paid staff and dedicated group of volunteers run the shelter and stay awake all night to make sure rules are obeyed and that everyone is safe, Sinclair noted. The family housing and the shelter for individuals are two separate operations that have separate entrances.
Volunteers make the Charter House a welcoming place for the guests. Each evening meal is conducted in a family-style setting. Most everyone is touched by the experience, according to Sinclair.
“As one volunteer told her church at the end of last winter, ‘I received more than I gave,’” Sinclair said.
Charter House Coalition was founded 11 years ago and has been providing food and winter shelter since 2008. It is supported by virtually all the places of worship in Addison County, as well as by area high school and Middlebury College students and the general community. The coalition is putting out a call for donations to keep the Charter House Housing program going this winter, including for:
• Twin bed linens, pillows, and towels.
• Warm winter clothing, coats, boots, gloves, hats of all sizes for men and women.
• Hygiene kits containing soap, toothbrush, toothpaste and a wash cloth.
• Non-perishable food items.
• Personal contributions.
Also in high demand are volunteers to help staff Charter House for shifts ranging from two to three hours. Helpers are also being sought to prepare and serve food at one of the coalition’s Community Meal Program sites that operate every day of the week.
Volunteers will receive orientation and training sessions.
Anyone with questions or who would like to volunteer should contact Doug Sinclair at [email protected], or call 989-9746. People should drop off their donated items at the Charter House dining room, Monday through Thursday morning, or contact Sinclair.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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