Middlebury homeless shelter to add daytime hours

MIDDLEBURY — Outdoor temperatures in Vermont are on the rise, but members of Middlebury’s Charter House Coalition (CHC) are laying the groundwork for expanded service at the nonprofit’s warming shelter to make sure area homeless people will be able to stay safe and out of the elements throughout the year.
The Middlebury selectboard this past Tuesday approved the coalition’s request to operate a “day station” throughout the year at the Charter House at 27 North Pleasant St. The facility for the past three years has been limited to providing homeless families and individuals with emergency shelter during the coldest period of the year, Oct. 16 to April 15.
The new day station is tentatively slated to open this fall. Plans call for it to operate 365 days per year and accommodate up to 15 individuals, said CHC Executive Director Doug Sinclair.
“It’s better for our guests, it’s better for us so we can help them (more effectively), and it’s better for the community, because it gives them a place to stay,” Sinclair said.  
Established in 2005, the CHC is a nonprofit association of local religious groups and individuals that each year donate hundreds of volunteer hours and thousands of dollars to make sure the less fortunate in our midst have access to the basic necessities. The group organizes free community meals throughout the year and links the homeless and low-income residents to state agencies and organizations to receive additional aid.
The coalition can currently house up to four families (12 individuals) on the second floor of the shelter. Those families can stay at the shelter throughout the day.
The downstairs section of the warming shelter can provide overnight housing for up to 14 individuals, from 7 p.m. to 9:30 a.m. the next day. Those individuals are served breakfast and dinner during their stays, but currently must leave the facility at 9:30 a.m. As a result, they must often seek daytime shelter in libraries, laundry facilities, convenience stores or vehicles, Sinclair noted.
That’s about to change.
Vermont Agency of Human Services officials have been monitoring the CHC’s warming shelter and have been seeing it as a more cost-effective and humane alternative than the state’s current practice of giving the homeless motel vouchers for emergency lodging when regional homeless shelters are full during the coldest of nights. As a result, state officials are now requesting proposals to expand the use of warming shelters by offering daytime service, Sinclair said.
With state approval, the coalition’s warming shelter would receive additional grant money for the daytime service. These funds would help expand professional staff services to manage the shelter in concert with volunteer help.
The coalition continues to partner with HOPE, the Addison County Parent-Child Center, WomenSafe, the John Graham Shelter, Counseling Service of Addison County, Pathways Vermont, the Turning Point Center and most churches in our area to support guests with clothing, hygiene items, job training and searches, securing stable housing, and accessing rehabilitation programs and physical or mental health services.
State funding for the warming shelter requires a Certificate of Local Government Approval from the host town. The Middlebury selectboard, following little discussion, unanimously approved the requested certificate.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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