John Graham Shelter and Housing Services gets new co-directors

VERGENNES — John Graham Housing and Services has fresh leadership in the new year, with Peter Kellerman and Kate Schirmer-Smith becoming co-directors Jan. 1.
Longtime executive director Elizabeth Ready stepped aside but remains in the role of chief financial officer.
John Graham Housing and Services provides shelter, housing, services, and prevention and intervention at five sites throughout Addison County. Its flagship emergency homeless shelter is in Vergennes.
“We are welcoming a new generation of leaders,” said Abi Sessions, chair of the John Graham Board of Directors. “Pete will step up as co-director for housing, and will represent the shelter on the state and local levels. Kate, as co-director for clinical services, will provide clinical care to residents and supervision to staff as well as networking with local community partners.”
Both Pete and Kate will be responsible for overall shelter management and operations.
“Times have changed and more Vermonters face homelessness. Out of necessity, we’ve expanded our mission,” Sessions explained. “Our co-directors are ready to face these challenges with experience, compassion and a client-centered approach. “
Kellerman has managed residential settings while working with crisis and trauma victims ranging from severely abused children and adults in psychiatric treatment as well as incarcerated adults. He has served as assistant director at John Graham for the past two years while working intensively with those facing homelessness since 2010.
“We see firsthand what a difference a home can make,” Kellerman said. “People have jobs, but their wages aren’t enough to pay the rent. At John Graham, we offer a safe, supportive community and help our residents bridge the gaps to permanent housing.”
Sessions said that it’s the combination of direct services and ongoing support that makes all the difference in completing the journey to permanent, sustainable housing for shelter residents.
“Families and individuals come to us during the most difficult times of their lives,” said Schirmer-Smith, who has a Master’s Degree and is a licensed mental health counselor with many years of experience in community mental health and private practice. She has served as the clinical program director at the John Graham Shelter for over a year.
“We see how resilient they are,” Schirmer-Smith said, “It’s a wonder to see how people develop community and get back in touch with their own strengths and goals so their families can thrive.”
Sessions said that the John Graham Board and the co-directors have taken a full year to redefine the organization’s leadership and to transition to new management roles. “We are delighted with what the collaborative management team approach has done for our organization so far,” she said.
“It’s as if these are the times Pete and Kate are meant for,” said Ready, who has served as director for 13 years.
“Chaotic times call forth the right people to protect and to serve others in whatever ways are needed,” Ready added. “This is our life’s work and it is so good to see these talented people stepping up.”
The John Graham Board will host a Transition Celebration to recognize Ready’s outstanding service and introduce the new leadership team to the community. The event will be held on Thursday, Jan. 25, at Northern Daughters Gallery, 221 Main St. in Vergennes, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.
Three Squares Café will cater the event. The suggested donation of $10 will go to benefit John Graham Housing & Services. Please RSVP to [email protected].

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