On any given night, the only two shelters for homeless families in Chittenden County are full, offering 15 families a place to stay. And a shelter for single adults serves 36 individuals a night.
All of these shelters are operated by the Committee on Temporary Shelter, or COTS, which opened its first shelter in Burlington 30 years ago.
"We don't receive a lot of government grants, so most of the funds we need to keep our shelters open and to do our prevention programs come from this community," said the organization's Rita Markley.
Funds like a check presentation Monday for $10,000 -- proceeds from a community art project called Burlington Bears. It's Art which took place this summer. "The whole point was bringing the community together and raising funds for the local arts as well as COTS, The Committee on Temporary Shelter," said Linda Magoon with Citizens Bank.
COTS' largest fundraiser started last week -- a phonathon. "It started last Monday and we continue it tonight or tomorrow night. It's COTS largest fundraiser for the year and it is critical to make sure we have enough resources to provide services and shelter this winter," said Becky Holt with COTS.
The goal is to raise $200,000. "We are a little behind from where we were last year so tonight and tomorrow night are ultra critical," Holt said.
Critical because this has been an especially tough year for COTS. Rita Markley said one of the most immediate needs is to find a new location for the COTS day station. The old site was flooded out this summer and they have been using a temporary site, but they have to be out by this spring.
Markley said it's not easy to find a replacement facility to provide daily lunches, job counseling and computer access.
But COTS is also working on homeless prevention. "So some of the funds we raise during the winter event go to emergency services," she said. "But equally important, we use them to help people when they are in crisis pay for their rental arearment, or their mortgage arearage, so they don't become homeless and lose their credit standing and stability right at a time they are suffering the most."
In fact, over the past four years, COTS helped avert homelessness for 1,319 families. But Markley admits, there is always more work to do.