Shirley Alex and her two kids have been living at the Morningside Shelter in Brattleboro since April. "It was a huge relief, it really was," she said.
The 29-bed shelter has a waiting list of more than 30 people. The family is grateful they got a spot. "To have a stable environment for my kids so they can get to school on time and the same roof over your head every night," she said.
During the winter, the family was living in a motel, with help from the state emergency housing voucher program. When they reached the 84 day limit in April, they ran out of options. This mom was considering a tent. "At least it is something to keep you out of the elements -- out of the rain and the wind," Alex said.
At the Brattleboro Area Drop-in Center, tents have become a hot commodity. "I have one tent left and we gave it to a family of five last Thursday -- and she had three small children," said the center's Lucie Fortier.
The day shelter, which provides a range of services, is now asking the public to donate more tents to meet the needs of the homeless in the area. "When we closed the shelter in April we had seen 172 un-duplicated people last winter come through the shelter," Fortier said.
Officials at the Morningside Shelter say because of budget cuts, the problem of the homeless is going to get worse. For the past fiscal year, the state spent about $4 million on the emergency housing program. This year, that number as been reduced to $1.5 million. Homeless advocates say it's easy to get a sense of how those cuts will impact communities by looking at how last year's $4 million was divvied up -- about 9-percent went to Brattleboro and 43- percent to the Burlington area.
Part of the reason for the cuts -- concerns that the state was paying top dollar for hotel rooms. Clients had shelter but not access to programs to help them get back on their feet. The budget cuts come with new guidelines for who qualifies for an emergency hotel voucher. Brattleboro is preparing for even greater need. "Yeah, it is only a tent, but at the very least we can get somebody a little bit of shelter," said Morningside's Joshua Davis.
But at the same time, Davis says more head way needs to made fighting the causes of homelessness -- like keeping people from being evicted from their homes in the first place, more affordable housing, and an increased focus on bringing jobs to the area. "The best that we have to offer is a tent and is that really the best that we can do? And I would like to challenge us to think about better ways that we can approach homelessness as an entire state," he said.
Shirley Alex, who has housing at least for the time being, offers a challenge of her own. "Maybe before, or as part of your term in the legislature, that you need to live for a month on minimum wage, or in a tent, and put yourself in other people's shoes," she said.
Friday, April 18 2014 12:04 AM EDT2014-04-18 04:04:40 GMT
A Putney man was taken to the hospital after police say he was run over in a driveway. It happened this afternoon on Kimball Hill Road. Investigators say 63-year-old Eric Ladd was walking slipped and hitMore >>
A Putney man was taken to the hospital after police say he was run over in a driveway. It happened this afternoon on Kimball Hill Road.More >>
Friday, April 18 2014 12:00 AM EDT2014-04-18 04:00:59 GMT
Police are searching for clues after a homemade bottle bomb was found at a park in Keene New Hampshire. On Wednesday workers were doing spring clean-up at Wheelock park when they found a 55-gallon drumMore >>
Police are searching for clues after a homemade bottle bomb was found at a park in Keene New Hampshire.More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 11:58 PM EDT2014-04-18 03:58:40 GMT
There's been a tragedy on the Burlington beltway Thursday night. Police confirm that a 24-year-old Winooski man was killed in a motorcycle crash that shutdown the beltway. The name has been releasedMore >>
Burlington Police confirm that a 24-year-old Winooski man was killed in a motorcycle crash that shutdown the beltline.More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 11:08 PM EDT2014-04-18 03:08:04 GMT
Police say two people found dead at a home in Stowe are believed to have died in a murder-suicide. Police are still not releasing their names or the cause of death, but they say the victims are adults. StoweMore >>
A Stowe couple is dead after what police say was a murder-suicide. The news came as a shock to neighbors who say they never noticed any red flags. More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 6:58 PM EDT2014-04-17 22:58:26 GMT
A man charged with shooting his neighbor and two Vermont State Police officers was in court Thursday in Middlebury. Timothy Foley did appear in court Thursday in Middlebury. He wasn't there last time,More >>
A man charged with shooting his neighbor and two Vermont State Police officers was in court Thursday in Middlebury.More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 11:26 AM EDT2014-04-17 15:26:34 GMT
A 79-year-old woman accused of causing the death of a motorcyclist in Vermont last year has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of careless or negligent operation and has received a suspended sentence of six to...More >>
A 79-year-old woman accused of causing the death of a motorcyclist in Vermont last year has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of careless or negligent operation and has received a suspended sentence of six to 12 months.More >>
Thursday, April 17 2014 12:05 PM EDT2014-04-17 16:05:16 GMT
A teenager has been arrested for making a bomb threat in St. Albans. Police say the threat was made to Project SOAR, an alternative school, Wednesday morning. The building was searched and no bomb wasMore >>
Police say a teenager has been arrested for allegedly making a bomb threat to an alternative school in St. Albans.More >>