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, December 13 2013 8:16 AM EST2013-12-13 13:16:09 GMT
Vermont State Police are investigating what killed a skier at Killington. Ski patrol found the body of 21-year-old Jennifer Strohl off the Great Northern trail around 5 p.m. Thursday night. Friends ofMore >>
Vermont State Police are investigating what killed a skier at Killington.More >>
Thursday, December 12 2013 11:53 PM EST2013-12-13 04:53:05 GMT
Crews battled a fire at a multi-family home in Winooski Thursday evening. The fire broke out around 8 p.m and the Winooski fire chief says when firefighters arrived half of the home was already in flames.More >>
Crews battled a fire at a multi-family home in Winooski Thursday evening. The fire broke out around 8 p.m.More >>
Thursday, December 12 2013 11:51 PM EST2013-12-13 04:51:08 GMT
Authorities are stitching together details to a rather unusual crime in Bradford. State police say someone recently broke into an apartment building on South Main Street and stole a large antique sewingMore >>
Authorities are stitching together details to a rather unusual crime in Bradford.More >>
Thursday, December 12 2013 7:43 PM EST2013-12-13 00:43:01 GMT
The governor and top health officials say vital signs for Vermont's health exchange are improving. Tens of thousands are now signed up, but not as many as initially anticipated. More >>
The governor and top health officials say vital signs for Vermont's health exchange are improving. Tens of thousands are now signed up, but not as many as initially anticipated. About 60 percent of those originally expected to enroll are signed up. More >>
Thursday, December 12 2013 6:02 PM EST2013-12-12 23:02:47 GMT
Police have made a second arrest in a Brattleboro sexual assault. They arrested Jeffrey Anderson, 29, of Brattleboro, last month. Thursday, they picked up William Brown, 29, of Hinsdale, N.H. PoliceMore >>
Police have made a second arrest in a Brattleboro sexual assault.More >>
Thursday, December 12 2013 4:29 PM EST2013-12-12 21:29:00 GMT
Police have made a third arrest in connection with a brawl outside a Plattsburgh State fraternity house. City police arrested Jake Feldman, 20, on a charge of second-degree assault. Investigators sayMore >>
Police have made a third arrest in connection with a brawl outside a Plattsburgh State fraternity house.More >>
Thursday, December 12 2013 4:56 PM EST2013-12-12 21:56:44 GMT
A fraternity and a sorority at the University of Vermont have been placed under interim suspension while UVM police investigate allegations of underage drinking. One alleged incident happened in NovemberMore >>
A fraternity and a sorority at the University of Vermont have been placed under interim suspension while UVM police investigate allegations of underage drinking.More >>
Thursday, December 12 2013 5:22 PM EST2013-12-12 22:22:18 GMT
Police in Winooski released surveillance photos Thursday of three people suspected of breaking into cars and stealing debit and credit cards. The pictures were taken at a store where the suspects usedMore >>
Police in Winooski released surveillance photos Thursday of three people suspected of breaking into cars and stealing debit and credit cards.More >>