How a big expansion could help the homeless in the Upper Valley

Published: Dec. 7, 2021 at 5:13 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 8, 2021 at 5:42 AM EST
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WHITE RIVER JUNCTION, Vt. (WCAX) - Plans are moving forward in the Upper Valley to address chronic homelessness throughout the region.

Walter McDow knows all too well what it is like not to have a place to call home.

“So I am staying down at the Quality Inn,” McDow said. “It’s sucks. I’m sorry, it’s not fun. Going day to day. Having to wait to call 211 until three in the afternoon and then you sit on the phone for an hour-and-a-half and wait online to find out that they haven’t got any space left.”

He stops by the food shelf at the Upper Valley Haven daily. Recently, after he lost his apartment, he stayed at the facility’s homeless shelter.

“They come to the Haven asking for help,” said Michael Redmond of the Upper Valley Haven.

The Haven currently has room for 20 adults and up to eight families. But officials with the nonprofit say that does not meet the current demand.

Plans are being developed to build an emergency overnight shelter for 20 people in front of the facility.

“It will have laundry and showers and space for people to work on finding permanent housing during the day, to grab a meal and to meet with people,” Redmond said.

But that’s not all. Next to the overnight shelter will be 18 units of transitional housing run by Twin Pines Housing.

And there is a third player in the partnership, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church which currently owns the property. The church has voted to split the parcel into thirds. The old rectory would be the new affordable housing site.

“We see that as an opportunity for mission. An opportunity to reach out to these two populations,” said Leslie Black of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

A new resource center, run by the Haven, would help give clients the connections they need to make the turn from temporary housing to a long-term solution.

“People from the St. Paul’s Church helped found the Haven 40 years ago. They’ve been on our board of directors. They volunteer here. But this is going to draw us even closer together,” Redmond said.

People like McDow could reap the rewards, a man who has had some pretty bad options when it comes to housing in the past.

“When I’m 56 years old, living on Social Security and I’m physically disabled, and they hand me a tent on the first of February in the middle of winter, that is kind of rude,” McDow said.

Plans will have to be formally submitted to the town of Hartford in January. However, the immediate next step will be to talk to neighbors to address any concerns that they might have about the project.

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