Brattleboro celebrates new shelter

Published: Oct. 18, 2022 at 5:19 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 18, 2022 at 5:29 PM EDT
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BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (WCAX) - Officials in Brattleboro are celebrating the completion of a new emergency shelter for the homeless while at the same time bracing for an increase in services as funding for other pandemic programs runs short.

“It provides me safety,” said Lisa Burke, who has struggled with housing security since she was 15. The 52-year-old is currently staying at one of two shelters run by Groundwork Collaborative, an organization whose mission statement is written on the building - “Basic needs met with dignity.” “That is what I get here -- I have my basic needs met. My things are safe. I know when I lay my head down at night, I’m safe, I’m warm.”

The finishing touches were recently made on the group’s new $3.6 million South Main Street campus. “Both shelters are operating at full capacity and we’ve got about 140 households still in motels,” said the group’s Libby Bennett. She says it also houses a food shelf and case management for wrap-around services like health care. “We have a number of folks who are dealing with mental health crises, with substance use disorder.”

But despite more beds, officials worry about increasing demand as state programs like hotel vouchers and emergency rental assistance wind down in the coming months. “For years we didn’t have enough funding for supportive services or enough vouchers. Now, the problem is there is no housing. So, we have folks staying with us for longer and longer periods of time,” Bennett said.

Burke is currently working on finding permanent housing and employment. She is also in long-term recovery. “I think in general, stigma. Have compassion. Be mindful of what you say sometimes because you never know what one has been through,” Burke explained.

There is no time limit for the clients who use the new facility. Officials say as long as they are looking for permanent housing, then they are welcome.