Nonprofit ANEW says it needs help running Burlington homeless shelter

Published: May. 2, 2023 at 12:11 PM EDT|Updated: May. 2, 2023 at 6:23 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A nonprofit that helps the homeless needs some help of its own. The organization called ANEW says it can no longer run a shelter at the Champlain Inn in Burlington without a partner.

ANEW says they do not have enough resources to run the shelter by themselves past Sept. 30 of this year. They want to continue with a new partnership or bring in someone to completely manage it.

The Champlain Inn on Shelburne Road has approximately 50-70 homeless people lined up every night hoping to get a room. But ANEW says they cannot do this alone anymore.

“We are working towards and we are optimistic that we will have identified and properly inaugurated another operator no later than September 30th,” said Joe Domko, the executive director of ANEW.

ANEW purchased the Champlain Inn in 2020 during the pandemic. They were given a $2.8 million grant from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board to buy and renovate the building.

But ANEW says they don’t have enough resources to support the program anymore: they are low on staff, low on funds and the building needs more work.

“It is a dilapidated facility, with many, many delayed maintenance. So on an economy of scale, it is a very expensive property to maintain at a level of dignity and health that we require to serve our guests,” Domko said.

“What held the door up was patched up. There was holes in the walls,” said Perry Edward Thornley of Burlington.

Thornley says he was sent to the Champlain Inn through economic services. At the time, he says it was the only place that had an opening for him to stay. But after his first night at the inn, he says he’d rather sleep on the street.

“I was laying there one night on the bed, looking up. There was black mold up around the ceiling, you know where the molding is. He says, you know what I am not staying here anymore,” Thornley said.

“My experience at the Champlain has been fairly decent all things considered. My experience with the staff has been alright up until about management. I think the term that I used was antisocial,” said Christian of Burlington.

The last time ANEW did renovations was a year ago and they say that work wasn’t finished because the contractor couldn’t find enough workers.

It is unclear whether ANEW is considering selling the Champlain Inn.

I reached out to Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger’s office and the Vermont Agency of Human Services to ask them about the potential disappearance of these 50-plus beds for the city’s unhoused population. Both said they are working together and with the community to transition the shelter operations to a new provider.