Middlebury homeless shelter opens early

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MIDDLEBURY, Vt. (WCAX) A homeless shelter in Middlebury has opened six weeks ahead of schedule due to a spike in demand.

Three years ago, a sickness placed Nancy Tomeny in the hospital for an extended amount of time. During her recovery, she lost her home, something she never saw happening to her.

"The thought never crossed my mind at all," Tomeny said.

In her time of need, Tomeny turned to the Charter House, a volunteer-run homeless shelter located in downtown Middlebury

"I had food, I had someplace to sleep and I had people helping me find housing," said Tomeny.

Now, Tomeny volunteers at Charter House. She was one of the many volunteers helping out at a community breakfast Saturday morning.

On Sept. 1, the Charter House opened its doors six weeks earlier for overnight stays, six weeks ahead of schedule.

"There are more homeless people in the Middlebury area than more people realize," said Charter House Director Doug Sinclair.

Sinclair says it will cost an additional $12,000 to open the shelter early, something they are prepared for through donations.

"We are a group that just says there a need and we need to try to fulfill it, so that's what we are doing," said Sinclair.

Sinclair says that the number of individuals who are sleeping outside in downtown Middlebury has jumped. He points to an issue with affordability.

"The problem is not that people don't have work. Many of them are actually working but the challenge in Middlebury is affordable housing," said Sinclair.

Helping others is one of the many reasons Tomeny says she keeps her coming back and volunteering.

"Never did I realize in my wildest dreams that there would be people from all walks of life, all ages, taking advantage of the shelter," said Tomeny.

The Charter House says they are looking to raise money so they can stay open not just in the fall, but year-round.