It’s dark and damp November, Vermont’s least welcoming month. The brilliance of autumn is gone and the dazzle of snow is still around the corner. Brattleboro is no different than most other communities in Vermont, or just across the river in New Hampshire, where people are worried about jobs, paying for heat and groceries, or worse, finding a place to live. Just in time for winter, with help from USDA in Vermont, Morningside Shelter has completed an expansion project that will allow a 30 percent increase in residents. The homeless shelter’s Executive Director Paul Capcara noted, “We’ve been operating at full capacity year round for the last several years. We’ve been getting more calls than ever from people with children.”
Morningside Shelter was founded by community members in 1979 with the mission to help eliminate homelessness by providing shelter, outreach, referral, intervention and transitional housing services. It’s the only homeless shelter in rural southwestern Vermont to specialize in housing placement with ongoing staff support and life skills development for both families and individuals. The shelter offers an extended stay and works collaboratively with area nonprofit and public agencies to help people connect to a wide range of services including: job training and placement; medical and mental health treatment; family and substance abuse counseling; budget management; nutrition; health education; parenting and child care services; and assistance in identifying and qualifying for subsidized housing opportunities.
The community involvement and support for the recent expansion was evident in the success of the fundraising campaign, which together with USDA Rural Development Community Facilities funding of $67,000, built two family-sized bedrooms, an extra bathroom, more living space, a dedicated area for children, and moved the laundry room and pantry from the basement to the first floor where they are accessible to all.
While the building’s space expanded, its operating costs contracted, with the installation of a high-efficiency heating system, LED lighting, super-insulation and a passive solar design. Board member Gary Swindler noted that “Our primary goal for the expansion was to meet the growing community need for shelter space in a cost-effective, sustainable and environmentally sound manner. We’ve met that goal, and on time for winter.”
While a recent resident pondered the future for her and her young family, she could relax a bit in the shelter of supporting staff, a nutritious meal that she helped prepare, and secure surroundings. “My son can play and I can keep an eye on him while I do my laundry.”
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