The only homeless shelter in Vermont’s capital city normally opens for the winter on November 15th, but this winter, it’ll open a little early.
Good Samaritan Haven of Barre operates an overflow shelter inside Montpelier’s Bethany United Church of Christ, a few blocks from City Hall. State funding allows Good Sam to run the shelter from November 15th to April 15th.
A member of the Montpelier Homelessness Task Force who attended Wednesday night’s City Council meeting is homeless himself.
“The people at Good Sam have a lot on their plate; they do what they can do,” Travis Hill said. “I’ve volunteered to help open the shelter early. I’ve offered to work at the shelter.”
The council voted to pay Good Sam up to $10,000 of city money to get the shelter open as quickly as possible. Good Sam’s executive director says that’s likely to be sometime around November 1st.
“I say that in the spirit of offering a concrete date, as opposed to one that is a moving target until we can get fully staffed,” Rob Farrell said.
Homelessness Task Force member Steve Whitaker voiced concern over Good Samaritan Haven’s transparency with the public in how it spends its state funding. He also asked that the council take on some oversight of the shelter so people who need it can’t be randomly searched by police without a warrant or probable cause.
“The city is providing funding,” city manager Bill Fraser said. “We’re not the overseer; we’re not operating this program, and we can’t dictate the terms.”
“Very pleased with what I saw in there,” Montpelier Homelessness Task Force member Zack Hughes said. “It’s a lot more than what I thought would happen. These processes can be complicated.”
Fraser says the group has not yet asked for any funding to keep the shelter open later in the season, past April 15th, but another task force member says it intends to.
“I think it just makes common sense,” Ken Russell said. “It’s cold in the spring, it’s cold in the fall and we’re trying to bridge both sides.”
Exactly how much city money Good Sam will ultimately get depends on how much earlier than November 15th it opens the shelter. Farrell told the council Wednesday night that the shelter costs $340 per night to keep open, no matter how many of its 20 beds are occupied.