St. Albans, VT — There will now be more support for the homeless in Northwest Vermont, as the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity has announced that they are taking over operations of Samaritan House and Tim’s House, both are emergency shelter organizations. The number of people experiencing homelessness has risen exponentially over the past two years and about 18 months ago, the Samaritan House approached the Office of Economic Opportunity for support during the increased demand for emergency shelter. On July 1, the Samaritan House officially became part of the CVOEO.
At a press conference on Wednesday, Paul Dragon, the Executive Director of the CVOEO says they are trying to ensure nobody is “left without shelter, food, warmth, or the possibility to thrive.” Dragon added, “homelessness has been rising all over Vermont, also in Franklin County, so we could not lose this resource.”
The Samaritan House is the only emergency shelter in Franklin and Grand Isle Counties and at the press conference, board members gave their thanks to the community. “This community wrapped around us, year after year, event after event, and poured their hearts out, and made a huge contribution so that we were able to help Samaritan House continue their work in this community,” said Lisa Bovat.
Samaritan House’s Program Director Ben Kaufmann outlined some of the changes the organization will see, including the renovation of the building. “We’re very excited about some of the changes happening, we’re going to be moving from a congregate shelter with many guests in one room, to a single room occupancy shelter to provide a little more dignity and privacy to the people who are coming to us, usually in a time of crisis,” said Kaufmann.
The Samaritan House will also become a low-barrier shelter, which means doors will be open to more people with fewer requirements to stay there. “This shelter will serve people who are chronically homeless, who have co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders, or maybe developmental disabilities, and this will be the place for them to go when they can’t go anywhere else,” said Dragon.
Other organizations were also present at the press conference. Leadership from United Way of Northwest Vermont and the Department of Children and Families were among attendees, as well as representatives from Senator Sanders and Senator Leahy’s office.