100,000 Homes Update & Seven Days Article

The organizers of the 100,000 Homes Campaign recently updated the community on some of the progress they have made since the registry event, which took place in October. Below are some of the current statistics as of February 2015. To read the entire progress report, click here.

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Seven Days has also published an article on the campaign that highlights some of the recent progress being made in this week’s issue. titled “Turning the Longtime Homeless Population Into Tenants.” Below is an excerpt:

Last October, dozens of volunteers wearing bright green shirts surveyed homeless people in Burlington. They were participating in the 100,000 Homes Campaign — a national effort to identify and house the most vulnerable members of the homeless population. Despite the lofty name, organizers made a point to temper expectations: Volunteers were instructed to make it clear that participation in the survey did not guarantee housing.

That left an important question unanswered: Would anything come of it?

Richard North was sleeping near Cherry Street around dawn during one October morning when a volunteer showed up with a clipboard. The 55-year-old man has lived in Burlington his whole life — the last two decades of it on the streets, panhandling outside Rite Aid and camping in out-of-the-way corners of the city.

North answered 50 questions about his mental health, medical conditions, substance abuse and relationships. Known as the Vulnerability Index & Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool, the survey assesses how likely it is that people will die on the streets. Of the 205 survey participants, North rated among the top 10.

On February 1, for the first time in his life, North moved into an apartment of his own.

It’s easy to see why he scored high. Some time ago, he lost a toe to frostbite. While living in an encampment off an Interstate 89 exit, he was hit by a motorcycle. He has struggled with alcoholism for years, and he also has a heart condition. “It wasn’t easy at times,” is how North summed up 20 years on the streets. A pair of massive boots and a Carhartt jumpsuit — which helped him survive the cold — lay in a pile on his living room floor. Now, instead of worrying about how to stay warm, North has another concern: when he’ll get cable TV.

The nonprofit Community Solutions started the 100,000 Homes Campaign four and a half years ago, and it has spread to approximately 200 communities across the U.S. It embraces the Housing First approach, which promotes housing people without prerequisites such as completing substance-abuse treatment programs. It also operates on the premise that it’s ultimately cheaper to give people housing than to leave them on the streets. The logic: Doing so cuts down on trips to emergency rooms, incarceration and other costs.

The campaign provides the blueprint, but local organizations do all the work — training volunteers, administering the survey, and then figuring out how to cut through red tape and find the money to line up housing for people. A big part of the 100,000 Homes Campaign credo is encouraging local groups to improve their coordination with one another.

It also gives communities a goal: house 2.5 percent of their most vulnerable homeless residents each month. So far, organizers in Burlington are meeting that target. In all, they’ve found apartments for 23 people. According to Chris Brzovic, the local coordinator for the campaign, the person in greatest need of housing moved into an apartment on March 1.

To read the article in full, click here.

RuralEdge Kicks Off “Rural Reality Campaign” This Week

As the winter months grind to a close, the region’s largest community development organization is taking advantage of the lingering cold to raise awareness of the issue of homelessness.

RuralEdge kicked off their annual “Rural Reality Campaign” this week, which is designed to both raise the issue of, and give people the opportunity to experience first-hand, the challenges faced by rural homeless.

The subject is one that usually flies under the radar in the Northeast Kingdom, according to the event’s organizers.

“In the Northeast Kingdom and Vermont, folks don’t realize it’s an issue,” said Regional Economic Services Director Kelly Greaves, citing examples of the “hidden homeless,” who spend the night in ATM lobbies, or vacant buildings to keep warm.

Still others, who are classed as “vicariously housed,” spend their nights couch-surfing, which can present as much of a challenge as actual homelessness.
“It’s not their own home, it’s not their space,” said RuralEdge Community Engagement Specialist Dan Haycook. “It’s still that question of, ‘Am I going to be able to stay there tonight, where am I going to wake up tomorrow, do I have to call another friend or knock on another person’s door?’ It’s not consistent, it’s not stable.”

While the causes of homelessness can range from domestic violence, health issues, runway youth, or even seasonal jobs, officials agree there are a lot of preconceptions assigned to the status. These preconceptions can create roadblocks to recovery.

“To be honest, some people have this sense of being ashamed, and not wanting to reach out for the help they need,” said Haycook. “Which is heartbreaking, because you know, that’s why we’re here.”

While this means that the number of actual displaced individuals is probably higher than current counts indicate, reports show that Vermont has nearly doubled the number of chronically homeless individuals since 2013, while 39% of the homeless population are under the age of 18.

It’s numbers like these that RuralEdge wants to drive home with their annual “Rural Reality Campaign.”

Beginning with a “Meal for a Mission” at QBurke Mountain on Thursday, March 5, the event aims to raise awareness and end homelessness in the Northeast Kingdom.

The dinner is followed by the Overnight Vigil, held Friday, March 6 in Bandstand Park in Lyndonville, which will give participants the chance to experience what a Vermont night is like without shelter.

“It’s bitterly cold out there, and you’ll find people who participate in that event, in the morning, they’re not very happy,” explained Haycook “They’re uncomfortable, they’re very cold, they’re very tired, they’re worn out. And that’s something that people face every day, not just for one single night.”

The Overnight Vigil will feature food deliveries, and music by Kali Stoddard-Imari. Participants are welcome to stop by throughout the night, and while there will be warming barrels, are encouraged to dress warmly.

The vigil will break with the final event of the campaign- a Pancake Breakfast at the Lyndonville Firehouse, cooked and served up by local firefighters. The breakfast begins at 7 a.m., and is $7 for adults, $3 for children, and free for those who spend the night in the park.

Participants in the Overnight Vigil will speak about their experiences at the breakfast.

All proceeds from the events will go to fight homelessness in the Northeast Kingdom.

“Housing is a basic necessity, and it’s the most important necessity. If you don’t have housing, you have nothing,” said Haycook.

Committee Abandons Homeless Shelter Plan for St. Johnsbury

“Committee Abandons Homeless Shelter Plan for St. Johnsbury” (View original article published February 6th in the Valley News here)

A St. Johnsbury committee has abandoned plans to establish an overnight warming shelter for homeless people this winter in the northeastern Vermont community.

Sue Cherry of the St. Johnsbury-based Community Restorative Justice Center says they’re going to wait until next year.

She says there was no way to get a shelter up and running before the middle of March.

Cherry tells the Caledonian Record (http://bit.ly/1DDvzS8) the momentum is there to get it going for next winter. She says organizers see a shelter as a way of meeting needs, serving the public and providing resources.

The committee is made up of members of a number of social service organizations in the region.