OEO Awards New Emergency Housing Alternatives Grant to SEVCA and Groundworks Collaborative

BRATTLEBORO – The Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), a division of the Department of Children and Families (DCF), recently awarded a total of $48,228 to Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) and Groundworks Collaborative. The grants are to fund two unique approaches to bolster capacity to serve homeless families and individuals in the Brattleboro Agency of Human Services (AHS) district, which includes most of Windham County. These awards were part of a statewide effort to develop community-based solutions to meet emergency housing needs, with nearly $800,000 granted to 11 organizations.

In a press release announcing the awards, DCF Commissioner Ken Schatz said, “The demand for emergency housing has increased substantially over the past few years, while the cost of putting people up in motels has become increasingly unsustainable. We are working with our community partners to come up with more effective ways to meet the needs of homeless individuals and families.”

A grant of $21,328 was awarded to SEVCA to fund a case manager through June 30th to work with people housed in area motels, with the goal of helping them locate more appropriate short-term shelter and, ultimately, permanent housing. Groundworks Collaborative was awarded $26,900 to master lease three 2-bedroom apartments that will provide short-term transitional housing for homeless families with children. (Master leasing allows Groundworks to hold the lease and move eligible families in and out every 30 – 60 days, as informed by their situation.) The two organizations developed proposals to OEO stemming from discussions within the Brattleboro Continuum of Care, a local collaboration between state agencies and service providers focused on effectively assisting families and individuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.

“We are always looking for opportunities to provide more intensive, comprehensive services to homeless and at-risk households,” said Pat Burke, SEVCA’s Family Services Director. “Those housed in area motels are in some of the most difficult situations, and they can be hard to reach, so we welcome these extra resources to help get them into decent housing as quickly as possible.”

“Vermont has been in real need of alternative solutions to the General Assistance motel voucher program, and based on our successes with the master leasing model, we are confident that providing temporary housing is a good alternative to motels,” said Josh Davis, Executive Director of Groundworks Collaborative. “Master leasing will allow us to provide a better living situation than a motel room at a cost savings to the State.”

After the initial four-month grant, which runs through the end of the state’s fiscal year (June 30th), OEO will consider a continuation into its next fiscal year, contingent on the level of success and availability of funding.

Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) was established in 1965 as part of the national War on Poverty and has worked to address the needs of low-income residents of Windham and Windsor Counties for over 50 years. In addition to providing the “safety net” for households in financial crisis, its services help them stabilize their lives, make their homes safe and energy-efficient, take strides toward becoming self-reliant, and enable their children to escape the generational poverty cycle. These goals are achieved through such programs as Family Services, Crisis Fuel, Housing Services, 3SquaresVT (food stamp) Outreach, Weatherization, Home Repair, Small Business Assistance, Financial Fitness Education, Matched Savings Accounts, Job Readiness, Tax Preparation Assistance, Thrift Stores, VT Health Connect Navigator, and Head Start.

Groundworks Collaborative was established in 2015 as a result of the merger of two well-established organizations: the Brattleboro Area Drop In Center and Morningside Shelter. Groundworks mission is to provide ongoing support to families and individuals facing a full continuum of housing and food insecurities in the greater Brattleboro area. Groundworks’ programs include: Groundworks Food Shelf, Groundworks Shelter (formerly Morningside Shelter), Brattleboro’s Seasonal Overflow Shelter at the First Baptist Church, Groundworks Drop In Center and Day Shelter, Housing Case Management, and the Representative Payee program.