Bennington Coalition Adopts New Name, Sets New Goals

Last week the Bennington Coalition for the Homeless held their annual meeting.  At the meeting it was announced they have changed their name and will now be called the Bennington County Coalition for the Homeless.  The Bennington Banner has a report from the meeting:

The Bennington Coalition for the Homeless will now be called the Bennington County Coalition for the Homeless, the organization announced at their annual meeting on Wednesday.

“Our guests come from all over the county to use our services,” said coalition secretary Mary Gerisch, who is also the founder of the Vermont Workers’ Center and a nationally-known activist. “We don’t want anyone to think our services are only available to the town of Bennington.”

The coalition also announced that it will be naming a paid executive director of the organization by early next year, a position that did not previously exist. The coalition is currently run by a board of directors made up by President Stacey New, Vice President Bob Marine, Gerisch, Treasurer Sarah White, Kathleen Wilkinson, Nora Lantz, Nan Lowary, Ceil Petrucelli, and Brian Maroney.

Chris Oldham, who also serves as the circulation sales and marketing manager for New England Newspapers, Inc., the parent company of the Bennington Banner, was previously the treasurer of the organization, but stepped down from the board earlier in the meeting. He will remain with the coalition as an advisor. Sarah White, the newest member of the board, was elected treasurer in his place.

The coalition also honored staff members Tiffany Sausville and Sharon Farrell for their service. New presented them both with flowers and a gift bag.

“They appreciate the courage it takes to be homeless and to strive towards stability. Their courage gives others the courage to do that,” said Gerisch of Sausville and Farrell.

Read the full article online here or in PDF format.

More on HUD Homelessness Report: Vermont Sees Increase in Numbers

According to a report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Vermont has seen an increase in homelessness from 2012 to 2013. The HUD study showed nationally a decline in the total numbers of those homeless.  The HUD study uses data from a count conducted on a single night, known as the Point-in-Time. Shelters report how many people are using their facilities, and how many are left without shelter. This report is from data collected last January.  Vermont Public Radio has more:

While the number of homeless people in Vermont went up from 1,160 to 1,454, the number of “unsheltered” homeless Vermonters (those who aren’t in emergency shelters or transitional housing) went down from 223 to 184.

With decreased federal assistance – Department of Children and Families Commissioner Dave Yacavone said Vermont lost 774 Section 8 vouchers – state and local services have to do more to keep up.

One of those services is the John Graham Shelter in Vergennes, which opened additional space this year. Director Elizabeth Ready says the new transitional housing facility is already occupied.

“We’re also seeing people staying for longer periods,” Ready said. “An average of 60 days, people are staying at the shelter, and we used to see people staying like 21 days.”

The federal report comes after Ready and other community representatives gave Gov. Peter Shumlin a set of recommendations for how the state can help bring down the number of homeless Vermonters.

Listen and read the full VPR report here.

See also: HUD Releases Homeless Estimates for 2013

HUD Releases Homeless Estimates for 2013

New HUD estimates on homelessness are out, and they show a decline in overall homelessness.  The number of homeless veterans and people who have been homeless for at least a year has also seen a decline according to the report.  USA Today has more:

“We’ve seen that in one of the most difficult economic periods in this country, we’ve made remarkable progress to reduce homelessness, particularly among veterans and the chronically homeless,” says HUD secretary Shaun Donovan.

He says the drop in the numbers wasn’t just the result of an improving economy. He says the administration has focused its efforts with more housing vouchers and a program called Rapid Re-Housing, which helps with rent and utility costs.

He says HUD has diverted money and expanded grants to cities so they can help more homeless people.

Maria Foscarinis, executive director of the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, questions the data. She says the annual survey undercounts the number of homeless.

She says because the survey counts people in shelters, it ends up counting a shelter’s capacity or the number of beds in a facility. The survey also counts the number of people on the street, but Foscarinis says that is hard to do because volunteers need to go to every bridge, park, cave or parking lot where the homeless might stay.

She says other data show that the number of homeless is actually on the rise. She points to a U.S. Department of Education report that found a record number of homeless children enrolled in public schools during the 2011-12 school year.

The National Alliance to End Homelessness has more details:

If you are a homeless service provider, KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK! On the whole, what we are doing nationally is working! According to volume 1 of the 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report that the Department of Housing and Urban Development released today, overall homelessness decreased nearly 4 percent from 2012 to 2013. Nearly 25,000 more people were homeless on one night in January 2012 than in January 2013. In fact, homelessness decreased in all of the major subpopulations of note from 2012 to 2013: people in families, unsheltered people, veterans, individuals, and chronically homeless individuals.

Some highlights from the report:

  • Homelessness in the U.S. declined by 4 percent from 2012 to 2013, from 633,782 to 610,040;
  • Unsheltered homelessness (people living in places not meant for human habitation) has decreased 23 percent since 2007 and 11.6 percent from 2012 to 2013;
  • Family homelessness decreased 7.2 percent 2012 to 2013; and
  • Chronic homelessness and veteran homelessness both continued steady multi-year decreases, declining 7.3 percent and 7.6 percent respectively from 2012 to 2013.

Read the full HUD report here.

See also: New report: Big drops in veteran, chronic homelessness

The mission of the Coalition is to end homelessness in Vermont through sharing information, developing resources, providing a forum for decision-making and to promote decent, safe, fair, affordable shelter for all.