• Winter shelter opens early to meet demand
     | November 03,2013

    BRATTLEBORO — A winter shelter for the homeless in Brattleboro will open today, a month earlier than usual because of increased demand that some say was brought about by federal budget cuts.

    Lucie Fortier who runs the daytime shelter at the Brattleboro Area Drop In Center, said when she arrives at 8 a.m. each day there is usually a crowd of up to 10 people waiting to get in.

    “A lot of them are sleeping along the river bank, some are camping under the bridges,” she said. “Our people need to have a safe place to sleep.”

    The Drop In Center also sponsors the overnight winter shelter in the Baptist Church on Main Street. It’s funded by donations and a state grant, Vermont Public Radio reports, and it’s run by volunteers, social service agencies and the local interfaith clergy group.

    People are calling to ask when the shelter will open and if there is any place else they can stay until it opens, Fortier said. “The demand is just there,” she said.

    But there aren’t many options because programs have been squeezed by federal budget cuts and federal housing subsidies are frozen, she said.

    In Brattleboro an anti-camping ordinance and a crackdown on railroad property has made it even harder to live outside.

    While the numbers of homeless people were fairly level statewide over the past year, in Brattleboro the number has gone up 12 percent, said Angus Chaney, who heads the Vermont Council on Homelessness.

    The Brattleboro winter shelter served 172 people in the six months it was open last year, including five families and at least eight children, Fortier said.

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