BARRE — Homeless shelter services in central Vermont, which will expand in the region this winter, have a new leader.
Good Samaritan Haven’s former operations manager, Patrick Donegan, has been appointed interim executive director of the homeless shelter on Seminary Street in Barre. He replaces Brooke Jenkins, who stepped down after 2½ years to take a new job with a hemp CBD business in Burlington. She will continue to raise money part-time for the shelter.
In addition, $100,000 from the Legislature this year will be used to open a new 12-bed facility in Lamoille County. The new Lamoille Community House shelter is situated in a 3,000-square-foot property donated by the Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department behind the Hyde Park Opera House.
It follows $330,000 appropriated earlier this year to fund services at Good Samaritan with 30 beds. Also funded were overflow shelter services in Barre at the Hedding United Methodist Church with 14 beds, and an additional 20 beds at the warming shelter at the Bethany Church in Montpelier, which opened last winter.
Winter warming shelters in Barre, Montpelier and Hyde Park will operate November through April. Advocates of the funding said shelters are better able to connect the homeless with employment and training programs, affordable housing and mental health and disability services that could lead to more permanent housing.
Donegan said he was involved in establishing the Bethany Church shelter and will be involved in setting up the Hyde Park shelter.
In Montpelier, Donegan said another interfaith alliance would provide evening meals for shelter guests this winter.
Last year, shelters in Barre and Montpelier, including two short-term apartments in Montpelier, provided a total of 8,632 bed nights for 191 guests (126 at Good Samaritan Haven, 71 at Bethany Church, 49 at Hedding United Methodist Church and 26 at the short-term apartments) between Nov. 1 and April 30.
Outcomes of services provided showed that 95 guests were assessed and met with a case manager within three days of entry; 78 guests found employment or were enrolled in an education or training program or qualified for benefits within 90 days of entry; and 52 guests were moved into stable housing.
The Hyde Park shelter, known as Lamoille Community House, began as an interfaith alliance of churches that have worked together in past years to meet the needs of the homeless in the Lamoille Valley area during winter, providing space in church basements in Johnson, Hyde Park and Stowe. Congregations in Wolcott, Morrisville and other neighboring towns were also involved in community outreach to the homeless.
“We joined together because we have a homeless crisis in Lamoille Valley,” said Jacquie Mauer, of the Jewish Community of Greater Stowe. “There are individual adults, children and families that are homeless, and there isn’t a lot of affordable housing.”
Last winter, the work of the interfaith alliance caught the attention of Lamoille County Sheriff Roger Marcoux, who offered a vacant building in Hyde Park as a temporary shelter that will now undergo renovations to create official shelter space in the area.
“He offered that to us because we needed consistency, both for our guests as well as our volunteers,” Mauer said. “We’ll be able to train staff, pay staff and therefore be able to serve people better who come to our shelter by having proper intake procedures and to be able to link guests up with the case managers and service providers that they need. It’s important, because we needed to be not just well-meaning, but better educated and trained to serve people better.”
Marcoux said he was impressed by the faith-based community’s drive to alleviate homelessness in the region and decided to help.
“(The sheriff’s department) has four buildings beside the county-owned building that we operate out of,” Marcoux said. “One of them was a house that I hadn’t decided what I was going to do with.
“But I was heating it, and we’ve got children living in cars, 10 below zero, and churches allowing people to stay in their sanctuaries. Why not let them team up and let them stay in the house?”
Marcoux said he decided to make the shelter a formal proposition and has started the permitting process for a change of use for the building.