Without a youth center or similar programs in the community, there is a need for a safe, warm and consistent physical place where youth in St. Albans can go to receive a hot meal, help with homework, assistance finding a job, and a friendly ear.
We currently have two youth coordinators that work with youth in St. Albans and see this need on a daily basis.
Seven years ago, the Vermont Department for Children and Families asked Spectrum to expand its work to Franklin and Grand Isle Counties, helping 14- to 23-year-old youth in state custody prepare for independent living. This includes assisting them with graduating from high school, moving on to college or a trade school, finding an apartment, driving lessons, and everything else needed for adulthood. Our office for this program is located in St. Albans.
As we know from our work, youth who are aging out of foster care, or addicted to substances, or grew up in households with parents who are addicted are at a much greater risk of becoming homeless.
Here are some statistics on youth or their families who are at-risk of homelessness in Franklin County:
- One in every 69 children is in state custody (the second-highest in the state), compared to 1 in 105 for the whole state and 1 in 152 for Chittenden County.
- Franklin County has one of the highest rates of medically assisted treatment for opiate addiction—about 50% higher than the state rate.
- Franklin County in 2017 had the third-highest rate of drug-related fatalities in the state.
- 12.8% of Vermont babies born with Neonatal Alcohol Syndrome in 2015 were attributed to Franklin County, even though its population is only 7.8% of the state population.
We’ve met with many community leaders and providers in the St. Albans area. Each conveyed concerns about the youth challenges and needs in their community.
- The local shelter usually has a waiting list and is designed for older adults and families, it is not tailored to the needs of teenagers and young adults.
- Without a Boys & Girls Club or a YMCA in St. Albans, there is a need for a physical place where youth can go to receive basic needs such as a hot meal, clothing, help with their homework, and assistance finding a job.
One of the reasons Spectrum has selected St. Albans to expand to is that there are some very important resources in place, such as:
- the Northwest Counseling and Support Services,
- Vermont Adult Learning,
- the Community College of Vermont (who has been there for decades and is now expanding downtown!),
- the Notch, which is the federally qualified health care center,
- Howard Center, which provides addiction treatment and care,
- the Northwest Medical Center, which is one of the most highly respected and well-led medical centers in Vermont, plus
- there is so much economic development occurring in St. Albans, with new restaurants, a hotel, and a renovated city hall.
So we are proposing an expansion of Spectrum services in Franklin County!
We’d like to begin expanding our St. Albans presence with a Drop-In Center and/or youth Homeless Shelter (still to be determined).
This presence will give us a more accurate sense of what type of more permanent shelter, residence, or Drop-In Center might be needed. Once this is assessed, we may move on to provide a warming shelter or short- or long-term housing in subsequent years.