Jan Demers, Director of CVOEO. Photo credit: Burlington Free Press.
Spectrum’s most recent e-newsletter is online. Read it here. Below, a letter from Executive Director Mark Redmond.
The snow is gone… but a critical need remains.
This past winter, Burlington’s first Warming Shelter opened. This meant that homeless adults, even if they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol, had a place to sleep out of the cold. Every night, all 28 beds were full.
It was a true group effort. The Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO) took the lead, Champlain College offered space, and several paid staff and many dedicated volunteers kept the shelter open from 6 pm to 7 am.
Jan Demers, CVOEO’s director (see photo), was on hand every night to open the shelter, and every morning at 5 AM to help clean up. I volunteered, too, along with other Spectrum staff. In April, we cooked an evening meal once a week—my grandmother’s famous scalloped potatoes were a big hit.
One thing’s for sure: the Warming Shelter filled a big need for anyone who is homeless and struggling with alcohol or substance abuse—and a more affordable alternative to the previous practice of giving them rooms in hotels. And people got out of the cold, but they also connected with services—several found transitional or permanent housing, employment, or entered treatment when the shelter closed for the season.
So, let’s be frank. Now that the weather’s warm and the sun’s out, it can be easy to ignore people in our community have nowhere to go at night. But there’s no better time to make sure that the Warming Shelter continues next year. Right now, we’re on the hunt along with other nonprofit leaders to find a building for next winter.
For so many among us, the need for a warm place to sleep, shelter, a home, is constant. I’ll never forget when Adam, a Shelter guest, turned to me and said, “You know what this place is? It’s home.”
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