Overflow shelter opens for season in new quarters

Groundworks receives $10,000 from Brattleboro

BRATTLEBORO — To help fund the new Seasonal Overflow Shelter, Groundworks Collaborative received a $10,000 contribution from the town at the Nov. 7 regular Selectboard meeting.

The shelter, operated by Groundworks with support from a number of community organizations and individuals, opened for the 2017-18 season on Nov. 13 at its new location on the campus of the Winston Prouty Center.

For 10 years, the First Baptist Church on Main Street housed the shelter, but with that property's sale, Groundworks officials had to find a new home for the facility. ["Groundworks moves ahead with relocation of overflow shelter,” News, Oct. 25]

The primary goal of the seasonal shelter, according to a Groundworks news release, “is to provide easily accessible shelter to prevent the possibility that someone could freeze to death.”

Josh Davis, executive director of Groundworks Collaborative, appeared at the Selectboard meeting to provide details about the new shelter and explain the funding request.

The new shelter is located further from downtown. A van, supported through recent funding from the Thompson Trust, will transport clients to the shelter from the Drop-In Center on South Main Street in the evening and then back to the Drop-In Center in the morning.

When asked by Selectboard member David Schoales to describe the new facility, Davis compared it to “a college dorm.” The two-floor shelter has 11 rooms and three beds in each room. Because there are two floors, shelter workers can provide separate sleeping quarters for men and women.

The building has two showers, each with its own locked door; a common room for social gatherings and meals; and a locked office for meetings with clients and caseworkers.

Selectboard member Brandie Starr asked if the shelter will offer rooms “for visitors who don't identify with either gender."

“Absolutely,” Davis said. “Because we have the ability to have separate rooms, we can make changes based on the needs of people” who utilize the shelter's services, he said.

Last year, the shelter's budget was $41,000. This year, Groundworks officials decided the clients' needs and a larger facility demanded full-time staffing; now the budget is $195,775.

Through an accelerated fund-raising campaign, Davis and his staff were able to raise $178,220, leaving approximately $18,000 unfilled. Davis expects to soon receive word on $8,000 in grants, and asked the Selectboard to cover the final $10,000.

“This is a nontraditional 'ask,'” said Selectboard Chair Kate O'Connor. “Usually funding comes through the human-services portion of the town budget.”

“We heavily rely on that funding,” Davis said. “It's a nontraditional year for the program. We're trying to pull money fromanywhere we can to make sure we can get through the entire season. This is a one-time 'ask.'”

Town Manager Peter B. Elwell noted this funding comes from the town's revolving loan fund. That money, he explained, “originated as a community development block grant, restricted to economic development and housing projects,” and the Seasonal Overflow Shelter fills a housing need.

In supporting the expenditure, Schoales noted that in his four years serving on the Selectboard, he has heard many times from many constituents that “something needs to be done about homelessness.” This is a way Board members can respond.

After the Selectboard unanimously passed the motion to provide $10,000 in funding to the shelter, meeting attendees applauded, and Davis thanked the Board. Davis said he would return to future Board meetings with updates on the shelter in the middle and end of the season.

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