Bouquets of flowers left at the foot of the driveway at Morningside House in Brattleboro.
Randolph T. Holhut/The Commons
Bouquets of flowers left at the foot of the driveway at Morningside House in Brattleboro.

Our hearts were broken. You stepped in when we needed help.

With deep gratitude we, the Groundworks Board of Directors, thank all who have supported Groundworks in any way

BRATTLEBORO — This should never happen.

The violent death of Leah Rosin-Pritchard shook us to our core: Morningside House residents, Groundworks staff, board, and collaborators, the Brattleboro community. Our hearts have broken, for Leah and her family and friends, for all involved.

And “all involved” expanded greatly on April 6, when the community partners of Groundworks came together to say “yes” to our ask that they carry so much of our workload.

They said yes to stepping in, as invited, for three weeks so that our clients could continue to be served; stepping in so that Groundworks staff could grieve and heal optimally as well as review and revise (as needed) our work of meeting basic human needs for shelter and food with dignity. Financial backing by the Vermont Agency of Human Services was essential to that transition.

That “pause” is ending. Through this period, the shared leadership of Josh Davis, executive director, and Peter Elwell, interim deputy executive director, along with the entire Groundworks Leadership Team, has been extraordinary in managing this crisis, lining up support for staff, synthesizing and defining actions for increased safety, and planning for a phased reopening of services.

Every member of the Groundworks staff has been vital to the organization's resilience and recovery.

Our community partners - led by Dr. Kathleen McGraw, chief medical officer of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital - have made the seemingly impossible happen. So many have been generously involved that we do not know the complete list of names of all who helped.

With deep gratitude we, the Groundworks Board of Directors, thank all who have supported Groundworks in any way, including the groups named below and any persons that we may have missed.

* * *

We know that our re-grounding, our revisioning, of how we care for persons in need is not over. Though the acute phase of this crisis has passed, looming ahead is the end of state funding for emergency housing for most persons experiencing homelessness.

The Covid-era federal funding has already stopped. Without additional state monies - which the Legislature and governor have not supported - most current emergency housing funding is imminently coming to an end.

In human terms, this means that at least 110 people in the Brattleboro area will lose their motel housing on May 31. Social service organizations will be unable to meet many of these housing needs.

As all sectors of our community have come together to get through the recent acute crisis, the whole community is needed to address this chronic crisis of inadequate and unaffordable housing.

Clearly this housing crisis is bound up with other chronic crises, including poverty, food insecurity, and the lack of needed health care services. These systemic and societal problems need systemic and societal strategies and solutions.

We thank the hundreds of you for the truly amazing work you have done.

We look forward to our ongoing work with you.

* * *

Thank you to Brattleboro Memorial Hospital; Health Care and Rehabilitation Services (HCRS); Brattleboro Retreat; Healthworks ACT and DOT teams; Knowles Wentworth, police social worker; Putney Foodshelf; Brooks Memorial Library; Women's Freedom Center; Brattleboro Housing Partnerships; Town of Brattleboro; Brattleboro Police Department; Brattleboro Fire Department; Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA); Windham & Windsor Housing Trust; Vermont Agency of Human Services; Youth Services, Inc.; Brattleboro Community Justice Center; Winston Prouty Center; United Way of Windham County; Michele Richardson, Pathways Vermont; Rev. Lise Sparrow, NAACP of Windham County, religious affairs; Centre Congregational Church; St. Michael's Episcopal Church; Brattleboro Food Co-op; McLean Hospital, Belmont, Massachusetts, and HatchSpace.

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