Valley News – Column: St. Paul expansion crucial for homeless
Published: 05/21/2022 11:32:34
Modified: 05/21/2022 11:32:16 AM
This Monday, I will represent the interests of Upper Valley Haven, a homeless shelter and community resource organization in Hartford, of which I am the executive director, at a meeting of the Hartford Planning Commission. I will be there to present our proposal to add a new building adjacent to our campus on Hartford Avenue that will provide additional space to accommodate much-needed shelter beds and a resource center where Haven guests and community members can get help finding housing, employment, and other services and resources that will support their goals.
We firmly believe in our mission.
Unfortunately, not everyone thinks this new project should be approved. Some are concerned that the addition of this new building and the services we provide will bring more homeless people to the neighborhood, people who could bring with them issues that will affect the quality of life and personal safety of neighbors in the Haven. We have listened to these concerns, we understand them, and we are committed to working with the community to build and manage a space that will be safer for our customers and the community at large.
The Haven was founded over 40 years ago by five Upper Valley churches united in the belief that everyone should have a place to call home. Today, he continues to focus on providing food, shelter and housing to people facing multiple challenges. We never charge for our services. If people knock on our door or call us, we help them. About 85% of our income comes from charitable donations from people who live in the Upper Valley. And the Haven is, and always has been, a place where people “find hope and discover possibility.”
As homelessness has increased in Vermont over the past twelve years or so — to the point where Vermont now has the ninth highest rate of homelessness in the United States — we at Haven have tried to keep up. increasing our staff and repurposing our existing space to accommodate more guests, even as we add programs designed to address the complex root causes of homelessness. But our last major construction project was 12 years ago, when the Hixon Adult Shelter opened. We are now challenged to adequately meet the need for our services within the limitations of the programs and office space available on our campus.
We are seeking permission to add a new building which we call “The Haven at St. Paul’s”. It takes on these challenges and creates new opportunities for us to do our best. The building will be 8,600 square feet between two floors. It includes space for a 17-bed low-barrier shelter on the second floor and a day station and resource center on the first. The shelter will feature “trauma-based design,” including room layouts, color schemes, furniture selection and operating procedures, among other features. Rather than offering a shared bedroom, we will provide sleeping compartments that provide guests with a sense of security and safety, space to store their belongings, electrical outlets for charging and a reading light for reading. adapt to different sleep schedules. It will also include showers, bathrooms, eating and socializing areas, laundry facilities and spaces for outside services such as medical clinics.
At the day station and resource center on the first floor, guests will be able to stay indoors during the coldest, stormiest days of winter and the hottest days of summer. This will help keep people safe, off the streets and engaged in improving their lives. The Resource Center will provide opportunities to meet with our Service Coordinators (who will be moving tight quarters of an existing building to this new space) and work on future plans. Visitors will be provided with computer workstations to assist in their housing and employment searches and to provide the necessary access to the resources required in our modern world. There is also a meeting room and a classroom that will allow other service providers to come to the Haven on certain days to provide information and share information.
We believe the services we can provide in this new building will improve our ability to support the people who rely on us and lead to better outcomes for those who use our services, such as improved life skills and permanent housing.
During this time, the risks of doing nothing are much greater. A severely imbalanced housing market and rising food costs bode well for an acceleration in demand for Haven’s services in the years to come. Without this proposed building, our ability to feed and house every person who comes through our doors will be stifled. For the past four decades, the Haven has been the place people turn to when times get tough. We ask that we be given the opportunity to do our best work on behalf of all residents of Hartford and the Upper Valley. The proposed building will not solve all of our community’s problems, but it is an important step in the right direction.
If you are a Hartford resident and want people struggling with housing and food insecurity to get the help they need in the Upper Valley, the Planning Commission needs to hear your voice. Please email your support to the Commission at [email protected] and/or attend the virtual meeting on Monday at 6:30 p.m.
Michael Redmond is the Executive Director of Upper Valley Haven.