This opinion piece by board chair Corey Perpall appeared in the Stowe Reporter on February 18, 2021.
Living in Vermont has been a dream for me. Like many of you, I moved here to raise my family and live among the mountains. As a registered nurse and board chair of the Lamoille Community House, however, I have come to understand that this “Vermont dream” is not the reality for many of our neighbors. In addition to an abundance of beauty, community, and ski trails, there is so much need that goes unmet—basic human needs like food and shelter.
As the local shelter, the Lamoille Community House provides just that—warm meals and a safe place to sleep. In the cold Vermont winters, a roof over your head can mean life or death. For people experiencing homelessness, however, this is rarely their only struggle. Homelessness is often coupled with food insecurity, chronic health conditions, and mental health concerns.
During the pandemic, the number of people with housing insecurity spiked dramatically—there are currently 95 adults and 31 children without homes in our county—and the Lamoille Community House, along with many partners, quickly responded to try to address their multiple needs.
Among the changes to how we operate this winter, the Lamoille Community House is now open 24 hours a day, seven days a week allowing us to provide a safe and warm place for some of our community’s most vulnerable members. By staying open all day, not just at night as in previous years, guests are also less likely to engage in activities which would put them at greater risk of being exposed to COVID-19 or spreading it to others. In addition to staffing the Lamoille Community House 24/7, we are also providing services at three local hotels to support guests in General Assistance. Our staff ensures all guests have their basic needs met, such as food, clothing, personal care supplies, and connection to essential services.
We have worked hard to care for these vulnerable community members, but we don’t do this work alone! Thanks to strong relationships with community partners and their willingness to work collaboratively, we have been able to find new ways of caring for people experiencing homelessness. Together, we are bringing services to guests and helping make those crucial connections to needed supports including food, mental health services, medical care, and long-term housing case management. None of this would have been possible without Lamoille County Mental Health, North Central Vermont Recovery Center, Lamoille Health Partnership, Lamoille Health & Human Services Regional Command Center, Capstone Community Action, Lamoille Restorative Center, Lamoille Family Center, Vermont Economic Services, Copley Hospital, and of course the support of your generous donations. We could not do this work without you!
We are especially grateful to the village of Hyde Park and the Development Review Board for approving the change in the shelter’s hours. Working through these changes against the constantly evolving backdrop of a global pandemic was challenging, but together with the leadership and compassion of town officials and our greatest advocate, Sheriff Roger Marcoux, we are able to provide shelter and sanctuary to those who need it most. Our amazing staff worked quickly to ensure that the shelter meets all COVID safety precautions but being able to allow guests to stay during the day was one of the most important ways to keep everyone safe.
Through the struggles of 2020, I have been humbled by the generosity and compassion I have witnessed in this community. I am encouraged by the progress we have made to care for our neighbors and look forward to building on our lessons learned. I cannot express my gratitude enough to our amazing partners for their tireless efforts and the outpouring of support of community members. Thank you.