Homelessness in Brattleboro

August 28, 2013


By Rebecca Nash

Many college students like to say that college life is like living in a “bubble.” This message seems to be ubiquitous at Landmark, because almost every student lives on campus, and it can be tricky to figure out how, as a student, to involve oneself in the Vermont community outside of Landmark. Homelessness is one of the issues that is much more prevalent in our surrounding areas than most Landmark students recognize.

Homelessness is also somewhat invisible in the Brattleboro area. To highlight this, the Morningside Shelter in Brattleboro, along with Brattleboro Area Drop-In Center, put on an event called Camp for a Common Cause, in which locals gathered and camped out on the Brattleboro Commons to raise funds for local homeless shelters and to raise awareness of the issue as a whole (see pages 14-17).

Before this event The Independent interviewed Joshua Davis, the Executive Director of the Morningside Shelter, and Lee Trapeni, one of the Morningside Shelter’s case managers. We learned that the typical perception of homelessness is not exactly the reality. For most of us, the only homeless people we see are people sleeping on the streets and loitering at intersections peddling for money. We don’t as frequently see the people doubling up in apartments, squatting in abandoned buildings, or camping in the woods.

Our perception of the homeless population is often quite skewed. “Research showed the population of female-headed households was the largest group of people who were homeless in rural area,” states Emily Clever in an SIT master’s thesis on the topic.

In recent years the population of homeless women, children, and families has grown dramaticall,y due to a lack of decent wages and affordable housing.

“It’s housing that requires the largest percentage of income and therefore it is the first to be dropped.” states Clever. The waiting period to get into public housing can be up to three years, and the number of people on the waiting list to get into the Morningside Shelter ranges from 30 to 50 households at a time, including individuals and families.

At the moment 25 of their 29 beds are filled, seven of which are filled by children. It can be difficult for the shelter to fill all of their 29 beds despite the long waiting list, due to the varying numbers of beds in each room and the varying numbers of people in each family that comes to the shelter. The average number of people staying at the shelter at any given time is around 25.

When people come into the shelter, they begin working with a case manager, who helps them set goals in order to get them on track to leave the shelter and move into sustainable housing. These goals may involve working on areas in people’s lives such as employment or mental health. The shelter is a dry facility, which helps to keep the place safe. But the biggest issues that arise are interpersonal issues due to the communal living setting.

By all accounts the Morningside Shelter, along with other services for homeless people in the area, do great work, and the Camp for a Common Cause event was successful. However, the issue of homelessness across the USA persists, and there is much work to be done. ♦

Comments are closed.