SEVCA was recently awarded $258,600 in Housing Opportunity Program (HOP) funding to continue our efforts in homelessness prevention and re-housing the homeless in Windham and Windsor Counties. Part of the award will fund continuation of a pilot program targeting homeless individuals and families sheltered in motels, one element in the state’s effort to house people more quickly and appropriately and reduce longer-term reliance on General Assistance (GA) funds to pay for motel housing. The inclusion of the GA funds resulted in an increase of $30,000 over last year’s HOP award, and provides SEVCA with increased capacity to do outreach and provide case management to these homeless households.
SEVCA also received a $20,000 grant award from Granite United Way (GUW), which will support SEVCA’s services to low-income Upper Valley residents in need of housing and fuel assistance. The GUW award is the same amount SEVCA received last year.
SEVCA’s Family Services Program provided 1,111 households with fuel assistance and 425 with housing assistance over the past year, helping improve the lives of over 3,200 individuals in Windham and Windsor Counties.
SEVCA announced a special appeal to the public for donations to its housing assistance fund, which is used to help homeless families and individuals obtain housing and to keep those at risk of homelessness in their homes. SEVCA provides assistance with back rent, first month’s rent, security deposits, and utility payments to end or prevent homelessness for 350 to 450 local households per year, but existing funding falls far short of the need.
“Homelessness prevention and re-housing assistance are among our most critical services,” said SEVCA’s Executive Director, Stephen Geller “And SEVCA is one of the few organizations in Windham and Windsor Counties that provide this type of help to families and individuals in crisis. The budget counseling and follow-up services we provide help ensure that those we support are able to stabilize their lives and remain in their housing over the long-term.”
The following statistics demonstrate the extent of the problem and the factors contributing to the homelessness crisis in this area:
- High housing costs are a major factor contributing to homelessness. Vermont has the 7th most expensive housing among non-metro areas in the nation; and the 6th highest gap in the nation between what renters actually earn and the hourly wage needed to rent affordably (National Low Income Housing Coalition, 2016).
- More than 1 in 5 renters and 1 in 10 homeowners in this area have “severe housing cost burdens,” paying more than half their income toward housing (Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development, 2015).
- 68% of the 350 low-income households surveyed in SEVCA’s 2015 Community Assessment reported that they had a hard time paying their rent or mortgage, and 40% said they were behind in their rent or mortgage payments, a clear indication that they were at risk of homelessness.
- In rural Vermont (outside Chittenden County), the number of homeless people increased by 73% between 2010 and 2015, while the number of homeless families with children increased by 168%! (HUD Point-in-Time survey, 2010-15)
- 230 people in Windham and Windsor Counties were homeless on a given night in January, about a third of whom were children or young adults (HUD Point-in-Time survey, 2016). About half of the households were homeless for the first time, and about 20% were chronically homeless.
In response to the increasing incidence of homelessness over the past several years, SEVCA sought additional resources to address the problem. Between 2011 and 2015, additional public and private funding raised by the organization resulted in a 70% increase in housing assistance provided. SEVCA aims to continue to increase its fundraising efforts in this area to ensure the strongest possible local response to ending homelessness.
“Funds raised through this appeal will be used exclusively to provide direct assistance to households at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness,” said Pat Burke, SEVCA’s Family Service Director. “These funds are especially important because they will give us the flexibility to meet the complex needs of those who might not qualify for help from some of our more restrictive funding sources but who are still in serious crisis.”
Those wishing to donate to this appeal may send a check to SEVCA, Attn: Housing Assistance Appeal, 91 Buck Drive, Westminster, VT 05158, or donate electronically by clicking the “Donate” button on SEVCA’s website, www.sevca.org., and include a note that your donation is for the Housing Assistance Appeal. If you have any questions, please contact Becky Himlin, Director of Planning and Development, at (802) 722-4575, ext. 163.
Housing assistance is part of SEVCA’s multi-pronged strategy to combat poverty in Southeastern Vermont. Last year, SEVCA served over 10,000 people in Windham and Windsor counties through a range of programs such as crisis fuel assistance, weatherization, home repair, business start-up and support, job readiness and skills training, financial education, matched savings and asset-building support, Head Start early childhood education, access to affordable health care, information and referral, and free clothing and household goods through our “Good Buy” Thrift Stores.
Picture-perfect weather and 20 teams of cheerful golfers made for an enjoyable day of golf at Southeastern Vermont Community Action’s (SEVCA) 15th Annual “Chipping Away at Poverty” Benefit Golf Tournament at the Brattleboro Country Club on June 24. The four Tournament Co-Sponsors--Black River Produce, Mutual of America, IPG Employee Benefits Specialists, and Westview Terrace Apartments—along with 15 other major sponsors, other donors, and golfers--raised over $11,000 to support SEVCA’s essential anti-poverty programs serving low-income individuals and families in Windham and Windsor counties.
Weatherization and Crisis Fuel Program vendors, local and regional businesses, local service providers, staff members, and other SEVCA friends and supporters sponsored and/or engaged in friendly competition to raise money for the agency, many returning from previous years. A Hole-In-One Contest sponsored by Brattleboro Ford-Subaru gave participants the chance to win a new Subaru Crosstrek and other valuable prizes. One player hit a shot that landed only a few feet from the cup on the car prize hole, but unfortunately, no one drove away in a new car this year. A $5,000 cash prize for the Putting Contest also went unclaimed, though Sheldon Scott from Whitney Blake won a smaller cash prize for getting closest to the cup. Players participated in a 50/50 raffle and a ‘Vegas Hole’ competition in addition to the team and individual golfing competitions.
Tournament winners were:
1st Place Team – Mutual of America
2nd Place – Raven Bay Associates
3rd Place – Convenience Products
Women’s Closest to the Pin: Tracy Sloan
Men’s Closest to the Pin – Chris Kibbe
Women’s Longest Drive – Tracy Sloan
Men’s Longest Drive – Jake Obar
In addition to the co-sponsors listed above, SEVCA wishes to thank the following businesses, organizations and individuals for their sponsorships and other support:
‘Double Eagle’ Level Sponsor: Kinney-Pike Insurance and The Stove Depot, Inc.
Putting Contest Sponsor: IPG Benefits Specialists.
Golfer Bag and Gift Sponsors: Mutual of America and Black River Produce.
Golf Ball Sponsor: Streeter, LLC.
Hole-in-One Sponsor: Brattleboro Ford-Subaru.
Breakfast and Luncheon Sponsor: Harriman’s Heating.
Hole Sponsors– Clark’s Quality Foods, Cocoplum Appliances, Durand Toyota Ford, EFI, Leone, McDonnell & Roberts P.A., Northeast Delta Dental, Simon Operation Services, Sovernet Communications, Unifirst Corporation, Westview Terrace Apartments, The Windham Foundation, and WW Building Supply.
Team Sponsors: Brattleboro Country Club, Canon Solutions America, Convenience Products, Farnum Insulators, Paul & Carol McDonnell, Raven Bay Associates, LLC, Sunset Tool, Inc., and Whitney Blake Company.
General Supporters –Burtco, Inc., Claypoint Associates, Don’s Heating LLC, Hits the Spot Yoga, Hugh Haggerty, Magee Office Products, PayData Workforce Solutions, and Westminster Auto Service.
In-Kind Contributors –Bellows Falls Country Club, Brattleboro Country Club, Crown Point Country Club, Killington Resort, Putney Food Co-op, Leone, McDonnell & Roberts, P.A., Sunset Tool Inc., United Natural Foods, Walmart.
Special thanks go to Brattleboro Country Club and their staff for their assistance and generosity in hosting our tournament this year.
This year, SEVCA’s Annual Celebration took the form of an Open House at our Westminster location on May 13. Members of the public, state officials, and representatives of various community organizations throughout Windham and Windsor counties were invited to visit educational displays and interact with staff representing each department. After the socializing and networking portion of the afternoon, participants gathered together for a presentation of the year’s highlights and to recognize some of the many volunteers, clients, and community partners who are helping to make SEVCA’s mission of overcoming poverty a reality.
The courageous story of Amanda Reed was one of the highlights of the event (see picture, below). Amanda has overcome an addiction to opiates that began when she was prescribed painkillers for a torn disc in her lower back. At one point, she was incarcerated and temporarily lost custody of her three children. But through determination and the support of various social service and employment support programs, including SEVCA’s Ready for Work program, Amanda was able to get her life back on track. Committed to helping others who are facing similar issues, Amanda is now employed at Our Place Drop-In Center in Bellows Falls, and is working towards a Human Services degree at Community College of Vermont. She and her children are together again and thriving, and she remains drug-free. Head Start also recognized one of its participating families, Kyle and Cathy Riendeau and their daughter Alyiah.
Many heartfelt tributes were offered to people working for organizations that SEVCA collaborates with to deliver services to low-income families and individuals. Ellen Paquette, our Crisis Fuel Coordinator, recognized Allen Brothers for going above and beyond to help those facing winter heating emergencies by offering discounted fuel for all of SEVCA’s fuel assists, not just those made through the state Crisis Fuel program. Karen Thompson and Stacy Allen accepted a certificate of appreciation on behalf of Allen Brothers. SEVCA Housing Case Manager, Susan Howes, honored Tim Callahan of the Windham & Windsor Housing Trust for continually displaying his firm commitment to housing people most in need by serving as one of SEVCA’s key partners in our homelessness prevention and re-housing efforts. Other community partners recognized for outstanding service to our most vulnerable residents included Stephanie Kalina of LISTEN Community Services, and Louise Luring of the Greater Falls Warming Shelter.
A number of health care providers were recognized for their commitment to improving the health and well-being of low-income community members, including Trevor Hanbridge of Springfield Medical Care Systems for his participation on the Springfield Community Health Team; Head Start Health Advisory Committee members Lt. Mark Fountain and William Fritch; and Cathy Howland, a Springfield Hospital emergency room nurse.
Among the many dedicated SEVCA staff recognized this year, Darline Rhoades stood out for her willingness to step into the role of Interim Director while the Director was forced to go on extended medical leave. She has provided leadership during a difficult time in which one of our Thrift Stores and our entire Textile Recycling program had to be closed.
As we do every year, SEVCA expressed its gratitude for the dozens of volunteers who selflessly contribute countless hours to SEVCA’s programs, especially our VITA tax assistance and Thrift Store volunteers.