Hi 20° | Lo 6°

Winter Shelter in Brattleboro Opening Early

Brattleboro, Vt. — A winter shelter for the homeless in Brattleboro will open Sunday, a month earlier than usual, because of increased demand that some say was brought about by federal budget cuts.

Lucie Fortier, who runs the daytime shelter at the Brattleboro Area Drop In Center, said that when she arrives at 8 each morning there is usually a crowd of up to 10 people waiting to get in. “A lot of them are sleeping along the river bank, some are camping under the bridges,” she said. “Our people need to have a safe place to sleep.”

The Drop In Center also sponsors the overnight winter shelter in the Baptist Church on Main Street. It is funded by donations and a state grant and it is run by volunteers, social service agencies and the local interfaith clergy group. People are calling wanting to know when the shelter will be open and asking if there is any place else they can stay until it is, Fortier said. “The demand is just there,” she said.

But there aren’t many options because programs have been squeezed by federal budget cuts and federal housing subsidies are frozen, she said.

In Brattleboro, an anti-camping ordinance and a crackdown on railroad property has made it even harder to live outside.

While the numbers of homeless people were fairly level statewide over the past year, in Brattleboro the number has gone up 12 percent, said Angus Chaney, who chairs the Vermont Council on Homelessness.