The other morning I received this text message: “There is a homeless person sleeping on the porch.”
The first staff member to arrive at our office on 48 Court Street in Middlebury was a bit startled to say the least. The gentleman woke up when he heard footsteps on the stairs, apologized for moving our United Way-blue Adirondack chairs, and moved on after putting everything back as it was. Working at United Way we know full well that there are homeless people in Addison County. We hear their stories from our funded partners and we invest in programs that provide vital services to this vulnerable population. Knowing homelessness exists is one thing - finding a person asleep on your covered porch on a gorgeous Wednesday morning in October is another.
This experience puts a face to the need and reminds us that there is still work to be done.
There are estimated to be 81 homeless individuals in Addison County, 23 of whom are children under the age of 18 (Institute for Community Alliances, 2019). Some of us look at the number and have a hard time believing it - where are these homeless people? Others of us look at that number and assume there are actually more - people must have been missed from that count. What we know for sure is that people experiencing homelessness need shelter, yes, but they need so much more than that. They often need food, clothing, job coaching, mental, physical, and emotional health care - the list goes on.
We are fortunate in Addison County. The man who slept on our porch was a short walk away from the Charter House Coalition where he could find shelter, food, and compassionate support. Several other critical services were a free ACTR ride away.
That is why your gift to United Way of Addison County is so important. We invest your donations in programs that, working together, can address the nuances of complex problems like poverty, domestic violence, transportation, access to mental, physical, and dental health care, substance use disorder, and - of course - homelessness.
Homelessness, like other challenges facing Addison County, is a complex issue - no one organization can tackle it alone. We need your help. Please join us in our work to make Addison County a healthier, stronger place for every person who lives here by giving to United Way today.
Helena D. Van Voorst