Elizabeth McEwen; Community Outreach Specialist, Jobs for Independence, Brattleboro
Telos Whitfield; Store Clerk, Springfield and Bellows Falls
Todd Clark; Crew Tech, Westminster
Amy Downing; Receptionist/Administrative Assistant, Westminster: Amy works mornings in the reception area at SEVCA's Westminster office. She is working toward a degree in Business Management from Community College of Vermont, and has four children.
With two wonderful Downtown Brattleboro venues, this year's Expo will be a dynamic and lively event. We've listened to feedback from our past events, have kept all the good stuff, and have made a few changes. While we've chosen to discontinue our middle-school educational component this year, our efforts will be focused on connecting businesses with career seekers, and getting the word out about hiring opportunities. We know that networking is an important aspect of career growth, so after the Expo, we'll be holding our Career Social just steps away from the Expo venues.
Vermont Health Connect recently awarded a $45,000 grant to Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) to continue to act as a Health Navigator for Windham and Windsor Counties. SEVCA has been involved in the Navigator program since its start-up as a member of a statewide team of Community Action Agencies helping people to sign up for health insurance through the Health Exchange or submit Medicaid/Dr. Dinosaur applications. The collaboration targeted low-income families and individuals, and helped thousands of uninsured households to access health insurance.
This year, SEVCA submitted an independent application as a local-level organization, rather than being part of a larger statewide collaboration. This enabled SEVCA to apply for a larger amount of funding than it had received in the past, and its award increased by almost a third. Low-income households represent a priority population for the Navigator grant program, and SEVCA is well-positioned to continue to help them understand their health insurance options and to choose a program most beneficial to their circumstances.
“The great news about this award is that we are able to retain our tremendously skilled and caring Navigator without interruption,” said Steve Geller, SEVCA’s Executive Director. “And the increased funding means we’ll be able to provide even more outreach and services to areas, such as the Upper Valley, that were underserved previously.”
Residents of Windham and Windsor Counties who would like assistance to obtain, change, or resolve issues with health insurance coverage can call SEVCA’s Navigator, Amanda Sabo, at (802) 722-4575 or (800) 464-9951.
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.