Grants Allow for Homeless Medical Exemptions in Barre

Fox 44 News; By Staci DaSilva | sdasilva@nexstar.tv

Joan Amell completed drug rehab more than 3 months ago. “November 4th,” said Joan Amell. “I slept in the park that night. November 5th I came here.”

While recovering from opiate addiction, Joan has been staying at Good Samaritan Haven in Barre, but at the time, she couldn’t stay there during the day.

“When I came here, I had to go from 7 in the morning until 6:30, which I didn’t realize I had started a chest cold,” said Amell.

That first night outside plus prolonged days in the cold lead to pneumonia. At the time, Good Samaritan, an emergency overnight shelter, closed its doors for 12.5 hours a day because of lack of staff.

The Good Samaritan Haven has been awarded new grants this year which allow for day staffers. This means people like Joan, who have medical issues, don’t have to be outside during these cold winter days.

“This winter has been so cold and so much cold weather and severe weather, that we’ve actually worked with one of our funders to provide some day staffing which has really, really improved our coverage,” said Brooke Salls, co-shelter director at Good Samaritan Haven.

Salls says up to 6 people a day are medically-exempt and able to stay at the shelter all day now.

“We see a lot of people who end up with bronchitis or pneumonia in the winter and they need to get doctor’s notes to stay in,” said Salls.

Good Samaritan Haven is the only emergency homeless shelter in Washington, Orange and Lamoille counties.

“We’ve seen pretty steady numbers. We’ve been running 25 people a night for the last 2 years which is pretty unusual for us,” said Salls.

The Haven is state and federally funded and Salls is always looking for more money.

“With more money we could have more staff and we could provide day coverage throughout the year,” said Salls.

To help people like Joan, focus on finding permanent housing. “The shelter saved my life. I’m warm. I’m fed,” said Joan Amell.

The Good Samaritan Haven has 30 beds. Salls claims that its overflow beds have been underutilized this winter with a lot of people staying at hotels because of Vermont’s cold weather exception law.

If you’d like to help the Good Samaritan Haven, its annual fundraiser, The Bidding, is coming up. Saturday March 7, 2015 at Barre Elks Club. Tickets are $50. Find more information here.