My Champlain Valley: Barre Shelter Looks to Extend Hours as Winter Rolls In

BARRE, VT

A homeless shelter in Barre is turning people away all because of an old law.
With winter rolling in, the Good Samaritan Haven wants to change it as soon as possible. Finding a place to warm up in the Granite City for a few hours is hard enough, let alone all all day.

“It’s scary not knowing where you’re going to go at 7 in the morning. A lot of places aren’t even open,” says Dustin Kennett.

The Good Samaritan Haven is only legally open to house people overnight, or between 6:30 PM and 7 in the morning.

That meant for a few months last year Dustin Kennett was out on the streets fighting the cold.

“I found out that we had to leave. I was baffled because I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t know that many people around here,” says Kennett.

The shelter’s Executive Director Brooke Jenkins is looking to change its 30 year old permit.

“It’s heart wrenching to have to push people out at 7 AM, you know it’s just really tough,” says Jenkins.

She says the haven is the only homeless shelter in central Vermont.

“So that was part of my motivation of going to city council to kind of get’s some clarity around what it under our current zoning permit,” says Jenkins.

She’s asking the city’s development review board to change the permit at its January 5th meeting and extend the shelter’s hours.

Mayor Thom Lauzon says he’s supports the change. In the meantime, the city says there’s room for exceptions. It would not want the shelter to turn people away under severe freezing temperatures.

“We need all the support we can get because when you’re doing this type of work there is stigma and you know I worry that there may be some resistance before I go before the Development Review Board,” says Jenkins.
In it’s 30 years, the Good Samaritan Haven says it’s successfully changed lives.

“My daughter has special needs and I did not want to be leaving to move in with family three hours away and that’s what I would’ve had to have done if it wasn’t for this place,” says Kennett.

“We are doing what we can to extend our hours and to work with other community organizations to make sure there is somewhere safe and warm for people to be all the time.”

The North Seminary Street Shelter has the capacity to house about 30 people a night.

By Rachel Aragon | raragon@nexstar.tv