In Barre, Vermont, everyone knows that housing is a serious issue. When I first started at Care Net, I attended a meeting at Enough Ministries with other community programs to brainstorm ideas on how to solve this growing problem. Enough Ministries has been instrumental in meeting this challenge with transitional housing through partnership with other churches and programs.
More than half of the people we see here at Care Net are homeless and spend their nights at a local shelter. Most shelters require an exit time of 7:00 a.m. During the winter, a church down the street from us opens its doors as a daytime shelter to give people a warm place to stay. Enough Ministries offers a soup kitchen three times a week where they can get a hot meal.
However, one issue still remains unaddressed and it is something close to the heart of those involved with Care Net. That is the issue of the expectant mother who is homeless. An expectant mother is welcome into the local shelters until she gives birth. Once the baby is born, she can no longer seek refuge at the shelter. This has two main devastating effects.
The first is that the new mother and infant are without protection and provision from both bad weather and crime. A woman who has just been discharged from the hospital with her newborn infant has nowhere to seek shelter if she has no support network, which most homeless women do not. They are forced to spend the night on the street, at a friends house if they have one, or seek other community help which takes time.
The second issue is caused by the first. Because they are homeless and without shelter for themselves and the baby, they are monitored by DCF (Department of children and Families) to see what provisions will be made for the new infant. When housing or shelter is missing, DCF will eventually take custody of the baby.
This means that when a homeless woman becomes pregnant in this area, housing is a huge factor in her decision making. This area desperately needs a solution. In Lebanon, NH, Grace House, and offshoot of Pregnancy Center of the Upper Valley, offers transitional housing for new mothers.
This is something this area of Central Vermont needs desperately.