Over the course of 2022 I’ve shared several communications with you about our dream of being able to add a new building to our campus that would include a shelter for people with no place else to stay, open to everyone in need throughout the year. Even more importantly, this proposed project was going to include a new resource center that would help people connect with housing, employment and work in partnership with our service coordinators for a more hopeful future.
Unfortunately, the Town of Hartford Zoning Board of Adjustment denied our application. While disappointed in this outcome, we continue to believe that a low barrier shelter is needed to address the emergency needs of the unhoused community in the Upper Valley. Nevertheless, I want to tell you how encouraged I was by the letters many of you sent to the Town in support of our project and the emails and phone calls you shared with me. The Haven is not just an organization and an address on Hartford Avenue, it’s a community of people who share a vision of an Upper Valley where everyone has a home.
That said, we are thrilled that the proposal by our partner, Twin Pines Housing, to construct an 18-unit apartment building at St. Paul’s next to the Haven for people who are “chronic homeless” was approved by the Town of Hartford. The Haven will be providing supportive housing services with a service coordinator located on site at the new building to help them with their integration into the community. Based on our experience with the Parkhurst program, we are confident that this will be successful. Many of the future tenants (projected opening early 2024) will have worked with Haven service coordinators while at the Haven shelter or who are precariously housed.
As for us, we’re going to step back and think about how we can meet the needs of our community now and in the future. We have outgrown our space, but we’ve heard the message from many that they don’t believe a low barrier shelter should be included in our plans for our campus. We’ll think about how other needs can be met and if there are alternative locations for this shelter in the Upper Valley. As we plan, we’ll be certain to work with the community to share our ideas and listen to their responses.
Meanwhile, the Hixon and Byrne Shelters continue to meet the needs of families and individuals who are in need of emergency shelter. We continue to support households receiving transitional housing through the Vermont-sponsored programs in the motels and in the Family Housing Support program. The Children’s program hosted a wonderful and enriching summer camp for 17 children who now or once stayed at the Byrne Shelter. They all had memories that will last a lifetime.
Of course, the Haven has also been busy addressing the needs of our neighbors who are food insecure too. I want to share with you that during the spring and summer the number of households visiting the Haven’s Food Shelf has increased dramatically. While we were averaging 60 households every day at the beginning of April, by the end of August this number had increased to 76 households daily. And lately, we’ve had some peak days with over 90 households visiting the Haven. Similarly, the total number of household members increased from about 150 to just over 200, an increase of 33%. This is certainly being driven by the high cost of living, especially food and gas which impacts people with lower incomes. In addition to food, many families were stopping by to get help with Back to School backpacks stuffed with school supplies. I can’t begin to tell you how much we appreciate your support to help so many families. But that’s what you’ve done for over 40 years, so in many ways it’s not a surprise.
Here we are at the end of summer and fall is about to begin. Nationally, September is Hunger Action Month when our focus is on raising the funds we need to help provide food and nourishing meals to our community. We are fortunate to have so many friends of the Haven who think like us — that no one should be hungry. Thank you for all you do.