By: Will Eberle, Agency of Human Services Field Director, Barre and Morrisville Districts
In a rural community, homelessness can feel invisible. You don’t walk down the street and step over homeless people sleeping on the sidewalk to get to the coffee shop. You don’t see people flying signs at every underpass and median. Homelessness in the Lamoille Valley may feel invisible but it is as real as you and me.
Over 150 people came together in Morrisville in early February for a Homelessness Awareness Walk to raise the point that any one of the people walking that day could find themselves homeless from circumstances that swing out of their control.
We called this event “We are the 64” because last year’s “Point in Time count,” which counts the nation-wide homeless population once a year, made it clear that on any given day in Lamoille there are at least 64 people experiencing homelessness. Nearly half—27 individuals— are children.
Every week our Housing Solutions Team pours over a 6-8 page list of individuals and families who are homeless or about to be, to help them secure safe and stable housing.
If you stand up after reading this and remember one thing I say, let it be this: anyone can become homeless at any time. It is not a moral lapse, or a shortcoming of character, but a crisis, a state of emergency – that has more causes then we could list.
If we’re honest, every one of us who has achieved a modicum of success must admit that it is due not just to our own efforts, but the support of friends and family, and the communities we hold so dear.
Together, let us draw a line in the sand and say we don’t want homelessness to be a part of our community anymore. Let us embrace the ethic that we are no longer interested in focusing on blame and judgment but the goodness, and value, and potential, of every person in our communities. Let each of us who stepped out on that cold day, and every other ally we can muster, roll up our sleeves and do our own small part to ensure all of our neighbors have a warm bed to sleep in every night.
Causes of homelessness are complicated, and the solutions are too — but we Vermonters are crafty and resilient and willing to work as hard as we need to get the job done. The faith community, law enforcement, a host of non-profits, state entities, and private citizens have stepped up to begin to weave a safety net for our most vulnerable Vermonters. What we have accomplished together is inspiring but there is much hard work left to do. Together we must build the world that we want to live in.
When you look in the mirror tomorrow morning, ask yourself: “Did I take a step to make the world a better place?”
Make the answer, “Yes.”
To get involved, contact me at Will.Eberle@Vermont.gov.