NEAL P. GOSWAMI
Senior Staff Writer
BENNINGTON -- A local homeless shelter will be closed for at least another four weeks as the Bennington Coalition for the Homeless works to rid it of bed bugs.
Coalition Board of Directors President Stacey New said she was informed of the bed bug infestation at the group's 6 Bank St. shelter in North Bennington on July 3. The shelter's residents were moved out that same say, she said.
"We've been going through a cleaning and mitigation process that is going to go on for another four weeks," New said Wednesday. "We're mitigating that problem right now."
The coalition was able to find appropriate housing for the three adults and five children living at the shelter when the problem was discovered, according to New.
The mitigation process is "fairly lengthy" because the group is taking every effort to ensure the infestation is wiped out.
"The decision we made was 100 percent mitigation as opposed to spot cleaning," she said. "We're making sure that it doesn't spread anywhere else to another landlord or any of our other properties."
The group's efforts are also expensive, and it was already hurting for money. "It's an extremely expensive process and we're struggling to raise funds," New said.
The coalition, largely funded by grants and donations, was projected to finish the last fiscal year $55,000 in debt. The fiscal woes required the board to cut three jobs. The executive director was also fired.
Additionally, a shelter in Manchester was closed that was serving two people. Both residents were able to secure other living arrangements for both. The board of directors continues to operate the coalition's other shelters and transitional housing sites until the coalition's finances are stable and a new executive director can be hired.
"Like any nonprofit, we are always struggling to raise funds. We are thrilled to say that we are approved for a couple of grants that were difficult to get. So, we do have some core funding available," New said. "We're pretty optimistic about the future."
The organization is currently offering housing to 35 individuals, including 12 children. An additionally 35 people are being assisted by the coalition in other ways, New said.
The temporary closure of the 6 Bank Street shelter comes at a time when homeless advocates expect an increase in homeless Vermonters. The state was slated to make changes to its emergency housing program on July 15, but changes have been postponed until Aug. 1.
"We're dealing day to day trying to figure out what to do. It's all hands on deck," New said. "We do expect that there is still going to be a population of people who are not able to be housed on the first of August."
She said the coalition is working with state agencies and other nonprofit groups to find a solution to the area's housing needs.
"We are working on creative ways to house people," she said. "We're all working together to identify the people who will not be housed."
Contact Neal P. Goswami at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow on Twitter: @nealgoswami