Homeless shelter receives $3,000 from People's United Foundation

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BENNINGTON — The local homeless shelter has gotten a boost from People's United Bank.

The Bennington Coalition for the Homeless will use a $3,000 grant from the People's United Foundation to support its programs for individuals and families facing homelessness.

"We have a huge issue we're trying to tackle," BCH Executive Director Christopher Oldham said in an interview on Thursday. "We'd be unable to do what we do without this support."

The funds will go towards supporting the organization's three facilities that offer both long-term and short-term stays, he said, in addition to case management and life skills and employment readiness programs.

The grant comes from the fundraising arm of People's United Bank, which has over 400 branches and is the largest independent bank headquartered in New England. The foundation places special emphasis on programs designed to promote economic self-sufficiency, education and improved conditions for low-income families and neighborhoods.

"Bennington Coalition for the Homeless is an essential resource for our community," Michael Seaver, officer for the foundation and president of People's United Bank Vermont Division, said in a press release announcing the award. "We are pleased to provide funding for shelter and other essential needs of the coalition."

Oldham said there's an unfair stigma attached to homelessness.

"Homelessness has no face," he said.

The reasons a person becomes homeless vary wildly — victims of domestic violence may have nowhere to go if they leave a partner for fear of their safety. Sudden unemployment can mean families can't afford to stay in their home. Some are veterans or elderly, he said, and others are people with disabilities.

And many people in the area, he said, are battling a drug addiction.

BCH's mission is to fight homelessness by providing individuals and families with tools, resources and encouragement.

"One misconception is that agencies like ours operate as a 'hand-out,'" Oldham said. "But we believe we operate as a 'hand-up.'"

The Good Shepherd Shelter and drop-in center at 250 North St. serves as a place people can escape the elements, talk to a case manager, or receive personal care products and clothing. That location is also an overnight shelter.

Thatcher House at 212 Pleasant St. offers short-term stays, often for families while they figure out their next steps. Apartments at 111-115 McCall Street offer long-term stays up to 18 months.

Oldham is the only full-time employee and oversees seven part-time employees.

Monetary donations aren't the only thing the organization benefits from, according to Oldham. BCH has many partnerships with community groups, such as churches.

"It definitely takes help from the community to fight this," Oldham said.

For more information on the coalition, visit www.bcch-vt.org or call 802-442-2424.

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979


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