Turning Point, Coalition for the Homeless will use $20,000 grant to fight addiction, homelessness


BENNINGTON>> Two local organizations have received grand funds for a new program that aims to fight addiction and homelessness.

The Bennington County Coalition for the Homeless and Turning Point Center of Bennington County have announced they will use the $20,000 grant for a new program dubbed the "Unlocking Recovery Project," which will fund a transitional home for addicts who want to get better, not use substances.

The goal is to create a safe, sober and supportive place for people in recovery, according to Mary Gerisch, a member of each organization's board.

"If someone thinks they're worthless, are afraid to talk to someone about their own substance abuse issues and are facing what comes with the stigma of addiction, they can't possibly be in recovery," Gerisch told the Banner this week. "They have to have somewhere they can feel comfortable and accepted, where people can understand what they're going through."

Both organizations recently announced they received a competitive "Innovations and Collaborations Grant" from the Vermont Community Foundation, a tax-exempt public charity with a family of 600 Vermontbased charitable funds.

The Unlocking Recovery Project will be housed at the McCall Street Transitional Apartments, a property the homeless coalition has owned since 2003. The program will welcome individuals and families to stay at the home during recovery for up to a year and a half.

It will be a "whole picture approach," Gerisch explained, meant to tackle addiction from multiple angles. Volunteers and staff from Turning Point and the coalition will run programming out of the substance-free home, she said. Addicts will be interviewed by Turning Point and coalition staff and demonstrate they want to be in recovery. Once accepted, residents will be required to attend recovery meetings and educational programming, as well as meet with a case worker.

Each resident will be encouraged to become more self-sufficient — some will be encouraged to obtain a GED or attend classes, and others will learn life and work skills. Medical treatment for opioid addicted residents will be provided primarily by the Hawthorn Recovery Center in Bennington.

The home will also be opened on weekends and will host games, dinners and other community-building activities, Gerisch said. That's an important part of creating a "subculture of recovery" to replace one of substance abuse.

The local Turning Point Center at 465 Main St. is one of several entities across the state under the Vermont Recovery Network. It's staffed mostly by volunteers who steer those battling addiction, and their friends and family members, towards local groups that can assist them.

"We want to provide a safe place for individuals and families in recovery, and it is impossible for a homeless person or family to focus on their recovery when they do not know where they will sleep at night," Joan Walsh, executive director of Turning Point, said in the press release. "We have informally partnered with the Homeless Coalition over the past few years, and are excited to have funding for a more formal collaboration."

The homeless coalition's mission is to fight homelessness by providing individuals and families with tools, resources and encouragement. It runs a daytime drop-in center and an overnight shelter at 250 North St., as well as a Pleasant Street home for short-term stays and McCall for long-term stays.

"We see that those caught at the intersection of homelessness and addiction have found it impossible to cross that barrier," Christopher Oldham, executive director for the coalition, said in a press release announcing the collaboration. We have received a retooling of our HUD grant funds, and will be operating one of our shelter locations only as a recovery community."

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979


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