Pleasant St. location to house families in transition

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BENNINGTON — The local homeless coalition is hoping to move its transitional family housing to a new location this year.

The Bennington County Coalition for the Homeless intends to lease a house at 300 Pleasant St., which the nonprofit organization Shires Housing is in the process of buying and renovating. The project is currently in the early stages of development, including obtaining official permits and funding.

Shires Housing plans to upgrade the house's seven residential units, as well as construct two new units and an office in the outbuilding, according to documents obtained from the town hall. The Greek Revival house was built in 1846 as a single-family home and later converted into a multifamily dwelling.

Once the upcoming renovations are done, the homeless coalition will transfer clients who are living in Thatcher House, its existing transitional family housing located just across the street.

"We're really excited about it," said Stephannie Peters, executive director of Bennington County Coalition for the Homeless. "It's a great collaboration."

Shires Housing is hoping construction work can start sometime between the summer and fall. And the homeless coalition is hoping their clients can move some time within the year.

Like Thatcher House, the new site will have nine units. But the new units will be bigger and feature an energy upgrade, according to a Shires letter obtained from the town hall.

Thatcher House is currently "overcrowded and has water leaks and electrical issues and is quite costly to maintain since the building has not had an energy upgrade," reads the letter dated Jan. 13.

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One of the main reasons Shires Housing got involved in the project was to "provide a safer, healthier, energy-efficient, more dignified and sustainable environment" for families, said its executive director Stephanie Lane.

It would also enable the homeless coalition to operate more affordably, she said. Meanwhile, the homeless coalition's staff is working to maintain Thatcher House for the families, Lane added.

The transitional housing serves families, with up to eight members, who are in the process of looking for a permanent home. Keeping the transitional family housing downtown maintains residents' accessibility to public transportation, job opportunities, schools, social services.

The goal is to keep them in transitional housing for not more than 90 days, but some families need to stay longer, Peters said. The housing is free of charge, but clients should participate in the housing coalition's case management program and be actively in search of permanent housing.

Thatcher House, located at 212 Pleasant St., served 19 families last year, Peters said.

The plan for a new transitional housing was born three years ago when the housing coalition's then-executive director approached Shires Housing about collaborating on the project, Lane said.

The renovation of 300 Pleasant St. will cost $2.94 million, according to Shires Housing. About $500,000 will come from federal funding through the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the rest from sources such as the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, local foundations and private sponsors.

Feb. 3: The story was amended to say that Shires Housing hopes construction work can begin sometime between the summer and fall. When work would be finished is still unclear.  Shires Housing won't be taking over the management of the Thatcher House property after the homeless coalition moves out.

Contact Tiffany Tan at, @tiffgtan on Twitter or 802-447-7567 ext. 122.


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