about us

About Charter House

Our History

In the Beginning

Charter House Coalition was chartered as a 501c3 in June of 2006 when a few concerned community members realized there were lots of people in Addison County in search of shelter or a good meal. A committed group of volunteers from the Middlebury Congregational Church launched the Community Suppers and Pleasant Street Community Housing programs a few months later.  

Community Suppers served free warm and nutritious meals each Friday evening year-round, often serving 250 meals each week. The housing program began small, providing shelter for homeless people on an emergency basis.

In 2009, in response to increasing need within our community, Charter House Coalition responded again with two new programs: Community Lunches, and the Charter House Warming Shelter. Community Lunches grew to serve upwards of 50 nutritious lunches each day in our friendly dining room and provided vital human connections for many at-risk community members. 

The Charter House Warming Shelter began by providing a warm, safe place to sleep from October 15th to April 15th for up to 24 adults. In the early days, we also operated a separate shelter space for up to five families with children.  

 

Growth to Meet Increasing Demand

Support programs steadily grew and we were designated by the State to be the Lead Agency for Coordinated Entry in Addison County – that means we are responsible for coordinating with all of the other social service agencies and affordable housing organizations to make sure that everyone that is homeless or at risk of being unhoused gets the support and referrals necessary to assist them to reach their permanent housing goals.

In 2019, we provided 40,000 meals and 4,500 “bed nights” for people in need (a bed night is one person spending one night in the shelter). We were getting better and better at what we do, and doing more and more of it. That included keeping the shelter open even during the warm months because people deserve to have a safe place to sleep and a dignified connection to the community…even when it’s warm outside. 

 

Rising to the Challenge of Covid

Then Covid struck. Hundreds of people in distress were sent our way from all around the state, and from beyond Vermont’s borders. Initially, we emptied the shelter to avoid a potential outbreak from the close-quartered congregate living, moving people to local hotels with State assistance. The community meals program converted to take-out only.

We eventually moved adults back to the shelter under strict Covid protocols, while also caring for upwards of 100 people still in the hotels. Our kitchen cranked out between 200 – 300 meals a day and our staff and volunteers delivered those meals to hotel guests’ doors, also making daily health and wellbeing check-ins. In 2020 our meal count shot up to over 90,000 and our “bed nights” went up to over 24,000. In 2022, bed nights were 35,000 and meals increased to 106,000.

Along the way, with emergency relief funding, we made significant upgrades to our shelter facility – making our “home” safer and more comfortable for life during and after Covid – including a fresh air ventilation system, an outdoor pavilion, an elevator, new easy to maintain flooring, and shower & bath upgrades. 

 

2006

Charter House Coalition chartered as a 501c3

2006

Community Suppers & Pleasant Street Community housing programs launch

2009

Community Lunches introduced

2009

Charter House Warming Shelter opens

2019

Charter House Shelter begins staying open all year

2019

2020

Charter House Coalition adapts to continue providing services during the Covid-19 pandemic

2020

2022 & beyond

Charter House continues to grow and improve upon existing processes to better serve our community

2022 & beyond

Why We Do This Work

It’s about doing right by others. Everyone deserves a roof over their head. Everyone has the right to not be hungry. Everyone deserves a chance to thrive in a community of genuine human connections. Everyone has these basic human rights. Including our neighbors with mental illness, abusive family backgrounds, substance use disorder, or just plain bad luck. Everyone.

We don’t do this work alone. We work closely with other social service agencies to make sure that everyone in distress gets the kind of support they need. And we depend on you. The people who share in the belief of a mission based on doing right by all others. You volunteer, cheer us on, and provide the financial support we need to keep the doors open, the heat on, the meals cooking and the acceptance, love, and encouragement to keep improving lives.

 

We Are Ready for What May Come – Come With Us 

So our story is unfolding day to day. Our volunteers are still doing an enormous amount of joyful work. Our amazing staff has advanced their caseworker and caregiving skills to a whole new level of professionalism. The kitchen and foodservice team are a miracle to behold.

Our clients – our guests – continue to arrive at our door presenting a whole new set of challenges that we face side by side with them as partners in our journey together. Stay tuned. And join us in the mission in any way that you can – it is incredibly rewarding work, and it’s fun.

Our People

Meet the Amazing Charter House Staff

We have eight full time and two part time employees. They keep the shelter running 24-hours a day (and night), 7-days a week, 365 days a year. They are amazing. They are trained and re-trained on how to provide case management support for the 24 people in the shelter and for dozens out in the community who are facing housing instability. 

They are fun, smart, goofy, compassionate, professional and dedicated to our cause to help guide people toward better health and stable housing. 

Here’s your chance to meet a few of them:

Annie, Essential Services

Faye, Overnight Team

Frankie, Overnight Team

Heidi, Executive Director

Jennifer, Community Advocate

Jessica, Outreach & Housing Case Manager

Katy, Outreach & Transitional Housing Case Manager

Savanna, Coordinated Entry Admin

Interested in learning more? Click here for staff bios.

Board of Directors

President: Walter Stugis, Middlebury

Vice President: Tim King, Shoreham

Secretary: Mary Gill, Middlebury

Treasurer: Gretchen Bailey, Panton

Directors:

Jon Andrews, Middlebury
Bruce Byers, Cornwall
Garret Hewes, Whiting
Jackie Lore, Middlebury
Dottie Neuberger, Middlebury
Mary Jane Nottonson, Addison
Sue Sears, Cornwall
Jane Steele, Middlebury
Vicky Wideman, Charlotte

By the Numbers

A big part of the Charter House Services Story can be told by the metrics of the outcomes we actually achieve. 

Here are some service measures for the July 2021-June 2022 program period:

11,169

Bed Nights

46,000

Meals Prepared & Served

122

Households Served

There were 11,169 bed nights provided in our emergency shelter (bed night = one bed for one night); we served over capacity 29% of the year to meet demand. There were 46,000 meals prepared and served through shelter community takeout service and meal delivery. Thirty percent of households served county-wide were placed into safe permanent housing; more than half remained permanently housed after nine months.

Between shelter and community outreach, 122 households were served; more than half were categorized as chronically homeless. We added an on-site counseling option for emergency shelter guests including courses in citizenship and renters’ rights programs to learn how to be good tenants. We also added on-site substance abuse recovery coaching for emergency shelter and outreach clients.

The Charter House served several segments of people at risk, including 2 veterans, 37 people who experienced domestic violence, 8 people over 62, more than 60 people who are chronically homeless, 52 people who struggle with severe mental health challenges, and 22 people with diagnosed SUD (Substance Use Disorder). We also provided 11 emergency placements (after-hours law enforcement), hired 6 additional experienced staff members, and provided a full medical benefits package and competitive wages for all staff to recognize the outstanding work they are accomplishing.

Our Partners

JEDI: Our Justice, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion Story

Since its founding in 2006, Charter House has been all about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI); long before it was a “thing”.

That’s because it began as a Friday night Community Supper where everyone was welcome to take a seat at the table. And anyone and everyone did in fact show up. They still do every Friday evening. We continued to open our doors to everyone regardless of their color, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or physical disability as the mission work grew. We now include a community lunch all the other days of the week, and our emergency shelter was established to provide a safe, supportive place for the homeless.

But in recent years we have taken steps to do even better. We paid attention as our society learned that even the most open-minded among us carry deep-seated prejudices that we were surprised to discover. So our professional staff has been trained to uncover those biased places in our hearts and work to overcome their effects. And when our caseworkers roll up their sleeves to help a client, they seek to recognize how that client may have been the victim of prejudice or harmful treatment. We are trained to help people who have suffered that kind of trauma.

And while we used to say proudly “Hey, everyone is welcome here!” we then noticed that “Well, maybe we aren’t totally welcoming to people with physical disabilities…” So in 2020, we added an elevator to the second floor and a handicap-accessible full bath and shower.

Sure we had a big head start on DEI, but our leadership is focused on making sure that we always strive to do better so we can truly deliver on our promises – to EVERYONE.