In the Beginning
Charter House Coalition began in 2005 when a few concerned community members realized there was a critical need for food and emergency housing within Addison County. A committed group of volunteers launched The Community Suppers and Pleasant Street Community Housing programs a few months later. Community Suppers served free warm and nutritious meals each Friday year-round, often serving 250 meals on-site or as take-outs. 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, operating Monday through Thursday, and the Charter House Winter 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.
Community Breakfast started in 2013 and serves a hot breakfast every Saturday throughout the entire year. In 2015 students from Middlebury College partnered with Charter House to start and sustain the Sunday Grill; one of the favorite meals amongst guests and staff. With the addition of Sunday Grill the Coalition offered a free community meal every day of the week.
Growth Fueled by Increasing Demand
Support programs steadily grew as we were designated the Lead Agency for Coordinated Entry in Addison County – that means we are responsible for coordinating with all the other social service agencies in the area to make sure that everyone in need gets connected to the right social services for their situation.
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-19
Then COVID-19 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 well-being check ins. In 2020 our meals count shot up to over 90,000 and our “bed nights” went up to over 24,000.
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, new easy to maintain flooring and shower and bath upgrades.
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 heavy lifting work. Our amazing staff has advanced their caseworker and care giving 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.