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Posts Tagged ‘sheriff’

Photo: Jessica Ojala
Rabbi David Fainsilber (left) and Rev. Rick Swanson are working with law enforcement and volunteers to combat winter homelessness in Vermont.

Vermont gets really cold in winter, and the most recent winter was especially brutal. That is why a coalition of volunteers, religious leaders, and law enforcement officers have banded together to combat homelessness. Seeing families with young children living in their cars in bitter, brutal weather made them say, Enough is enough.

Reports Mark Davis at Seven Days Vermont, “An improbable alliance of religious leaders, law enforcement officials and volunteers quietly opened Lamoille County’s first homeless shelter. The sheriff’s department owns the Yellow House in Hyde Park, and a band of volunteers and sheriff’s deputies has been staffing it since the first frozen weeks of February.

“The shelter isn’t getting any government funds or charitable donations; in fact, it hasn’t been officially ‘approved’ by the town. But the Yellow House has hosted a steady stream of guests this winter. …

“The number of people without housing in Lamoille County swelled from 22 in 2016 to 64 in 2017, including 34 children, according to an annual survey by the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness. But the closest shelters were more than an hour away, in Burlington and Vergennes.

“Organizers tried without success for three years to open a permanent shelter in nearby Morrisville. They concluded that it’s easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission and opened the Yellow House with little public notice.

” ‘It’s a “Let’s just do this” approach. Enough is enough. There simply can’t be families and individuals out in the cold anymore,’ said Rabbi David Fainsilber of the Jewish Community of Greater Stowe. ‘I appreciate all the questions and concerns people may have. And yet, at the end of the day, I personally have to ask myself, Did a family stay out of their car and have a warm place to stay?’

“Organizers such as Fainsilber envisioned Yellow House as a winter-only endeavor. The Hyde Park planning and zoning offices gave the shelter temporary verbal approval before it opened, according to backers, but will spend the coming months mulling over whether to grant official permits. No hearings have been scheduled.

” ‘I’m hoping it’s not a battle. But if it is a battle, I’m committed, because the interfaith community is, too,’ said Sheriff Roger Marcoux Jr., a key backer of the project. …

“Part of the problem is the nature of rural homelessness, according to shelter advocates. In Burlington, the itinerant people who congregate downtown are highly visible. But the homeless in Lamoille County tend to live out of sight in an unheated camp in the woods, or in cars, so residents don’t appreciate the size of the population. …

“In late December, temperatures plummeted to minus-25 degrees, and Rev. Rick Swanson of Saint John’s in the Mountains Episcopal Church heard that people were sleeping in tents in the woods. Swanson opened the doors to his Stowe church. One man came in from the cold and spent several nights sleeping inside, by the altar. …

“Religious leaders reached out to Marcoux, the longtime sheriff, who is elected to his post and enjoys broad discretion in setting program and budget priorities within his jurisdiction. Marcoux wasn’t just cooperative; he offered to host the shelter.

“The Yellow House is part of a complex of abandoned buildings across the street from the Lamoille County Sheriff’s Department in Hyde Park village. …

“To head off any potential community concerns about safety, he pledged on-duty deputies would regularly stop by. …

” ‘I’m in the business of protecting the public, and I feel like I’m doing that,’ Marcoux said. ‘Why are people living in cars when I’ve got a house I’m heating?’ ”

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Photo: Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff
From left, Army veteran Kevin Faherty speaking with Paul Connor, veteran services coordinator, and Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian in January.

A sad fact of war is that those who serve too often come back suffering from emotional trauma or addiction.

Fortunately, there are understanding people who can help them move on. We just need more of them.

Kevin Cullen at the Boston Globe describes what one Massachusetts sheriff is doing to make veterans’ lives more hopeful.

“For the past year, with hardly any attention, Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian and his staff have developed an innovative approach that is transforming lives for the better, lowering recidivism rates and raising the odds that those who have served their country can become more responsible, productive citizens.

“[Jan. 13] marked the first anniversary of the Housing Unit for Military Veterans at the Middlesex jail and house of correction, the first of its kind in New England, and really the only one quite like it nationwide. Its acronym is HUMV, or Humvee, an armored vehicle that once protected many of the younger vets in the unit. …

“Koutoujian tapped Paul Connor, an Army veteran, to run the unit. They got a waiver from the state, so that pre-trial prisoners and inmates already serving their sentences could be housed together. The HUMV is set up like a barracks, bunks lined up in the self-contained unit. …

“The men in the unit are broken down into squads, sharing chores and other duties, which builds camaraderie and accountability. …

“Connor’s veteran status makes a real connection with those in the unit. His decade of sobriety, meanwhile, makes him a role model. Like the vast majority of inmates in the general population, most of the vets in the HUMV have struggled with alcohol and substance abuse. …

“Amy Bonneau, a social worker from the Boston Vets Center, runs a support group at the HUMV.

” ‘For a lot of these guys, their underlying issues can be traced back to their service,’ she said. ‘If we don’t treat what got them here, they end up coming back. What we see is the camaraderie that this unit fosters makes them more willing to take the treatment seriously. It’s more than helping themselves. They don’t want to let down their brothers.’

“Connor, still a captain in the National Guard, puts it in terms that everybody in the unit understands.

“ ‘In boot camp, they break you down,’ he said. ‘A lot of these guys come in here broken. We are building them back up.’ ”

More here.

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So far this spring I have walked to the office by way of North Station only a few times. But when I did, I got curious seeing people in hard hats working like they had a deadline on a part of the Greenway blocked off by a fence. I peeked in and thought, “What is that? It looks like a labyrinth.”

As someone who tends to think of Theseus, Ariadne, and the Minotaur on
Crete when labyrinths are mentioned, it has taken me a while to realize how many people today use them for meditation. And work being what it is, there will probably come a day soon when I want to test out the possibilities.

The new labyrinth was dedicated on a rainy day this week as part of a lovely Armenian Heritage Park.

Alejandra Matos writes for the Boston Globe, “US Representative Edward Markey and other officials welcomed the rain, calling it tears of joy from generations of Armenians.

“The park, located between the North End and Faneuil Hall, includes a sculpture surrounded by a reflecting pool, and is meant to honor Armenian immigrants to the state. Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian, who is Armenian, said he has been fighting for the park since 1999.

“ ‘This is a gift to the city, not just for the Armenian immigrants. This is a park dedicated to all immigrants who have experienced coming to this great city,’ Koutoujian said.”

The third-largest Armenian population in the United States is in nearby Watertown. Read more at the Globe.

4/8/13 Update: The sculpture gets reconfigured to reflect how immigrants adapt. Check it out here.

Photograph: Aram Boghosian for the Boston Globe

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