‘The constant fear of freezing:’ Winter brings struggles for homeless in Vermont

New England

Morgan Brown spent twelve years living outside. He said there were days when he felt like he wasn’t going to survive. 

“It took a huge toll,” Brown said. “Not that I wanted to die, but I couldn’t cope.” 

In July 2015, Tammy Menard became homeless with her husband and two dogs. She said cold winter nights brought “the constant fear of freezing.” She said people’s assumptions about the homeless are often wrong.

“Not everybody is a drug addict, not everybody is an alcoholic,” Menard said. “A lot of people turn to that eventually after being on the streets just because it is so much stress.” 

Over an eight-day period in November, three local homeless people died according to Ken Russell, Chair of Montpelier’s Homelessness Task Force.

“There were definitely substances involved with some of them,” Russell said. 

Governor Phil Scott reinstated the state’s emergency motel program through March 2022, but Russell said it’s not enough. “We need long term housing solutions, we need money invested in housing,” he said. 

Tammy Menard now has an apartment, which she found with the help of Pathways Vermont, She says it means everything to her. 

“It was a relief, a huge, huge relief, to be able to feel safe and know that I could stay warm,” Menard said. 

Dawn Little, state outreach coordinator for Good Samaritan Haven in Barre, said now is the time for Vermonters to donate clothing or food to help.

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