Flash Flood Forces Closure of Vt. Homeless Center - NECN

Flash Flood Forces Closure of Vt. Homeless Center



    Flash flood forces closure of Vt. homeless center

    The Committee on Temporary Shelter is looking for a temporary location (Published Friday, Jan. 17, 2014)

    (NECN: Jack Thurston, Burlington, Vt.) - Maggie Blache couldn't stand seeing what happened to one of her favorite places in Burlington, Vt. She choked back tears as she strolled through the Daystation, an indoor center for homeless people on South Winooski Avenue.

    "It's not a good feeling right now," she whispered.

    A flash flood following Wednesday's pounding Independence Day rain storm wiped out much of the Daystation. The non-profit Committee On Temporary Shelter, or COTS, runs the facility.

    "There was mud and water all over the place," remembered staff member Gordie Vilandre. "You could smell sewage."

    Friday, mud-soaked furniture was piled up, litter was scattered on the floor, and a team of contractors worked to rip out drywall, carpeting and insulation.

    COTS said about 55 homeless men and women a day come to the Daystation for lunch, to meet with counselors and to get help finding work. As Blache discovered, they also come to feel normal.

    "There was a storage room here that had essentials; toiletries," she recalled. "Simple things; you'd be able to brush your teeth and comb your hair."

    Blache told New England Cable News she became homeless last fall when relatives she was living with moved out-of-state.

    "I wouldn't have survived in the street by myself, if they hadn't have been here," she said.

    Blache was even mugged, she said, before staff at the Daystation connected her with safe, transitional housing.

    "This is devastating," she sighed, describing the trashed interior of the center. "It's like being homeless all over again. This is awful."

    The agency said it does have insurance, but estimated there will be about $25,000 - $30,000 worth of supplies and equipment inside that won't be covered. COTS is now looking for a temporary facility where it can continue the Daystation’s work for several weeks while repairs are made.

    Maggie Blache told NECN she wants to see the Daystation bounce back from the storm damage, so it can keep serving a vulnerable population that could least afford a loss like this.

    "I hope it's up and running soon," she said.

    For more information on COTS, including on the new effort to help the non-profit recover from its storm damage, visit this website.