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What a journey Marie Leotta has been on, on behalf of the people who need the help she looked for. I personally wish she had contacted a statewide service available by phone, dialing 211, who should have been able to direct her to appropriate services. This is sponsored by Green Mountain United Way in Central Vermont. Even after hours they might have been some help.
As for the Good Samaritan Haven, the homeless shelter in Central
Vermont, I do believe they would have found the help they needed there,
especially if they had reached any of the staff, but even the
volunteers would have been some help. In the past, we have handled
bigger problems than three elderly dogs -- either taking them home
ourselves, or finding some help for them while the owners worked out
their housing situation. I have three dogs myself and would not have
been able to sleep if I had known about them.
Shelter is not only shelter; it is a contact for the help each person needs to get back on the road to normal. While a person is at the shelter, they are welcomed -- a great start -- given hospitality and comforts of a home, such as washing machines, clean secure sleeping arrangements, good hot food served by volunteers who cooked for you and are glad to share with you. Then comes the more important, if less pressing services. Someone with real skills, experience and compassion will interview you to find the areas you need most help with and then helps you to focus available resources to achieve your goals.
Good Samaritan Haven is a faith-based initiative, but faith is what we are about, though we ask nothing of you but your cooperation on your behalf. It is true that we generally are only open 6 p.m. to 7 a.m., but our efforts on your behalf are ongoing, and you are not left in the cold in the meantime. One resource we always have is referral to appropriate services, and we do have a limited amount of money to help in things that do not duplicate available services.
Perhaps anyone from the Valley Rotary or the Waitsfield Church might have been able to recommend us because they recently donated to our capital fund to improve our facility, and have been addressed with literature or a personal visit from a spokesman for our services.
I do want to congratulate Ms. Leotta for her tremendous efforts and the people who did offer their help in this situation. I am constantly amazed by the wonderful energy we Vermonters put into a cause for any underdog or any situation where we feel someone is not getting their fair share. Good Samaritan Haven was called into being by just such people, and being presently manned by staff and volunteers that find the need to serve is a huge part of who they are at the deepest levels.
Please, please do not lose faith in state agencies or resources. While I do not personally represent them, I do work closely with many, and on any good day you should have hit the mark on any of the calls you made. Most agencies are part of a local or state Continuum of Care where agencies come together to discuss available resources and to question each other to learn information valuable to serve or refer people to appropriate services. Some of us, at various times, have some funds available to help certain situations, and some of us have donation money we may use with some discretion. Sometimes, along with various churches, we can cobble together enough funds to meet these needs all at once, but more often we make small efforts to assure those in need that there are people who care and sometimes this encourages people to redouble their own efforts.
Funds are short and precious, and we try to spread them around where they will do the most good. At times, it does seem that there is help for anyone except the ones we are trying to help, but that is only perception and not reality. The Haven address is P.O. Box 1104 in Barre, or at 105 N. Seminary Street, and the phone number is 802-479-2294. Don't give up but be persistent in calling or looking for the help you need. We are short staffed, but we are there to help.
Paul A. Mascitti is director of Good Samaritan