Impoverishment in Addison County:  United Way of Addison County (UWAC) hosted the annual social service data review earlier this year.  Here is a mix of information that includes services provided by local agencies to key demographic data.  Equity-focused eyes might catch numbers like these:

  • Addison Housing Works (our community’s low-income housing trust) has a waitlist of 171 households and receives eight applications for every available unit.
  • An unhoused or housing-insecure neighbor, often struggling with trauma, seeking public assistance for housing has to complete one or more applications that are at least 49 pages long.
  • Addison Community Action saw an increase of 308 people for hunger/food assistance and 595 people for housing navigation.
  • Forty-two percent of Vermont’s children suffer tooth decay.
  • About one-third of high schoolers do not feel valued by adults of this community.
  • Atria Collective (serving victims of domestic violence) received 8,907 points of contact in 2023.

UWAC has assembled an important data sheet for our awareness.  Absent from this particular source is the disproportionate impact intersectional impoverishment has on our BIPOC neighbors.  Some of that information can be found here.

Waltham Joins the Vermont Declaration of Inclusion (DOI) Movement:  On July 1st, the Waltham select board voted to adopt the Vermont Declaration of Inclusion, condemning racism and welcoming all persons in their community.  Tom and Amaya were on hand to advocate for the declaration and support Norm Cohen, a DOI representative who dialed in from Rutland.  While ~77% of Vermont municipalities have adopted the DOI, some Addison County towns have not. After the murder of George Floyd, Al Wakefield and a small group of community leaders in Rutland County formed a movement through which every municipality in Vermont could publicly declare the message that everyone is welcome here.   Almost 80% of Vermont’s municipalities have adopted the Declaration of Inclusion.  Leicester, Monkton, Ferrisburgh, New Haven, and Addison have not.  If you would like to work with us to help these communities project a more welcoming, inclusive presence in Addison County, please contact Tom

Partnering with FUUSB to Serve the Unhoused:  At the recommendation of Rev. Tricia, Tom connected with the First UU Society of Burlington to learn more about its “Sunday Morning Breakfast” program.  On July 7th, Tom, Irena, and Amaya joined the FUUSB team as they served breakfast, handed out clothing items, and spent time with almost 100 members of Burlington’s unhoused community.

If you want to join Tom in future collaborations with FUUSB like the “Sunday Morning Breakfast” program, please contact him.

 

Vermont Homelessness Increases… Again:  For yet another year housing insecurity worsened in Vermont.  Already with the second highest rate of homelessness per capita in the United States, Vermont saw that rate increase again in 2023.  According to the annual “point in time” (PIT) count sponsored by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, at least 3,458 people (5% more than in 2022) were experiencing long-term homelessness on January 24/25, 2024, the day of the PIT count.  Vermont is witnessing an over 300 percent increase in homelessness since 2019.

Here is a VTDigger article that overviews some of the aspects of this increase.  And here is much more data.

Homelessness is a symptom of intersectional and systemic causes.  The divide between the “haves” and “have nots” spread throughout Vermont and the country.  Untreated mental illness and addictions are increasing.

Your CVUUS community ministry is taking direct action, engaging with beloveds experiencing homelessness, housing insecurity, hunger, mental health struggles, and addiction.  We are also working closely with the Vermont Interfaith Action network and Vermont legislators to shape and implement a strategy that can systemically address some of the most vexing aspects of housing insecurity and homelessness.  YOU can be part of these efforts as well.  Please contact Tom to join us.

Supreme Court Implicitly Rules Homelessness a Crime:  In a historically shameful decision on June 28th, the Supreme Court ruled that people experiencing homelessness are not included in the Constitution’s protections against cruel and unusual punishment.  This ruling makes it easier for local governments to destroy encampments used by unhoused members of communities and throw away their belongings.  The decision will add to the suffering of the 250,000+ people who sleep outside each night, as well as millions of Americans who are just one missed paycheck away from homelessness.  As Hilary Melton, Executive Director of Pathways Vermont said,  “Criminalizing people who are trying to survive, sleeping outside when there are no other options, is the actual crime. Every person deserves access to safe, stable housing.”

Learn more about the potential impact of this decision and the way forward here.

Intercultural Connections—The Abenaki People:   The Vermont Abenaki Artists Association sponsored the annual Abenaki Heritage Weekend June 29-30 at Lake Champlain Maritime Museum on June 29-30 .  It was a vibrant celebration of Abenaki art, culture, and heritage.

Tom and Patrick Lamphere Blackhand, Abenaki artist of the Missisquoi people

Visitors talked with artists and watched crafting in the Native Arts Marketplace of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association.  VAAA’s Waolowzi Health and Wellness committee partnered with Open Door Clinic and the Vermont Department of Health, which hosted a pop-up clinic on-site all weekend offering check-ups, referrals, and advice.

A new special Abenaki exhibit, Deep Roots, Strong Branches, is now on view in the museum’s Schoolhouse Gallery and will be on view all season.  As Abenaki curator and friend of CVUUS Vera Sheehan said, “Abenaki culture is a complex network of people, places, relationships and ceremonies that link the people with the living land.  The exhibit contains selected artwork and stories by contemporary American Abenaki artists that illustrate the resilience of the region’s Indigenous people.”

Juvenile Justice:  Corrections reform is key to creating generative systemic change to unjust and inequitable human outcomes in Vermont.  The state is considering constructing a high-end, restoration-focused mental health treatment facility in Vergennes to serve justice-involved youth as part of the solution.  Learn more about plans for the Green Mountain Youth Campus here.

Community Ministry Opportunities

Is your spirit being called to connect more deeply to realize justice and equity in our community?  Please contact Tom to learn about our expanding list of opportunities to demonstrate Unitarian Universalist values in our community.  Here are just some…

Support Middlebury’s LGBTQIA+ Recovery Group:  We are collaborating with our core CM partner, Turning Point of Addison County, to create “Queerly Beloved,” a safe, welcoming space for connection among queer community members who do not feel safe in mixed-gender meetings.  Together, we are building a plan for a pilot program in which TPAC could host small LGBTQIA+ groups bi-weekly starting in Fall 2024.  If you are interested in serving as a “welcoming host” (opening and closing the building, etc.) for the group), please reach out to Tom.

Support Foster Kids and Their Families:  America’s foster system is in crisis, and Vermont is no different.  And the kids are the ones that pay the highest price with family and human service systems struggle.  Our community ministry is partnering with the Department of Children and Families (DCF) to explore ways members of CVUUS can help.  For example, in the Fall CVUUS will host “Foster Family Circles,” a space where guardians can be welcomed to connect and exchange perspectives with other foster families.  We will design a separate supportive program for foster youth participating in the Circle.  If you would like to learn more, please contact Tom.

We have several other opportunities! If you would like to join us or discuss opportunities you would like to add to our program list, please do not hesitate to reach out to Tom.  Here’s some background and philosophy of Unitarian Universalist community ministry.  We are grateful for your engaging spirit and faithful demonstration of Unitarian Universalist values.  Together, we make Love visible as we bend the arch of history toward a more just and equitable community.