COTS’ Family Shelters – Housing & Beyond

Posted On September 22, 2015 By | No Comments on COTS’ Family Shelters – Housing & Beyond

One of the people who meets guests at COTS’ Main Street and Firehouse Family shelters is often Kathy Fleury. Kathy is COTS’ Family Shelters Coordinator.

Kathy oversees shelter staff and programming – and ensures that all shelter guests remain as comfortable and as supported as possible as they undergo their housing transitions.  She meets with guests regularly to make sure their concerns and needs are being met.

An inside look of the Firehouse shelter.

An inside look of the Firehouse shelter

The ultimate goal at the family shelters is for guests to find permanent, affordable, and stable housing during their up-to- six-month stay. Each family is unique, though, so there is also attention and focus on individual goals and circumstances. For instance, beyond housing goals, one family might want to focus on educational or nutritional issues, whereas another family might require more of an immediate focus on financial literacy.

Because the Main Street and Firehouse shelters cater specifically to families, much of their programming is designed with children in mind.

Emma Harvey, the COTS Children’s Education Advocate in our shelters, helps connect parents and children with early educational enrichment, quality childcare, after-school activities, and summer camps. She makes sure all school-aged children are enrolled in school. Emma also coordinates tutoring, as needed, for children in shelter.

We have playrooms in each shelter; they are often the sites of art projects and our Book Buddies reading program.

The playroom at the Firehouse shelter.

The playroom at the Firehouse shelter

VYDC AmeriCorps in our shelters focus on health and wellness, addressing child nutrition and organizing trips to the YMCA. Casey Mears is our incoming VYDC AmeriCorps, who will serve in our family shelters. Our shelters participate in the USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program  (CACFP), which helps COTS provide guests with nutritious meals and snacks. The Main Street and Firehouse shelters are the first in Vermont to participate in the program.

The youth programming is designed to ensure that children who stay at the family shelters are having their educational, nutritional, and social needs met. “From what I can see overall, children are pretty resilient and overall I think they do pretty well,” Kathy says. “The yard is constantly being played in, every day. The sounds of children playing, and families enjoying each other’s company are the same sounds you might hear in any other yard, in any other neighborhood.”

For many families, those sounds are music to their ears. A stay at the family shelters is a single step on the long road to stable housing, but it’s certainly a start.

Kathy outside the Main Street shelter

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