Canal Street Gearing Up for 5th Anniversary

Posted On October 19, 2015 By | No Comments on Canal Street Gearing Up for 5th Anniversary

COTS will celebrate the 5th anniversary of Canal Street Veterans Housing in January 2016. To mark the occasion, we decided to talk to Maggie Merriam, Program Coordinator and Case Manager at Canal Street, about her experiences there and her thoughts on what Canal Street means to the local community.

Maggie became involved with COTS nearly 10 years ago while she was studying social work as an undergraduate at the University of Vermont. After working in a variety of rolls at COTS, Maggie enrolled in a Masters of Social Work program, where she met a fellow student who had fought in Afghanistan. Maggie became interested in his experiences there and how they impacted him on a daily basis, and after some reflection, decided to pursue an opportunity with COTS at Canal Street. The rest, as they say, is history.

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Maggie outside Canal Street

Canal Street offers transitional housing to formerly homeless veterans, giving them time – up to 24 months – to transition back into the community. Maggie says it feels good knowing that she is able to offer the veterans concrete solutions. Housing, she says, removes many of her clients’ immediate stresses, enabling them to focus more on planning for the future.

“You just reduce so much stress [by providing housing], and with that stress gone, of you know, how are we going to get somebody housed now, tonight, tomorrow, that’s really when you can do a lot more work. You provide literally what someone’s looking for, and they’re going to be able to figure it out.”

Maggie recalled one local business owner who had been living paycheck to paycheck for nearly 10 years after being diagnosed with a serious medical issue. He was forced to sell his house to pay off the bills, and resorted to sleeping in his car for shelter. But after seeking help and receiving financial guidance at Canal Street, that business owner is now doing well and looking forward to the future.

Something that sets Canal Street apart is that it offers both single occupancy living spaces and rooms that can accommodate partners and families. That flexibility means a lot to residents as they move toward more affordable, stable housing.

“There’s dignity that goes along with this housing that allows people to really preserve themselves,” Maggie says.

Besides housing, Canal Street boasts a variety of resident-focused programming: Blue Star Mothers and St. Michael’s College offer monthly meals; volunteer Scott Springer helps with employment and resume reviews; and staff facilitate weekly house meetings group walks so residents can get to know each other better. Canal Street also features an Advisory Board that encourages residents to provide feedback on services and programming. This feedback enables staff to provide a more wholesome experience for those who call Canal Street home.

Ultimately, Maggie says,“It’s really cool to see the empowerment, and the people know that there was a hard spot, and they figured it out, and most of the time that makes people want to do nice things for other people.”

We are so proud that Canal Street has been a part of this cycle of giving, and it’s stories like these that inspire us to do the work that we do, every day. As a community, we’re all in this together.

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