The Daystation at COTS: What’s New in 2016?
Flourishing gardens, Pinterest-inspired crafts and evenings at Centennial Field — the idyllic Burlington, Vermont summer is spent outdoors, and with a community.
At COTS’ Daystation, community is an essential value to the success of the guests.
“We try to build community on different levels, and you know in the community, some people like to go to bingo, or do other things that aren’t focused on what’s wrong with you,” Daystation and Waystation Coordinator Tim Coleman said, “a lot more laughter, interaction … people will not be as depressed.”
Open 365 days a year, the Daystation is an oasis for individuals struggling with finding permanent housing. From 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., guests are able to relax and feel at home. The Daystation is designed to be a low-barrier entrance to services. The goal is to connect guests with housing, COTS services, and community partners and resources. Lunch is served daily through the support of volunteers. (Click here to volunteer to provide lunch or call Sian Leach at 802-864-7402, Ext. 207.)
In addition to cooking and serving meals, volunteers also can work with staff to develop unique programming for guests, including hosting small musical performances and offering salon treatments.
This past summer, in addition to programming centered on housing goals, guests had some fun, too. They attended Vermont Lake Monsters games, and enjoyed raffle prizes ranging from toiletries, to tasty treats, to tickets for local fairs.
“People (guests) are struggling with their identity; they’re not feeling good about themselves … we painted nails one day. It was just a way for them to feel better about themselves, to feel pretty, to feel part of society, and we could sit around and talk and gossip. There was actually quite a turnout for it,” Daystation Peer Support Staff member Ciara Kilburn said.
Also this summer, a small yard behind the Daystation was planted into a garden we hoped would yield a crop of vegetables for guests. Against an exceptionally small budget, the Daystation staff and guests divided and evolved the plot of land. Feeling inspired due to her commitment to the Daystation community, one guest collected items to separate the garden, and provide a more aesthetically pleasing appearance. Creatively utilizing driftwood from Lake Champlain, stones found on the street and everyday objects discarded in the garbage (i.e. pots and pans), this guest independently tended to the garden throughout the summer.
The result? A thriving 6-by-4-feet green space, giving Daystation guests a diverse diet of fresh vegetables (e.g. tomatoes, eggplant, string beans, etc.).
A few months ago, the Daystation received a donation of supplies. One item — a slinky — was unpopular upon arrival. Noticing this, Kilburn decided to leave it in her office.
“I thought it would be good for people to play around with, just to have something in their hands while they talked to me,” Kilburn said.
It proved to be a well-liked addition, and quickly made rounds throughout the hands of the Daystation guests. Kilburn began to observe the therapeutic effects of the slinky, and desired to help create something that would not need to be shared among guests.
“I wanted it to be something that was their own,” Kilburn said.
Researching online, she discovered homemade stress balls — a simple craft that did not require too many materials. Purchasing the supplies and creating instructions that would be easy to follow, Kilburn lead Daystation guests to create their personal stress ball.
Due to rapid interest in the project, Coleman and Kilburn have begun to brainstorm new D.I.Y. activities they can instruct at the Daystation.
By engaging guests through a more personalized approach — conversing, playing games, eating meals —Daystation staff and volunteers are able to create a deeper and more emotional impact.
“Part of the wellness of each individual (is) being able to say thank you, helping out, … chipping in each day to do chores and whatnot,” Coleman said. “It’s a community that watches out for each other and themselves, and it’s very healthy.”