Mission & Approach

A Time and A Place Where No One Is Homeless

We advocate for long-term solutions to end homelessness and provide emergency shelter, services, and long-term housing for Vermonters who are experiencing homelessness or are marginally housed.

How We Get There

Our relentless pursuit of knowledge and adaptability ensures we continually elevate our assistance to those who reach out to us for support.

Our Strategic Framework

View from behind a woman's head in her office, looking at the COTS website displayed on a monitor next to her open laptop.

Core Values

Everyone should have a secure place to call home. We believe...

  • In the value and dignity of every human life.

  • That housing is a fundamental human right.

  • That emergency shelter is not the solution to homelessness.


At COTS, we take a person-centered approach. We believe that every individual possesses an innate dignity, a capacity to overcome adversity and a potential for transformation. Across all our programs and services, we integrate an investment philosophy in the promise of the individuals and families we serve.

We celebrate that COTS is an innovative provider in our community, often piloting best practices in our field that are later replicated statewide. We seek to continually learn and adapt to better serve the people who call on us for assistance. To help us better achieve those objectives, we utilize a variety of techniques in our programs and services to create better outcomes for our clients.

Our Techniques for Better Client Outcomes

Trauma-Informed Care

Acknowledging the presence of trauma symptoms and recognizing the role trauma plays in their lives, trauma-informed care is an approach to engaging people with histories of trauma. It also emphasizes physical, psychological, and emotional safety for consumers and providers, helping survivors rebuild a sense of control and empowerment.  COTS staff receive Trauma-Informed Care training as a basis for our service model.

Understanding Trauma-Informed Care

Trauma-Informed Design

Like trauma-informed care, trauma-informed design takes into account the high rates of trauma experienced by clients and adapts the physical environment to better meet their needs. Intentional design choices foster feelings of physical and emotional safety and create a calm environment.

The Impact of Trauma-Informed Design

Motivational Interviewing 

In a collaborative, person-centered form of guiding interactions with clients to elicit and strengthen their motivation for change, motivational interviewing plays a crucial role. COTS staff receive training on Motivational Interviewing as part of our onboarding process. 

Motivational Interviewing Basics

Compassion Fatigue Awareness

Recognizing that people who actively work with those who have experienced great suffering and loss can themselves experience negative levels of stress because of those regular interactions, Compassion Fatigue Awareness requires an attentive approach that includes prevention, assessment, and harm reduction for staff and volunteers providing direct client service.

What's Compassion Fatigue

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

COTS takes a wide-ranging view of diversity, going beyond visible differences to affirm the essence of all individuals, including the realities, backgrounds, experiences, skills, and perspectives that make us who we are.

COTS is working to be a model of diversity, equity, and inclusion, with our Board of Directors, staff and volunteers reflecting the many faces, cultures and walks of life present in our community. We continue to expand our recruiting strategies to reach a broader pool of candidates to improve the diversity of our organization among staff and Board.

In 2022, COTS began a multi-year commitment to working with nuwave Equity Corp. COTS chose nuwave as a partner because they are a local firm that understands the specific challenges facing Vermont and Burlington and also bring a robust collection of skills to the table, skills that include:

  • Interviewing

  • Surveys and data analysis

  • Baseline training for cultural competency across the organization.

  • Comprehensive organizational audit of records, outcomes, policies, and procedures.

Rather than an in-house position, our partnership with nuwave benefits from the independence of a third party to make recommendations that would promote best practices for our clients, staff, and board.

COTS has a strong commitment to each aspect of DEI work, noting that while the three aspects can work in tandem, they are unique. It is one thing to have a variety of people with varied identities and backgrounds and a desire to increase that variety (diversity).

It is another to ensure that our policies, procedures and outcomes reflect our very best efforts to provide what each person needs to thrive, even if that results in different approaches based on the unique needs of that person (equity)

And, indeed, a third thing to center, celebrate, and uphold both the struggle and the wisdom of marginalized voices in the processes of vital decision-making at every level of the organization (inclusion).

We recognize that this takes time, effort, and resources, and that’s why we’ve committed to this multi-year, multiphase effort.