Home for the holidays takes on many meanings

Jan Demers

Late at night when other lights are dim, the sparkle from the tree and the glow under the angel are particularly beautiful. Sitting in the quiet, it is easy to absorb a sense of calm and enfolding peace and safety. The temperature has been quite cold, and although we keep our home at a moderate temperature, this night the heat is turned up one more degree to add warmth to the room. At a moment like this, reflections turn to gratitude and knowing that being in this home is a great gift.

When you have a home, many things are easier. It is easier to get a job and keep a job. We know that at CVOEO. Last year, barriers to employment were reduced or eliminated for 433 households when they obtained safe and affordable housing. These jobs then enabled those people to keep their homes.

With assistance from the three Community Action Offices in Middlebury, Burlington and St. Albans, 259 people who were unable to work (including seniors, individuals with disabilities, and caregivers) obtained or maintained safe and affordable housing.

In fiscal year 2017, 747 people received rental assistance, which prevented homelessness, and 16 people completed Rent Right training helping them to remain in stable housing. Life is safer when you have a home.

When one home isn’t safe, another can bring respite. In this year, 120 individuals (65 of whom were victims of domestic violence) received emergency shelter.

When you have help to save, owning a home is possible. For five people, the Financial Futures Individual Development Accounts matched savings program allowed them to purchase a home this past year. Owning your own home brings stability.

CVOEO’s Weatherization Program made 270 homes safer, warmer and more affordable.

Linda works with CVOEO’s Housing Assistance Program, as do Laura, Rick, Sandrine and Jennifer. They can tell you that finding and keeping a home is hard work. The application for housing assistance is 12 pages long and filled with questions and disclosures. Gathering the documentation for eligibility can be daunting. Going before a review team brings increased wisdom and added patience as more paperwork is included in the folder.

The post office may say, “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” Linda will tell you that neither lack of affordable housing, low income, reduced services nor scarcity of Section 8 vouchers will keep her and others from pursuing housing for all.

There was a gentleman who was homeless and attended our Rent Right class. After three classes, he was comfortable enough to say, “I’m tired,” and “I want to have a home.” It started there. The work began and three months later he was in an apartment.

We have work to do. This year, however, there are more people who have homes for the holidays.

Jan F. Demers is executive director of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity. 862-2771 ext. 740, jdemers@cvoeo.org.

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