Bennington searches for homeless solutions amid potentially deadly temperatures

Bennington County

BENNINGTON, V.T. (NEWS10) — A homeless man’s unfortunate death Monday squarely focuses the spotlight on resources, or lack thereof, in the Town of Bennington. 

“We’re not reaching everyone and that’s the problem, I think,” said Bennington Town Manager Stuart Hurd.

The cause of 57-year-old Thierry Heuga’s death is still being investigated, but he was found huddled under the Holden Street bridge and exposed to the elements. Chairman of the Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services Council Charlie Gingo says he sees many others forced to do the same.

“We gotta have something in place so that everybody knows when it gets cold, here’s what’s open, here’s where you go,” said Gingo. “We also need to get people the information to know here’s how you get there.”

“There are motel vouchers offered by the state, but not everyone can make it to the state offices building or have the resources to know what is available to them,” Hurd adds to NEWS10’s Mikhaela Singleton.

The state homeless services in Vermont allow for the motel vouchers under specific circumstances, such as below 30 degrees but only with precipitation and below 20 degrees with no precipitation, leaving a gap that still equates potentially deadly conditions for someone trying to survive outdoors.

There is a local homeless shelter in town, but it’s already full to bursting. There’s so far no emergency warming shelters or cold weather protocol in Bennington.

“It’s somewhat complex because a warming shelter is not a place to sleep and eat and stay, it’s really a place to get out of the cold. It has to meet building codes,” Hurd explains.

Friday, dozens will gather from local charities, town and state officials, and community members to try and find solutions.

“This meeting is going to be all about bringing people together to say, we have a problem in our community, so now what are we going to do about it?” Gingo says. “What I would like to see is a warming shelter that meets zoning requirements, where can we put it, that there is one or more than one organizations willing to step up and say, count me in.”

“The Department of Health even offers warming shelter services in other parts of Vermont, but not here. I’d like to see what we can do to expand those services and make what we need in this community a reality,” Hurd said.

“We’d certainly work with them to find a way to create a shelter that would comply with the codes and get people off the street instantly,” he concludes.

The meeting is going to be at the Bennington State Office Complex from 10:30 a.m. until noon Friday.

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