John Graham Housing & Services (JGHS) has a mission to provide emergency shelter, affordable housing, and essential services to individuals and families without a home or facing housing instability. The JGHS mission is strengthened by intensive service coordination at three critical access points—homeless prevention, eviction prevention, and rapid rehousing. With seven properties spread across Addison County, JGHS does this work in collaboration with community partners.
JGHS annually serves approximately 400 people without a home or facing housing instability in Addison County, Vermont, including those fleeing domestic violence, veterans, elders, parents with children, and those with mental health disorder, physical disability, and/or substance use disorder. JGHS clients are homeless, low-income, and/or unemployed. In the 07/01/22-06/30/23 period, women comprised 60% of the adults served; 39% were men; and 1% gender nonconforming. Racially, 79% were White, 11% Black, and 10% Other; 11% were Hispanic/Latino. Children of both sexes represented 27% of the JGHS population. Eleven percent (11%) were LBGTQIA+. Three clients were Veterans.
John Graham Housing & Services (JGHS) first opened its doors in 1981 offering food and shelter, mostly to single people. Over the next two decades, more families with children began to seek shelter. Between 2000 and 2010 the numbers of homeless people in Addison County grew as housing prices began to climb and low-income families were edged-out of the housing market. To meet the growing need, JGHS purchased and renovated four apartment buildings, each with three or four affordable apartment units ranging from single occupancy efficiencies to four-bedroom apartments.
In 2010, the opioid epidemic brought new challenges as people increasingly struggled with co-occurring mental health and substance use disorders. With the community mental health system under stress, JGHS began to provide therapeutic support, including counseling services, especially for children and those struggling with trauma.
Today, JGHS has a licensed clinical social worker as its program director and has expanded to include six affordable housing properties across Addison County, in addition to the John Graham Emergency Shelter in Vergennes. The agency is committed to utilizing nationally recognized, evidence-based interventions, trauma-informed care, and client-centered services including needs assessment, housing navigation, service coordination, employment coaching, and referral to treatment and other wrap-around services. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, JGHS has continued to provide services at motels and hotels where individuals and families experiencing homelessness are placed when shelters are full.
The Case for Need
The difficulties leading to homelessness are systemic and often intergenerational. Vermont is facing a serious housing crisis. This isn’t a new crisis, but it is certainly one that has been exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Nationally, housing stock has fallen to one third of what it was in the 1980s.
Addison County is not immune to this downward trend. Record numbers of Addison County individuals and families are experiencing homelessness or are at risk of losing their homes:
• On the annual homeless Point-In-Time (PIT) count on January 25, 2023, 3,295 Vermonters were experiencing homelessness—an 18.5% increase in persons (515 people) compared to the prior year, and an increase of 197% since the pre-pandemic PIT count in 2020 (Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness 2023).
• Vermont has the second highest per-capita rate of homelessness in the country, behind only California. In the 2023 PIT count, the number of people with children experiencing homelessness increased by 36% compared to the prior year, compared to an 11% increase of people in households with adults only.
• Addison County has a vacancy rate of less than one percent (1%). Sheltered households with approved housing vouchers often cannot find an apartment to rent. Additionally, rental rates increased in Addison County by almost 6% in 2022 and are predominantly higher than our clients can afford.
Additionally, the impact of homelessness and housing instability are adversely hurting children in Vermont. During the last quarter of 2022, there were 1,067 children in State of Vermont DCF custody due to poverty, homelessness, substance misuse, and trauma (Child Protection in Vermont Report 2022). Homeless children are suffering from Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs) which are strongly related to chronic illnesses, early substance use, depression, and anxiety across the lifespan.
There are three essential components to JGHS program delivery for individuals and families served: Emergency Shelter, Affordable Housing, and Service Coordination.
1. Emergency Shelter: The JGHS Emergency Shelter is located at 69 Main Street in Vergennes. The building contains nine separate units with a total of 22 beds, with units ranging from single occupancy to up to five beds. The site is a two-story congregate setting, with shared bathrooms, living room, and kitchen. A food shelf service, accessible to anyone in need in the community, is located on the second floor of the Shelter. Individuals and families access shelter by calling the office or walking in. The JGHS Emergency Shelter is open 24 hours a day.
2. Affordable Housing: Since 2019, JGHS has expanded to include dissemination of Project-Based Vouchers (PBV) that empower households to move quickly from emergency shelter to a permanent rental unit. The PBV option is especially successful among families challenged by trauma, disability, and domestic violence. JGHS has six properties where households can become tenants via a PBV or other housing voucher. These include: 74/76 Green Street, Vergennes; 24 Mountain Street, Bristol; 42 N Pleasant Street, Middlebury; and three Zero Energy Modular homes (ZEMs), Kountry Trailer Park, Bristol. Collectively, these properties have 18 available apartments.
3. Service Coordination: Upon entry at JGHS, service coordinators work with each client household to a) screen for trauma, accessibility, mental health disorder, and substance use disorder, and b) create an Individual Service Plan (ISP) to support each family’s goals. Clients meet regularly with their service coordinator who facilitates implementation of the ISP via a combination of in-person support and meetings with other community partners. Each JGHS service coordinator works with a caseload of 15-20 households, using Motivational Interviewing (Miller & Rollnick 2013) and Trauma Informed Care (Classen & Clark 2017)—both evidence-based practices.
Program goals to be tracked for the current fiscal year include:
1. 75 households (150 people) receive shelter, housing, and services
2. 10 households move into stable housing within six months of entering shelter
3. An additional 200 people receive services (food, transportation, referral to substance use and mental health disorder services, housing navigation, and housing retention)
4. 90% of households complete an Individual Service Plan (ISP) within one month of entry
5. 75% of those stably housed remain housed at the conclusion of twelve months
Success for JGHS individuals and families served is permanent housing with wrap around supports that help both adults and children navigate whatever barriers exist for them – mental health, financial mismanagement, poor or no rental history, and/or substance use disorder recovery. Staff is trained in Trauma Informed Care and recognize that everyone JGHS serves has a history of trauma.
The more we invest in the health and wellbeing of those who are poor and sick, the healthier our overall community becomes. The JGHS population is our communal population, and we are actively helping people move into safe, healthy, and productive lives and lifestyles. The children of homelessness and poverty will become adults, and how we treat them and help them now informs the adults they will become. Shelter is the essential first step. Moving into more permanent housing is the second step. Retaining that housing is the third and most important step critically linked to the personal healing that finally leads to happy and healthy lives.
In July 2021, JGHS launched a new, electronic system called Community CareLink (CCL) for collecting data to enhance our evaluation process and improve program quality assurance. CCL is an electronic health record specifically designed for behavioral health case management. CCL empowers a client’s Individual Service Plan (ISP) by setting tasks and deadlines for each life domain. This supports a targeted approach by the service coordinator and allows JGHS to track housing, employment, and education goals. CCL has also empowered JGHS to:
• Standardize client records and case notes to ensure timely follow up and data collection
• Standardize electronic screenings for mental health, substance use disorders, and trauma
• Measure client progress, including resilience and progress toward ISP goals
• Measure the efficacy of program service delivery and implement changes when indicated
• Provide accurate data and program outcomes to funders and key stakeholders
• Improved connection and coordination with county and state organizations
Additionally, the JGHS Outcomes Committee has developed Logic Models for each of the agency’s program areas: Emergency Shelter, Affordable Housing, and Service Coordination. The Outcomes Committee meets monthly to assess data from CCL and compare results with targeted goals in each Logic Model. Results are reported to both JGHS staff and board on a quarterly basis. Committee members include JGHS Board members with expertise in evaluation and assessment, as well as the JGHS Program Director, Director of Quality Assurance, and Executive Director.
Leadership & Sustainability
JGHS has a staff of nine full-time employees, seven part-time employees, and one student intern. The Leadership Team includes an Executive Director, Program Director, Finance Director, and Director of Quality Assurance. Direct service staff include Service Coordinators who work directly with guests in the John Graham Shelter and client households living in JGHS affordable housing apartments and scattered affordable housing sites across Addison County. Shelter coverage, 24/7, is provided by the Shelter Manager, Night Managers, and Shelter Coordinators. Property management is provided by the Property Manager and an Assistant Property Manager. We are proud to have a 95% staff retention rate in a field that typically sees a lot of turnovers.
The John Graham Board of Directors numbers 14. Our board also features an array of expertise, including those working professionally in finance, mental health, human services, children's services, real estate, government relations, and philanthropy. Board Committees include the Executive, Governance, Finance, and Outcomes Measurement. The Board meets monthly on the fourth Monday of each month. Currently an Ad Hoc Rental Property Committee is reviewing the status of JGHS’s affordable housing portfolio.
Financially, in 42 years of operation, JGHS has had no-fault findings on its annual independent external audit. Year to year, JGHS is supported by a balanced array of public and private support from federal, state, and local government, United Way, individual donors, and private foundations.
Community Partnership and Collaboration
JGHS is an active participant in the Addison County Housing Coalition, a consortium of housing agencies that report to the State of Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO). The Addison County Housing Coalition, together with the Balance of State Continuum of Care, is administered by the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness (VCEH). VCEH, in turn, coordinates Vermont’s annual, collective application for federal Housing & Urban Development (HUD) funding.
JGHS’s primary partners in coordinated care for the individuals and families served include:
• Addison County Restorative Justice: Restorative justice service for reentry population
• Addison Housing Works (AHW): Affordable housing in Addison County (formerly ACCT)
• Atria Collaborative: Domestic Violence shelter and services (formerly WomenSafe)
• Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO): Food, fuel, and housing
• Charter House Coalition: Low-barrier overnight shelter
• Children’s Integrated Services (CIS): Early intervention, family support, and prevention
• Counseling Service of Addison County (CSAC): Mental health services
• Hannaford Career Center: Employment services
• HireAbility: Employment services for those with disabilities
• HOPE (Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects): Food shelf, resale store, financial/career services
• Parent Child Center: Support and education for families with children
• Turning Point of Addison County: Substance use disorder services
• United Way of Addison County: Vermont Foodbank: Food services and delivery
• Vermont Adult Learning: Education and career training for adults
Organization's Approach to Diversity, Equity, Belonging, & Inclusion
JGHS is committed to the prohibition of discrimination and harassment of any type without regard to race, color, religion, age, sex, national origin, disability status, genetics, protected veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or any other characteristic protected by federal, state, or local laws. This applies to all administrative and direct service activities at the agency. All staff participate in annual diversity, equity, and inclusion training. JGHS strives to mirror client diversity in both the Board and staff: JGHS staff is currently 88% White, 6% Black, and 6% Hispanic/Nonwhite: 50% Female and 50% Male. The JGHS Board is currently 86% White, 7% Black, and 7% Hispanic/Nonwhite; and 43% Female and 57% Male.
Additionally, JGHS reviews its Personnel Policies & Procedures, and policies related to confidentiality, ethics, sexual harassments, and workplace violence, on an annual basis. The JGHS Board also reviews and signs agreements related to confidentiality, corporate compliance, ethical conduct, and conflict of interest on an annual basis.