On October 25th, we celebrated the completion of the Taylor Street Apartments and Transit Center in the heart of our state’s capital. Over 550 Vermonters gathered and walked through the halls of the 30 apartments and the city’s new multi-modal transportation hub. In total, we’ve added 48 affordable mixed-income apartments and renovated another 15 in downtown Montpelier over the last year, including the renovation of the historic French Block.
Welcome to 2020
A message from the Executive Director:
I always find that the end of the year is an ideal time to reflect on successes, challenges, and what’s to come. 2019 was truly a hallmark year for us. As I’ll share below, our small team of 29 was able to accomplish a lot in the name of social justice through the power of housing, and we are poised to keep the momentum going in the new decade to come.
Most importantly, we are now actively enhancing the lives of more than 2,300 people in Central Vermont through our core programs, and are embarking on new efforts that have the potential to be adopted and applied to serve countless more across the state and our country.
I am humbled to lead such a fantastic team. I know our small group wouldn’t be able to drive success at this scale if it weren’t for our broader network of more than 450 partners, collaborators, supporters, and advocates.
A few highlights of the past year…
We founded and launched the Residences 4 Recovery Initiative, a statewide effort to equip our fellow housing colleagues and service partners with the tools they need to accelerate the development of recovery residences that will assist individuals, families, and communities struggling from substance use disorder. So far, two new residences are operational, and three more are in process. Our goal is to have twelve (12) new residences operational across the state by the end of 2020. Check out the R4R Initiative page for more info.
Our first tiny home (of two) was built and placed on-site as part of a pilot program to house homeless Vermonters with mental illness, the first of its kind in the state. Moreover, the pilot will help us gain a greater understanding of the role tiny homes may play as a cost-efficient development option as we seek to maximize every funding dollar. Our strong collaboration with Washington County Mental Health Services, the State's Department of Mental Health, Norwich University, and the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board has been a critical factor in the pilot success thus far.
Two single-family homes have been fully renovated to be affordably sold to families of modest income as part of our Neighborhood Housing Program. The pilot, in collaboration with Housing Vermont, is an effort to strengthen neighborhoods and build up families through the power of home ownership. One of the homes is for sale – check it out & share it with others!
We worked with Clara Martin Center to repurpose a vacant building into an office for their staff, affordable apartments, and new programming space for their clients.
Our HomeOwnership Center provided financial guidance and education to 184 Vermonters, resulting in 98 local home purchases generating over $15.4 million of real estate transactions for our economy.
The SASH program (Support and Services at Home) once again received national attention and praise for its continued effectiveness on significantly lowering the total cost of healthcare for participating seniors. As an early pilot adopter in 2010, Downstreet is responsible, financially and operationally, for managing the program for Central Vermont, which today serves over 650 seniors, proximately saving $500,000 in Medicare expenses annually. Learn more about SASH here.
We launched our brand new Downstreet website this fall, complete with our new blog! Thanks for visiting it!!
Community & Inclusion Takes Effort
At the heart of Downstreet is an unwavering appreciation for community, which fuels our ambitions to ensure that everyone in our community feels welcome, safe, and included in all that we do. This past fall, we almost missed the mark. The highly anticipated Taylor Street Ribbon Cutting Celebration was initially scheduled to take place on the evening of October 9 – it wasn’t until the week prior that we realized the event coincided with the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur. While the story ends on a happy note with over 550 local Vermonters, including many of our Jewish friends joining us after we rescheduled the event to October 25, we acknowledge the importance of being mindful of all of our community members. Enormous power and potential exists in our community. If we are to create a prosperous Vermont for generations to come, we need to ensure that everyone has opportunities for a healthy life, from living in a stable home to being supported and included in their community.
Look Upstream to Root Causes
Over the last few years, since our last strategic planning process, we have actively pursued measures to enhance our partnership with social service agencies to improve the lives of our most vulnerable populations beyond four walls and a roof (you may have heard me say this before). We have made leaps of progress across the board, building new and improved relationships with our partners to utilize our housing portfolio to improve the access and efficiency of health services our residents require for their physical, emotional, spiritual, and financial well-being.
And yet, we are still evolving in our approach. In recent months, it has become more clear, in working with our service partners and spearheading projects like the Residences 4 Recovery Initiative, that to have systemic change, we together must not only look to heal the pains caused from a lack of health, but we must look upstream to the root causes – particularly, stigma, trauma, equity, and the deficiency of social connectedness. Only then can we expect to eliminate the many injustices that exist in our society, from homelessness to substance use to suicide and depression. We remain committed to working with our agency partners to boost the outcomes of their services and ensure we are maximizing our mission’s impact potential through the tool that we know best - housing.
With great appreciation...
I want to conclude by highlighting all of the teammates who make Downstreet the amazing organization that it is. I am privileged to work alongside each of them.
I would also like to acknowledge you. However you may relate to us, know that your interest and engagement is tremendously valued. Housing is a critical element to our society, and to do it well, we need you. Your input, insight, direction, connections, and financial contributions also help to make Downstreet the amazing organization that it is. For that, I am most grateful.
As we stand on the doorstep of a new decade, I can’t help but see hope and potential in the horizon. Much work remains to ensure that Vermont is a place where all can prosper, but when we act together, anything seems possible.
On that note, if you're able, please consider making a contribution to our mission work. Your support allows us to continue our good work as we seek to make #VTsHousingFuture bright.
With peace and purpose, and a happy New Year to all,
Executive Director, Downstreet