A Burlington non-profit that helps a growing homeless population is preparing to expand to help homeless children and to offer 24-hour services.
Transitions DMC, for Divine Mercy of Christ, offers showers, laundry services, and food, but not beds. Executive director Sara Dittner says the Burlington school district documented up to 200 children who lack a regular, adequate nighttime residence.
“Homelessness has been an increasing problem in our community for a long time now,” Dittner says. “For a community the size of Burlington, 200 children documented as homeless, that’s a staggering statistic.” Dittner, the only paid employee, works as a case manager, helping around a hundred homeless people a year to secure hotel housing, get IDs, Social Security cards, and a place to receive mail so they can secure employment.
She also helps people wade through the daunting paperwork to get into permanent housing. Dittner says, “If you have nowhere to lay your head at night, an application that may be 20 pages, 60 pages long — and that is how long some of the applications are — that is an almost impossible task to accomplish.”
Transitions currently operates as a daytime warming shelter and resource center, with the goal of becoming a 24-hour shelter sometime this year. Dittner says Transitions is asking city and county governments for financial assistance to expand. Plus, having the shelter open overnight will give Dittner some peace of mind.
“Personally, it’s really hard for me to leave here every day and lock the doors behind me knowing that I’ve got at least six people that were in my building today that are going to sleep somewhere outside tonight,” she says.
Homelessness is being further complicated by the pandemic, and Dittner says the main problems include a lack of affordable housing and a lack of access to mental health care. Transitions is currently funded entirely through grants and donations.
(By Jane Carlson, Tri States Public Radio)