Many years ago, I read and was deeply moved by the Scripture in Matthew 25:31-46, which clearly says nothing matters more than how we treat people who are hurting and in need... More than what we call ourselves, more than how much we know the Bible, more than how "religous" we are; what matters most to God, is to treat those who are hurting with kindness and do all we can to meet their needs,,,
It was a life changing realization for me, and it set me on a different course which led me to begin five different Homeless Shelters, and today, I'm working on opening my sixth, The Chittenden County Emergency Shelter, which will meet the needs of the Homeless of Northern Vermont and beyond. I also hope to use this Shelter as a Nationwide model, which can be used by communities and cities across the Country to inexpensively, but very effectively, provide respectful and compassionate Holistic care of the homeless, at no cost to taxpayers, while genuinely helping homeless guests to address the issues that led to their homelessness and help them back to independence once more.
I founded my first shelter, The Burlington Emergency Shelter, when I was 24, back in May of 1982, and went on to Direct the program for 12 years, providing Shelter to over 5,000 men, women, and children, while finding thousands of jobs, living situations, and residential treatment programs and helping 80% of our guests back on to their feet... The Shelter, as my latest effort will, never sought or accepted a single tax dollar, but rather raised our entire budget through the private donations of those who choose to support our efforts. The Burlington Emergency Shelter, during my 12 years there,raised over 2 million dollars to sustain our work through more than 20,000 private donors, civic groups, and over 70 different churches and synagogues throughout the Burlington, Vermont area....
As I write this, we have a Building we've signed the Lease on in South Burlington and are looking forward to final approval at the March 15th Meeting of the South Burlington Planning and Review Board. We 've had an Entire Sprinkler System Donated by the Vermont Spinkler Association and I'm waiting on the Site Plan and Renovation Plan from Hamlin Engineering for the Board and as a Model for Stetson Excavating to tie into the Water Main. We have significant work to do to the Building to add Showers and more Bathrooms so I'm working on planning these renovations and finding as many donations and Volunteer workers for all this as I can. I'm also Gathering Volunteers to staff the Shelter, coordinating our meal program, involving area churches, preparing PSA campaigns through friends in the local media, and doing all neccesary to open our doors to the great need here in Chittenden County. There is an estimated over 200 people sleeping outside tonight with no shelter available to them.
Most government supported shelters would cost $500,000 or more to open and likely be impersonable and limited in their success helping people to their feet. My shelter, will cost only about $70, 000 dollars to open and operate at a fraction, with maximum effectiveness, of the cost that most shelters do...
I have been working on this effort full time for almost 10 months, my wife and I sacrificing much, having only been paid for a small amount of the time. I need a car, as mine died nearly six months ago, and we need propane for heat and cooking, insurance payments and other pressing bills,. The Shelter needs 15,000 Immediately for rent, beginning renovations, the engineer and permit fees and a variety of other costs... In a Month we will need an additional estimated $25,000 to do the Excavation.
Please consider how you might help if you would... I know, so many of you are hurting yourselves, but even a gift of $10 is greatly helpful...Your prayers and good thoughts would also be helpful and deply appreciated... I know it sounds cliche' but it's really true, that together we can genuinely make a huge difference in many, many lives... thank you for caring... Jon Svitavsky