Homelessness and Substance Use Affect the Hardwick Area Too

Homelessness and the associated issue of substance use isn’t just an issue in Vermont’s cities. It’s just on a smaller scale in Vermont’s smaller towns like Hardwick, where there are no homeless shelters for more than 20 miles in every direction.

John Walters writes in a piece appearing elsewhere in this edition about the state-wide issue of homelessness and how our Gov. Scott and the courts are kicking it down the road.

Bethany Dunbar, community programs manager with The Center for an Agricultural Economy (CAE), owners of Atkins Field writes that they have “run into issues of substance use disorder and unhoused individuals camping on the property, including an overdose incident last summer.

A pastor in Greensboro once told me they wondered if some of the people coming for help might not be better off being sent to Burlington, where services for the homeless, while not plentiful, actually exist.

Fire Chief, Paul Cerutti of Woodbury, sharing the experiences of his first responders, tells of some weeks with three overdose events and at least one car parked beside a road with the victim of an overdose to be discovered inside.

The problem doesn’t just affect those with substance use disorders, their families, their co-workers and their friends, but also the EMTs responding to those events and their families. It affects the community members who happen upon them too.

Dunbar, who quickly responded to my request for local context to the statewide homelessness and substance use disorder crises, shared that, “In addition to attending a local series of community safety meetings, the CAE and other groups in town have been beginning to consider how Hardwick can strengthen prevention networks in town. CAE is conducting a series of one-to-one meetings of individuals leading up to small group listening circles facilitated by professionals. This project is designed to bring our community closer together, break down social silos and create empathy.” If anyone would like to know more or get involved, Dunbar says; “please contact me at [email protected].”

I attended one of those sessions recently because I’ve begun to learn more about these things happening during my last three months as editor of The Hardwick Gazette when community members bring me ideas for stories to cover and sometimes ask what I know about events they have only heard rumors of.

It’s become clear to me that these issues affect us and the community in ways we often aren’t even aware of. It’s unlikely outcomes for those affected by them will improve by turning away.

If it’s my job to let readers in the Gazette’s coverage area know what is happening in their towns (and I believe it is), then I have a duty to you to share what I’ve become aware of. No, it’s not always pleasant, and it’s probably not what the Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing or chambers of commerce hope that I share with you.

Despite that, I doubt the problem is going to go away if the Governor tries to ignore it, or if the courts, the Vermont legislature and select boards try to ignore it.

Finding effective ways to deal with these tough issues starts with each of us not turning our backs on anyone.

Paul Fixx, editor

Paul Fixx is editor of The Hardwick Gazette and lives in Hardwick.

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