Changing Lives at ANEW Place – An interview with Kevin Pounds (Part I)

Written by admin on Mar 14, 2018 in - No Comments

Seven years ago, Kevin Pounds started making meals once a month as a volunteer at ANEW Place (previously the Burlington Emergency Shelter). Now he serves as executive director of the nonprofit organization, which provides a holistic continuum of services for the homeless so that they are equipped with the tools needed for lifelong change. Kevin recently spoke at Church at the Well, and as a follow-up, I asked him to give us a little more information about what homelessness looks like right now in Vermont and how ANEW Place is bringing change through dignity and love. In this two-part conversation, Kevin shares how his stereotypes of people struggling with homelessness were shattered, spells out ANEW Place’s unique approach, and tells more than one exciting success story. You can read more about ANEW Place and the lives it is changing at www.anewplacevt.org.

How many people in Chittenden County and the state of Vermont are currently homeless? What are the obstacles they face?

Every year the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness and the Chittenden County Homeless Alliance (of which ANEW Place is a member) put together a “Point in Time Count,” which gives a snapshot of homelessness on an average night in January.  Although it’s impossible to count everyone, the 2017 count found 1225 Vermonters experiencing “literal homelessness,” with 291 in Chittenden County.  All the agencies serving the homeless have steady waitlists of at least a dozen people.

Where do the approximately 291 people in Chittenden County without a roof sleep at night?

A significant portion either stay in the Winter Warming Shelter during the cold weather months (which doesn’t require sobriety) or at group homes run by ANEW Place, COTS, or Spectrum Youth Services.  A few people choose to tough out the cold in tents communities located in different wooded areas around Burlington.

How has your understanding of homelessness changed over the years?

When you take the time to get to really know another person’s story and begin to share your own, you almost always discover common ground.  I’ve experienced this over and over again, whether it’s one of my suburbanite neighbors, a guest of ANEW Place, or a refugee friend. It’s always an eye opener when I hear a guest’s story and realize that maybe a decade earlier, their life was very similar to my own until they experienced an unexpected trial or tragedy that caused them to spiral and eventually become homeless.   

We often see homeless individuals through the lens of our stereotypes rather than for who they are. What were your stereotypes of homelessness before working with the homeless at ANEW Place?

Although it’s not especially PC, one misperception I had many years ago was that most homeless people are lazy and unwilling to work. I’m impressed by how the majority of our guests utilize ANEW Place as a launching pad to find employment and begin charting a path forward.

I was wondering if you could put a face on homelessness for us. Is there a story you might share?  

I get especially excited about how I see God at work in David’s life.  Due to a prolonged battle with addiction, he lost everything, including his relationships with his family and a great job. When he finally hit rock bottom, he decided to move into ANEW Place.  At first he struggled, and last spring was even dismissed following repeated relapses. We worked with him to provide a path back, and David took full advantage of it.

What did the path back look like for David?

After completing a 30-day in-patient recovery program, David re-entered ANEW Place with a renewed sense of faith and focus.  Over these past several months, he has proven to be one of ANEW’s “all-stars” — maintaining sobriety and finding full-time employment, while also helping two other guests find employment.  In November, he joined our ANEW Leaf transitional housing program and is on track to move into his own place this spring.

Stay tuned for Part II of this conversation… 

HOW YOU CAN HELP

If you would like to support the work of ANEW Place, there are a few ways to do so: You can join us in preparing meals for the guests on Sunday March 18th or Thursday March 29th (please RSVP to Abby at Abby@wellchurchvt.com). Additionally, through the end of March, we are collecting needed items for Welcome Packages to be distributed to incoming guests. Wool socks, new underwear (men’s and women’s), shampoo, deodorant, Dunkin Donuts gift cards, and 10-ride Green Mountain Transit bus passes can be dropped off in the laundry basket in the Lake Lobby on Sunday mornings through the end of March. Check out other ways to volunteer as well as how to give financially by going to www.anewplacevt.org or contacting Katie Ballard at katie@anewplacevt.org.