Windham County Heat Fund Update

The Windham County Heat Fund is strong and thriving as we move into the 20th year of the non-profit’s life at the beginning of the next heating season. That might seem like good news, but when Daryl Pilsbury and I started the organization we thought it would only be needed for a few years. We had no clue how much people were suffering at the lower end of the economic scale and we were under the delusion that the cost of heating fuel was the most important factor putting pressure on needy people and families.

We have been given a glimpse into the complexity of people’s lives and the pictures are not pretty. The heat fund has been a godsend to many people who might have suffered through a winter living in one room with the thermostat at 50 degrees. Then there are the families who really can’t make ends meet at the end of the month but somehow find a way to pay rent and buy food but they have to put heating fuel at the bottom of the list.

Then there are those people who thought they were doing well until they got a diagnosis of cancer. They often lose their jobs and their health insurance. When the got their diagnosis they thought their lives couldn’t get any worse.. Then they found out they couldn’t pay for treatment and they couldn’t pay their rent. Imagine what it’s like for a person who has an aggressive cancer eating away at them, or a severe chronic illness to have to live on the streets. It happens; and more often than you might think.

Nothing to Sneeze At

Remember when separation of church and state was a thing?  The original ‘build a wall’. Of course none of us were around when the deist founders wisely inserted that anti-persecutional notion into our country’s foundational documents. For two hundred and fifty years, the concept of a secular society in lieu of a religious one has been the official guiding principle of civic order.

But a tug of war, and erosion of this boundary has always been underway. ‘In God We Trust’ printed on money and statehouses…  Prayer and benediction at inaugurations, and openings and closings of Congressional sessions…Tax free churches…And now in Louisiana, an official declaration that the ten commandments must be printed and displayed in every classroom.

The Killing Continues

Despite the fact the world opinion is increasingly hostile to the actions of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, the killing continues.

Despite the fact that Spain, Norway and Ireland have recognized a Palestinian state, the killing continues. Despite the fact that the International Criminal Court (ICC) is requesting arrest warrants for Israeli and Hamas leaders, the killing continues.

There are many international organizations making statements about the continuing atrocities being committed by Israel and Hamas and worldwide college protests only reinforced the polarization that has been created over the war in Gaza.

What good are all of these efforts if they only produce talk and more talk while the leaders of countries such as Russia, Ukraine, Israel and a host of other smaller countries waging wars, as well as terrorists groups such as Hamas, do not stop fighting?

DÉJÀ VU 1969

It’s starting to look like the late 60’s and early 70’s across America and the world. An unpopular war is raging, thousands of people are dying and the people who are making this war happen are not listening to the rest of the world, asking them to put a stop to the madness.

This time the war is in Gaza and the state of Israel is incurring the wrath of much of the civilized world. The U.S. has become an enabler and many people feel that Biden is not doing enough to prevent Israel from killing more Palestinians and destroying their land. Senator Bernie Sanders is calling for the withholding of support to Israel if there are not strict conditions on how the aid is used, but his common sense pleas are falling on deaf ears.

It seems that although people of all ages are outraged at the behavior of Israel, it is mostly the young people of the world who are showing their displeasure at events and putting themselves at risk by protesting on college campuses. This is similar to what happened during the Viet Nam War.

Medicare Advantage Fraud In Plain Sight

The federal government may be finally realizing just how fraudulent the insurers are who provide Medicare Advantage policies. According to the Physicians for a National Health Plan (PNHP)”… federal administrators stood by their initial 3.7% increase, sending a message to corporate insurers that the Medicare Advantage gravy train may finally be slowing down.”

That would be something close to miraculous considering that many Advantage insurers have been found to be acting fraudulently and that most studies indicate that the Advantage program is draining money from the Medicare program at an alarming rate.

Five of the top 10 Advantage insurers have been accused of fraud by whistleblowers as well as the federal government.

Can’t Impeach-Prosecute Joe Biden For Illegally Continuing to Supply Bombs Dropped on Homes in Gaza

Biden has been guilty of breaking a U.S. law against providing U.S. weapons to a nation using them against a civilian population as Israel has been doing openly for five months.

“When the President of the United States becomes aware of the possibility of violations of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), the law mandates specific actions:

Prompt Notification to Congress: The President is required to promptly notify Congress about the potential violations.”

Those People

I have been trying to understand why having a visible population of people who either appear homeless or, who look as though their body or their mind is in a troubled state, cause people to react strongly to their presence. I don’t think there is a simple answer to this question, but I do believe that if we try to look at “those people” from different perspectives we just might be able to soften the fear and anger that is aroused.

It is frightening to many people to have to walk in close proximity to people they believe to be homeless or troubled. Part of the problem is that panhandling has become a common activity and when people are asked for money they feel violated and they may fear that they will be accosted if they don’t give people what they are asking for.

We live in a free society and that means that all of us have rights to pursue a vocation, whether or not it is socially acceptable, as long as it does not break any laws. Some places have tried to outlaw panhandling. Panhandling is a confrontational act and some people might say they have the right to walk in their own town without experiencing the fear that panhandling arouses in them. A lot of people react when they see a panhandler by assuming they are too lazy to get a job.

A Celebration of Earth: An Evening with Bill McKibben, Douglas Brinkley, and Ben Cosgrove at Next Stage

Join Next Stage for an evening of discussion and music inspired by the climate crisis and environmental activism. New York Times bestselling author and historian Douglas Brinkley and environmentalist and author Bill McKibben will talk about their writings on climate action and environmental history, in a discussion moderated by Vanessa Vadim.

The evening will open with music from traveling composer-performer Ben Cosgrove, whose music explores themes of landscape, place, and environment. The event will take place at Next Stage on Saturday, April 13 at 7:30 pm at 15 Kimball Hill in downtown Putney, VT. Tickets are $15. 

Ember Rebrina on “Here We Are”

A first person account of running for your freedom and safety as a non-binary person from Russia. After much red tape, detainment and hardship, Ember Rebrina is now in Brattleboro, receiving help and support through CASP, and volunteers in the community.

Humanitarian Advocacy Group Seeks a 2nd VT Organizer

Grab this dynamic opportunity to strategically engage members of Congress for progressive foreign policy change!  Action Corps is currently recruiting a second Vermont organizer to join our national team. We are building leaders for democracy in the U.S.; a ceasefire in Gaza, Yemen and beyond; and global climate justice. Join us as we continue our track record of effective collaboration and humanitarian results. 

Liv Berelson on “Here We Are”

Brattleboro is becoming home to asylum seekers and refugees.

Liv Berelson is on the front lines at CASP, (Community Asylum Seekers Project) and fills us in on the practical measures of support and services available, as well as the reality of their daily lives here and now. And the many ways their presence benefits our town.

A Little Something

I went out on a date this week, if you can call it that. All it was really was dinner. We knew each other quite well, and both of us had the taste for a certain cuisine from a very popular place. It was bound to be crowded at the dinner hour, we knew it would be. And it was. But nonetheless, we were game.

This establishment has a particular and rigid system in place regarding ordering. One line at a counter. For everything. To pick up take out. To eat in. Get a beverage. Whatever. A single line that delivers customers to the register one at a time like a gum-ball machine. You line up and wait your turn. No wiggle room to the method. There are tables, but no table service. Servers bring the carefully prepared items over to you when ready, but the only way to obtain food is to place and pay for an order when it comes your turn.

This brings me to the point of all this. The other night, on our “date”, I went up to order for us and it’d be fair to say there were half a dozen or so people ahead of me. Suddenly, a guy sidles up to the counter, we could all see it coming, and it wasn’t made any better by the fact he had his AirPods in, but anyway, he leans in- well, first he shut his music, angles in and then says, to all of us, “I placed my order before and got served already but forgot something, would you mind if I just slip in and add a little something?”

Housing Crisis Fake News ?

The town has waged a legal campaign against BCS for its emergency homeless shelters in RVs for a year now. Their charges are based on rumors and technicalities.

They can win only by their legal power. At our “trial” February 21, 2023 selectwoman Elizabeth McLoughlin objected to the chairperson referring to the housing emergency. She said BCS (Daims) was the only one declaring it that. BTW the housing crisis was already a national issue. The only deniers were on the Brattleboro selectboard. (The selectboard is the health board).

Never Forget

Should we continue to remind people of what an evil, manipulating and dangerous sociopath Donald Trump is? His followers will never accept any form of truth and the rest of us are living in fear of him becoming President again.

I was reminded of the statement by German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller. At first he sympathized with many of the ideas in Nazi Germany, but when Hitler came to power he became a critic and ended up in prison. His words are as relevant today as they were in Nazi Germany.

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

They’re Talking About Homelessness Again

It goes in cycles. The public conscience gets activated and politicians and policymakers talk about the crisis of homelessness and about how something needs to be done about it. There is a lot of talk, a few stories by major media outlets for a few weeks or months, and then not much changes.

To be fair, there are a number of programs around the country that create housing for homeless people and they do make life better for people as long as there is solid case management support and motivation for people to improve their lives. Brattleboro, Vermont has a number of organizations serving the homeless and, despite growing in capacity and comprehensiveness over the years, they are faced with a Sisyphean task.

Sadly, Vermont has the second highest rate of homelessness in the country. We have a severe shortage of affordable housing, prices for homes that are too high and high property taxes that make it difficult for too many people to stay in their homes as they age and try to live on fixed incomes.

Warm Winter Coats – Donation Boxes

Please donate clean, gently used coats and boots for men, women, and children of all sizes

Drop off boxes are on the porch of The General Store in Putney and at the Brattleboro Coop entrance

Groundworks is currently housing, feeding, and supporting 200+ neighbors experiencing homelessness.

GunSenseVT Candlelight Vigil Nov 2 Pliny Park Brattleboro

GunSense VT is holding a candlelight vigil in Brattleboro this Thursday, November 2nd at Pliny Park, 5 p.m. in support of the people of Lewiston, Maine, banning assault weapons, and passing common sense legislation to save innocent lives. It is one of several that are planned for the same day around the State.
As GunSense VT board member Laura Subin, whose daughter was in lockdown at Bates College in Lewiston last week, said, “The chilling proximity of the tragedy in Maine shatters any illusion of safety we might have previously felt here in Vermont. It is a harrowing reminder that no community is immune to this sort of heartache.”

The Windham County Heat Fund – The Need Continues After 19 Years

If you live in the Northeast chances are pretty good you have been using oil, propane or wood to heat your home for a few weeks. There are some people that set a date for turning on their furnace and they suffer through until then, partly as a matter of principle and partly because of the cost of fuel.

Then there are those among us, a growing number, who struggle to heat their homes. They rely on federal and state fuel assistance programs which do not start until late November. The politics of that have always troubled me and politicians say they understand the timing is not realistic, but the allocation doesn’t happen until well after the need for heat starts.

This is where the Windham County Heat Fund comes in. We try to have a reserve of funds at the start of the heating season so we can fill that gap for people who rely on government fuel assistance to keep warm. Our busiest times are now until late November and near the end of the heating season when people have used up their fuel assistance allocations.

Crime Research Group Study

Are you one of the 902?

We are working with Crime Research Group (CRG) on a study funded by the National Institute of Justice to help find people willing to participate in a study about the experiences of defendants of color in Southern Vermont criminal courts. Researchers are looking to speak with people over the age of 18 who have at least one closed criminal case since 2019 that was handled in Bennington, Rutland, Windham, and/or Windsor County. Participants will be interviewed about their experience before, during, and after court.