Two nights ago, if you drove by Burlington's Waterfront Theatre before the first of this year's gubernatorial debates, you probably saw a bunch of colorful signs hyping Republican Gov. Jim Douglas and his major campaign rivals, Democrat Gaye Symington and Progressive-turned-Independent Anthony Pollina. Here's what you didn't see: More than 60 homelessness advocates rallying outside the building's back entrance.
"Hey, hey, ho ho! We ain't got no place to go!" they yelled. The crowd included residents of a homeless shelter on lower ChurchStreet, as well as the directors of three nonprofits dedicated to serving Vermont's homeless population: The Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS) in Burlington, the John W. Graham Emergency Shelter in Vergennes and Samaritan House in St. Albans.
All three directors announced that their shelters are at overflow capacity. Translation: They are turning homeless people out onto the streets for lack of resources. "Hey, Jim, we're in a jam!" said the crowd.
The best short-term fix state officials could provide, the directors said, would be a $500,000 emergency appropriation to Vermont's homeless shelters. Just after 6:30, Anthony Pollina showed up, pledged his support and roundly criticized Jim Douglas' record. After Pollina waved goodbye and entered the Waterfront Theatre, House Speaker and Guv-hopeful Gaye Symington got an earful from COTS Executive Director Rita Markley.
Gov. Jim Douglas used a different entrance.