Homeless VT Man Kicked Out Of Shelter For Helping Those In Need

 NBC News homeless.jpg

BARRE, Vt. (NBC) — A 48-year old Vermont man who earns a modest daily stipend for manning a Salvation Army kettle at the local shopping center now faces eviction from a homeless shelter because of his work.

A staff member at the Good Samaritan Haven in Barre, Vermont notified Paul Tucker by letter this week that it “will no longer support individuals volunteering for the Salvation Army.

We provide housing for those trying to get their lives in order,” the letter said.

Tucker has lived at the shelter for about nine months, and hasn’t had a full-time job for most of that time.

He said he now earns a $20 stipend each day from the Salvation Army, which works out to $2 per hour.

Standing outside a local supermarket, the soft-spoken, friendly man showed no bitterness toward the shelter but acknowledged he has no idea where he’ll go.

“I really can’t say much because they’ve kept me there quite a while,” he said.

The shelter has a policy requiring clients to work diligently toward finding permanent housing.

Paul Mascitti, the shelter’s executive director, told a local newspaper “there are opportunities out there and none of them pay $2 an hour.”

Captain Louis Patrick, who runs the Salvation Army chapter in Barre, said he’s confused by the message the shelter is sending.

He says that when he telephoned the shelter to talk about Paul’s situation, a staff member hung up on him.

The Good Samaritan Haven has operated for 21 years in Barre, Vermont.

It claims more than half its clients find suitable housing while there, and the average stay in 2006 was 29 days.

Nonetheless, the shelter’s decision to evict a man who is working to assist another charity drew a range of reactions.

“It’s an outrage,” said Paul Duprey, who lives near the shelter. “I mean this gentleman is out there working in what he can do.”

Duprey hopes residents organize a protest against shelter management.

Another resident, Ellen Bloom, echoed that sentiment.

“I’m disgusted. Here’s a guy trying to do good work. He’s not making much money but he’s trying to do good work for the community and help other people and he’s getting booted out,” Bloom said.

But Art Ristau of Barre saw it differently.

“He (Tucker) is supposed to devote his time to seeking alternative housing arrangements,” Ristau said. “I guess my sympathies lie with the shelter in this instance, unfortunately,” said Ristau.

Patrick said the Salvation Army relies heavily on volunteers like Tucker to raise money during the holiday season.

Without them, “we’d have no one there to collect. If no one’s there to collect, we’re out that income. Without that income we’re not able to run year ’round,” said Patrick.

Patrick said he had always had a good relationship with the shelter, whose clients often intersect with his own. “But maybe that’s changing,” he said.

Tucker said he hoped to stay in Barre after Saturday, the date he expects to have to leave the shelter, but isn’t sure where he’ll sleep.

He hopes to continue with the kettle drive, however.

“They’ve helped me out too,” he said of the Salvation Army. “There’ve been days when I haven’t had nothing to eat and they’ve helped me out.”

Tucker said he has no driver’s license, suffers from epilepsy, and has no plans for Christmas.

After putting a few dollars in the red kettle, Cindy Ross smiled at the man and then headed for her car. She was aware of his predicament.

“I feel badly,” she said. “I felt it was kind of sad. Especially this time of year.”

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