People set up their tents for the Camp for a Common Cause on the Brattleboro Town Common, Friday evening. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
People set up their tents for the Camp for a Common Cause on the Brattleboro Town Common, Friday evening. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
Saturday May 4, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- When the weather warms up the Brattleboro emergency overflow shelter closes down for the year, but that doesn't mean the challenge to keep people warm and safe goes away.

Morningside Shelter Executive Director Josh Davis says the homeless shelter has a waiting list year round, and so when the emergency shelter closes it only means that homeless people are forced to find shelter and safety farther away.

They camp in the woods or spend their evening moving between different sites.

On Friday afternoon Davis was helping people find a place on the Brattleboro Common to camp for the night for the first annual Camp for a Common Cause.

"We thought this would be a good way to raise awareness about homelessness," said Davis. "In small towns like Brattleboro homelessness is not always as visible as in larger urban areas and we wanted to remind people that it does exist in this community.

Morningside Shelter and Brattleboro Area Drop-In Center will split all of the money that was raised during the camp out on the common.

As part of the event campers were asked to raise $100 and people dropped by all afternoon to drop off change, dollars and checks.

Davis said he hoped to have between 50 and 60 tents on the Common lawn Friday night and the two groups set a goal of trying to raise $20,000 from the event.

Friday night was also Gallery Walk and supporters had a table on Main Street to encourage people to come down and visit the common, where campers were going to listen to music and try to stay warm during what was Davis said was probably going to be a cold night.

On Saturday morning the East Dummerston Fire Department was going to prepare breakfast for the campers and for anyone else who stopped by to support the event.

The drop in center also held its second annual Melinda Bussino Memorial Food Drive at the common during the day Friday.

Bussino, the former Director of the Brattleboro Area Drop In Center, died on March 4, 2012 and last year WKVT Program Director Peter "Fish" Case hosted a food drop at River Valley Credit Union.

This year Case said the Melinda Bussino Memorial Food Drive was held on the Common as a way for the drop in center and Morningside Shelter to work together to raise awareness about homelessness and hunger.

People dropped by all day to drop off bags of food, which were going to be driven right over to the drop in center on South Main Street.

Case says it made sense for the two groups to work together, right around the time the emergency shelter closes, to remind people that homelessness and hunger exist in all seasons.

"These two groups work hand in hand all year," he said. "They're working for a common cause and while we were out here it made sense to merge the events together. It's amazing how this community comes out to support this work."

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.

Chris Lievense of the SPARK Program at Marlboro College sets up signs at the Camp for a Common Cause on the Brattleboro Town Common. (Zachary P.
Chris Lievense of the SPARK Program at Marlboro College sets up signs at the Camp for a Common Cause on the Brattleboro Town Common. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)