Turning Point studies return to downtown Brattleboro

Tuesday November 20, 2012

BRATTLEBORO -- Last year, financial concerns prompted Turning Point of Windham County to move out of downtown Brattleboro.

Now, administrators are proposing to move back after seeing a marked drop in the number of people walking through their doors since the facility relocated.

But the process will take time, and Turning Point leaders are forming a task force to help find a long-term home for a program that provides free services to those who are recovering from addictions.

"A lot of people think we're better off back downtown," Turning Point Director Suzie Walker said. "We do, too. But we need to find the right place."

Turning Point bills itself as a "safe, supportive gathering place for all whose lives have been affected by addictions." The mostly volunteer-run center offers peer support, education, meeting space and other resources.

The center's message, spelled out on its Facebook page, is simple: "Recovery means you don't have to be alone."

That approach has produced results: According to data from the last fiscal year, 85 percent of those who used Turning Point say the center "has helped me maintain my recovery." More than 20 percent said they had found housing or work since visiting Turning Point.

"These are people who are in recovery," Walker said. "People get confused about that. We are not a drug-treatment center."

For more than four years, Turning Point was based on Elm Street in Brattleboro, a location that provided easy pedestrian access.

"It was downtown, and we got a lot of people just dropping in," Walker said. "We find a lot of people in early recovery are not driving for a variety of reasons."

But costs forced a move in August 2011 to 112 Hardwood Way off Putney Road in Brattleboro.

There are benefits to that location: Turning Point saves $550 monthly in rent and heat at the Hardwood Way facility, which also provides ample parking and space.

"We love this location for a lot of reasons," Walker said. "But it is enough off the beaten path that it affects how many people come in."

That decline has been sharp. Administrators said drop-in visits in the fiscal year that ended June 30 were down by 2,000, and meeting attendance was off the previous year's pace by about 6,000.

"When we moved out of downtown, we lost several meetings that were meeting here daily," Walker said.

Turning Point will remain at its current location at least until August 2013. That gives administrators time to find a new downtown home that may bring back some of those lost visitors.

The task force will study that move, allowing Walker and other Turning Point leaders to stay focused on the center's operations.

Those who want to offer input on Turning Point's future and those who would like to play an active role in the pending relocation are invited to a brown-bag lunch meeting scheduled for noon on Nov. 28 at the center.

More information also is available by calling the center at 802-257-5600.

In a recent memo to supporters, Walker said there are many options to explore in the coming months.

"We hope to find a facility downtown to rent or maybe to own, which would require folks with an expertise in capital campaigns or fundraising," she wrote. "Perhaps there's a benefactor who has a building to lease to us? The more we talk about relocating, the more ideas we hear about how to make it happen."

Mike Faher can be reached at mfaher@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.


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