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Staff Spotlight – Meet Megan!

Hi – I’m Megan!

I’ve been with Pathways Vermont for three and a half years on the Franklin County team. I started as a service coordinator for our Family Supportive Housing team right when the program began in October 2020. My current role is the Service Team Lead. I would describe myself as someone who is motivated, empathetic, trustworthy, and passionate. I enjoy supporting people where they are mentally and physically, and can easily make connections as I am genuine in my nature.

In my role as Service Team Lead, I oversee the day-to-day operations of our service team in Franklin County. I participate in collaborative meetings with team members, community members, and service providers, while also being a part of a team that provides compassionate, community-based services. The team and I meet every morning to review the prior day’s documentation; we also plan our days around the needs of those we serve who need support navigating a variety of challenges. I enjoy collaborating with the service team, helping them to continue the great work they do—providing one-on-one, client-centered support in areas such as housing, community resources, mental health, and substance abuse, among others. Though in a leadership role, I love and value that I still get to work directly with clients, meeting with them in their homes and/or the community.

What inspires me about Pathways’ mission to end homelessness and provide innovative mental health alternatives is the essential nature of the services this organization provides in our community. We all likely know someone, if not ourselves, who has needed help navigating very difficult circumstances at one point. Everyone deserves a safe space to ‘come home to,’ access to resources to help them be and stay well, and Pathways offers that support in a safe, empathetic, and non-judgmental way. My favorite part of this work are the connections made with individuals who often have no one and are frequently pushed aside due to stigmatization around mental health, substance use, and homelessness. We often become the only constant support in someone’s life, and that really means a lot to many we serve.

My most memorable experience at Pathways was when the Family Supportive Housing (FSH) program started in the fall of 2020. We had many new enrollments and individuals to support in finding housing; the first family I supported with a lease up stands out in my mind. They had children, and it was around the holidays, so it made me extremely happy and emotional to support someone in ‘going home’.

My biggest motivation for coming to work every day is knowing that the help is still greatly needed in our communities, and it affects us all in some way or another. People should not turn a blind eye to someone else’s suffering; everyone’s story is important and should be heard.

Staff Spotlight – Meet Chris!

Hi – I’m Chris!

As the Peer Support Programs Team Lead, I oversee the Pathways Vermont Community Center and the Pathways Vermont Support Line. Over the course of nearly four years with Pathways, I have held various roles, including positions at Soteria House and the Community Center. My dedication to peer support extends beyond my work at Pathways; I also serve as the board of directors Co-Chair for Alyssum, a two-bed peer respite in Rochester, VT. Additionally, I recently had the opportunity to give testimony at the statehouse in support of peer certification. You can check out the video here (I present at 26:45)

In my role, I am responsible for supporting supervisors, facilitating the professional development of our staff, and ensuring accountability within both programs. I am continuously seeking ways to expand each program and better meet the needs of those we serve. I am passionate about meeting people where they are and finding ways to offer them what they need.

In my role, no two days are alike. My daily activities vary depending on whether my focus is more on the Support Line or the Community Center. A typical day working with the Vermont Support Line (VSL) could look like connecting with callers on the line or meeting with each Support Line shift to talk about challenges and approaches that some are finding helpful for connecting with those that are hard to connect with. A day at the Community Center could look like overseeing drop-in hours, connecting with community members over tea or coffee, and making sure all elements of things we are offering are still functioning and acting as a resource.

Pathways’ mission to end homelessness and provide innovative mental health alternatives inspires me because, working at Pathways, I have been able to meet many more people in the community and connect with others who are part of the peer movement. I am very passionate about people having access to alternative mental health supports. I think that a lot of harm is done in our traditional mental health system. A lot of it is done unintentionally, stemming from a place of not knowing the impacts of action and the lack of knowledge of different ways to do it that aren’t the medical model. We give people another option, something they can choose to opt into that is based in connections and relationships. We give people a space to not feel alone. It inspires me to find opportunities to make that happen for people, finding ways to meet people where they are at and offer people what they need. 

I would say my most memorable experience at Pathways has been building the Community Center back from the pandemic and reestablishing relationships. It’s the moments when you pause and see all of these people in the space, and it is really thriving, that feel really good. I would say the unknown and potential of every day really motivate me to come to work. I have been leaning more into outreach work and building relationships with community partners, and I never know the impact I am having or what I am going to face. We are really fortunate to have a great team at the Community Center and on the Support Line where the work gets personal; we get involved; we care about folks. It is really passionate and raw work in both programs, and I am very grateful for them. There is a lot of expertise around Pathways, which makes the work we do possible.

Staff Spotlight – Meet Loren!

Hi – I’m Loren!

I have worked at Soteria House for four and a half years as a supervisor, and currently hold the position of House Team Lead. I support Soteria by supervising the second shift and overseeing our house regulations for the state. I am someone who appreciates genuine connection with others, adventures in nature and in gardening, and learning about psychology. I also value hard work and pranks that are kind in nature.

In my day-to-day role at Soteria House I try to prioritize being with residents and staff as much as possible. This often includes in-depth conversations about someone’s experience of extreme state or making meaning, as well as brief check-ins and sometimes sharing of gratitude over dinner. I support the house also by organizing and cleaning projects, as well as intra-leadership discussions and planning for staffing.

I am inspired by Pathways’ mission to end homelessness and provide innovative mental health alternatives because I believe that all people have the right to housing, as well as finding meaning in their experiences when in crisis. I appreciate Soteria specifically for being a non-judgmental place for residents to explore their experiences, with or without medications (depending on someone’s preference).

At Soteria I get to experience a sense of belonging that comes from working in a community, with residents who may engage in meaningful conversations and staff who truly appreciate team work, and working toward a collective vision of making meaning in a way that each resident values. I feel inspired to work at Soteria every day.

One of my most memorable experiences at Pathways was a resident outing to a favorite nature spot at night, where all residents attended. We arrived at the spot just before it got dark, bringing sparkling grape juice and snacks with us.

As it got dark, we watched the fireflies together, and then enjoyed a walk through the woods. This experience felt meaningful to me, as all residents were present and connecting with one another, as well as with staff, and appreciated the magic of witnessing fireflies.

Staff Spotlight – Meet Skylar!

Hi – I’m Skylar! 

I am the Nurse Team Lead and also serve as the nurse for the Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) team. I currently work mainly in Burlington and Chittenden County, but since working with Pathways I’ve worked all over, from Brattleboro to St. Albans. I support the nurses who work with our Housing First program as well as provide direct nursing support to individuals enrolled in the FACT program. Forensic Assertive Community Treatment (FACT) is a new Pathways Vermont program supporting folks who have severe mental illness and are coming out of the correction system. 

FACT is a partnership between both the Department of Mental Health and the Department of Corrections. It is meant to help keep folks with mental illness from cycling through corrections again and again by providing the community support they need. It’s an exciting new program! 

My day-to-day role comprises both direct service and a combination of meetings, administrative tasks, emails, and a touch of advocacy. In terms of direct service, I meet individuals where they are and assist with healthcare and nursing needs. This can include medication management, medical and nursing case management (such as scheduling appointments and supporting during them), wound care, injections, and more. Additionally, I supervise the nursing staff in our Housing First Program. I also have the opportunity to be a part of several coalitions, specifically the Decriminalize Vermont and Overdose Prevention Site committees. Both of these are harm reduction coalitions actively seeking harm reduction solutions.

Pathways’ mission and particularly our values inspire me a lot! I truly feel I’ve discovered an organization that genuinely “puts its money where its mouth is.” I am inspired by the WAY Pathways wants to provide services, which is by putting personal agency and choice at the forefront of everything we do. Pathways recognizes that it sits in the middle of a system of oppression, and that we can be complicit in these systems, or try our best to dismantle them. We provide direct services, but we are also always dreaming of a world where our organization doesn’t need to exist. Moreover, we’re not solely system-oriented; we recognize and honor the full humanity of every individual we serve. I love that Pathways doesn’t look for the easiest answer or solution, but really tries to imagine how we can be in the world that does the most good for the most people, without getting caught up in some of the judgment that you see from some other service providers. 

I can’t pinpoint my one favorite Pathways experience to date, but most memorable for me is all of the unique places I’ve given people injections. In cars! In parks! While they were in handcuffs! I’m motivated by my coworkers and service recipients to come to work every day. My coworkers rock, and truly care about the people we are supporting. And though it is hard to generalize about all of the people I work with, in general our service recipients are some of the most authentic folks I’ve ever met. I appreciate my connections with them so much.

Meet Nikki: A Story of Resilience, Determination, and New Beginnings

Nikki is a mother and a native Vermonter. She exudes a warm, positive, inspiring energy. Nikki first experienced homelessness in 2016. She struggled with drug and alcohol use and got by stealing and sleeping in the downtown parking garages and wherever she could find a place. “It wasn’t pretty,” Nikki reflects. “ When I was homeless, it didn’t feel like there was any assistance; there just wasn’t help.”

In 2018, Nikki was arrested for violating conditions of a prior release. This led to her incarceration until November 2021.

“I faced withdrawal symptoms in jail,” she recalls. “One day, I tried making a birthday card for my daughter, only to realize I didn’t even know her favorite color. That was my wake-up call.” Determined to change her life, Nikki came across the Pathways Vermont Department of Corrections (DOC) program.

Nikki had an upcoming court case where she was due to be released from incarceration. “I think the judge was shocked, but I asked to stay incarcerated for longer.” Nikki said.  “I didn’t want to be released from jail to be homeless and on the streets again, I was sober at that point and I didn’t want to throw that away.” Nikki stayed in jail until she was able to be released and work directly with the Pathways DOC program. “Doing it that way, I did an extra year and a half in jail. I had nothing, but when I left incarceration I moved straight into an apartment with a bed, a safe place to stay, everything I needed to get by was there.”

Nikki’s journey continued as she transitioned from her initial Pathways Vermont apartment in Winooski on November 30th, 2021, to a permanent residence in Burlington on September 1st, 2023. “Pathways did more than just provide housing; they have connected me with doctors, resources, and have even brought me to appointments. They’ve been there for me every step of the way.” Looking to the future, Nikki is excited to spend time with her three kids and grandchild, and an upcoming knee surgery which will enable her to be in better shape to keep up with her kids.

When asked what she’d say to someone unfamiliar with Pathways, Nikki emphasized:

“Anyone who is a user and struggling and thinks it can’t be done is wrong. There are programs out there to assist you and give you strength and the pillars to lean on. Pathways is one of the best programs that I found to do that. Everything I have now is because of Pathways. They will work with you, you just need to be open and honest with them.”

Meet Trever – An Expert in Second Acts

Pathways Vermont Service Recipient Trever is someone who loves to spend his free time recovering furniture and items from second-hand stores and giving them new life. He believes in second chances, isn’t afraid to be himself, and enjoys life’s simple pleasures. A native Vermonter, Trever became homeless in 2006 when he was living in Morrisville.

Trever lived in the woods of Wilmot Mountain with his puppy at the time. “Every night I would climb a tree with my puppy in my bag, and we would sleep on a branch inside my sleeping bag.”

Trever got by heating food in a plastic bag in warm water and spending time with his puppy, a memory he looks back on fondly. “There were never people in the woods, which actually helped, being alone was peaceful.” From there, Trever ended up incarcerated for 17 years.

“Being in jail was really hard. I lost a lot of family while I was incarcerated. When things got too hard to handle I thought of past memories, anything that was special to me. It was almost like watching TV and remembering.” Trever first heard about Pathways from a fellow inmate, and at first, never thought he would qualify, but after 17 years of being incarcerated, he was hopeful. Trever filled out the paperwork and waited for the next steps.

Finally, Trever met with someone from Pathways with his caseworker and waited about a year before he was released. “It was overwhelming and so exciting when I knew I had an apartment to go to.” Trever moved into his apartment straight from incarceration with the help of Pathways Vermont. “Everyone has been so kind and patient. Jeff and Dave always check in on me. Dez, Kristen – everyone is here for me.”

Looking ahead, Trever hopes in the future he can own his own house and have a beautiful property that his kids would be proud of him for. He also hopes to be closer to his mother and continue to spend his days recovering second-hand furniture and finding ways to tell old stories in new, beautiful ways. 

Meet Stephen!

The first time Stephen experienced homelessness was when he was 12 years old and was kicked out of his house. From there he spent years on and off experiencing homelessness. “I have been homeless a lot over the years,” Stephen shared, “I lost numerous apartments while trying to help others.”

When asked about the feeling of such experiences, he remarked, “It made me feel powerless. I felt like people didn’t really care and felt as though they could help, but wouldn’t.”

Stephen first connected with Pathways during the summer of 2013 while he was incarcerated. After his release, with the help of Pathways, he moved directly into an apartment, and has worked with Pathways ever since. “Working with Pathways has been a rewarding experience in numerous ways. I’ve met a lot of truly kind people.” Since 2013, a lot has happened for Stephen, but he maintains a sense of positivity. “It has been both a struggle and a blessing.” Stephen had to leave his first apartment post-incarceration due to a bed bug infestation, and lived with a friend in motels for a year before moving into his next apartment in Shelburne. He stayed there with a friend until they had to move.

Despite all of life’s struggles, Stephen is the kind of person who doesn’t let challenges get him down. A self described optimist, Stephen always tries to look at the bright side of everything and count his blessings.

Stephen has now been in his current apartment since March 2023. He appreciates its accessibility, and has begun to furnish the apartment with new chairs and tables, which helps the place feel like home. When asked about his overall experience with Pathways, Stephen said, “The people at Pathways have always been helpful, courteous, and respectful. The service coordinators I work with are always willing to bring me to vote, get my meds, take me shopping, or wherever I need to go. They are always willing to help, and I truly appreciate that.”

Staff Spotlight – Meet Stephanie!

Hi – I’m Stephanie!

“I’ve been with Pathways Vermont since July of 2021. During this time, I’ve served as a Rapid Rehousing Service Coordinator, the Southern Vermont Team Lead for Rapid Rehousing, and currently, I’m the Housing Coordinator for Bennington County. In my role as a Housing Coordinator, I conduct housing searches via online sources and my landlord list, meet with clients regularly to discuss their housing needs and barriers, complete housing applications, and provide support to the Property Manager as needed. What I appreciate about Pathways Vermont is our approach to supporting people where they are at the moment. Whether that means sleeping on a park bench, living in an apartment, or anything in between, we don’t judge people based on where they are in their current situation. Instead, we provide support with housing and any additional needs that they identify as important to them.

My most memorable Pathways experience to date is of an individual in the community who has been homeless for most of their life. This person was living under a bridge and had been since before Pathways had come to Bennington. They had been working with me as a Rapid Rehousing client and transitioned to a Housing First client once Rapid Rehousing ended. When we first started working together, this person was very hesitant to meet with me, and it took a lot to build their trust. We went from this person not being willing to get into my vehicle to them feeling comfortable to drive with me to get their social security card ordered at the social security office almost an hour away. In February of 2023, I was able to support this client by leasing up their own apartment with their Shelter Plus Care subsidy. They have been able to acquire furniture and make the space their home. They continue to work with the ACT team and have been successful with living in their own home.

I enjoy coming to work every day, knowing that the work that I do is directly supporting others. I love that I can go into the community and meet with clients, not just sit at a desk and hope they come in for our appointment. There’s also this feeling that we call the “housing high” that I get every time I house someone. This feeling of knowing that I was a part of something great encourages me to continue in order to benefit other clients. I really appreciate that Pathways puts our mental health needs into consideration as well. I have never worked at an organization where they encourage the employees to take care of themselves. I also really appreciate staff retreats, where we are encouraged to get to know each other more and to take days to relax as a group and bond. Pathways has expanded quickly in a short amount of time; however, they continue to listen to their employees’ needs. I feel like retention and pay was a huge topic during our last all-staff retreat, and within a year, they have been able to provide retention bonuses, have increased the minimum pay, and are working to compensate existing staff accordingly.” 


Meet Kevin!

Kevin is the kind of person you can meet once and feel as if you’ve known forever. A self-described laid-back individual, he has spent most of his life as a Vermonter. Kevin was raised in Burlington, and although he moved away several times, he always found his way back to Vermont. Kevin joked, “Even when I lived in California, I was on West Vermont Street.” Kevin became homeless for the first time in 2009. With nowhere to go and challenges living unhoused, he ended up incarcerated for eight years.

“That journey was a long, rough trail, but being on the other side feels so good,” he shared. He first heard about Pathways during a meeting with his counselor while incarcerated. “My counselor mentioned Pathways, and I knew then that I wanted to join the program,” he recalled. Kevin connected with Pathways three years ago, transitioning directly from incarceration to housing. As part of the Department of Corrections Program, he was directly connected to housing and had Pathways along the way for support. “The first person I met was Lauren. It was an excellent first encounter. She had everything prepared for me—my apartment, a bed. Whatever I needed, Pathways was there for me,” he said. The move into his apartment straight from incarceration was a big adjustment. “Moving from jail into society and an apartment, it took me a while to get used to things again.”

Despite his challenges, Kevin maintains an unwavering sense of positivity. “I have had some bad times in my life, and it took me a long time to get here, but that’s okay. I’m here now.” Kevin is in his permanent apartment, a cozy space filled with family photographs, his grandchildren’s artwork, and many plants. “My favorite part of my apartment is the whole thing. I am pretty well settled and couldn’t ask for much more than what I have—a nice clean place to call home. This is it, and it’s great.” Kevin enjoys going fishing and on bike rides. He also loves the variety of community activities available on those days when he wants to step outside his cozy apartment.

When asked about his experience working with Pathways Vermont, Kevin replied, “Find them, connect with them; they are a great program with great people. They will help you all the way through as long as you want the help. I’m thankful I met them.”

Meet Ronni!

Ronni is a one-of-a-kind individual who cares deeply for those around them and has a sense of humor and smile that can light up a room. We first interviewed Ronni in 2019 when, with Pathways’ help, they moved into an apartment in Winooski after living out of their van for years. Since our first conversation with Ronni, a lot has happened. After the COVID-19 pandemic began, Ronni had a heart attack and double bypass surgery, and ended up homeless again due to challenges in their housing caused by a bad relationship.

“I felt more prepared to be homeless this time around because I had Pathways as a support from the start.” They ended up staying at the Champlain Inn and worked with Pathways staff to navigate homelessness and their medical care. Ronni cares for others, sometimes above their own needs. They have spent a large portion of their life advocating for others and often refer to themselves as an on-the-streets volunteer peer specialist. “I had to stop feeling like I was a co-worker on the streets and start realizing that Pathways was as much a resource for me as for other people.” When Ronni had their heart attack, they were in City Hall Park and didn’t want to upset those they were helping; that was an epiphany moment. 

“I thought, I need to use my own resources. Katie from Pathways was my resource at that time. She took me to get heart surgery, and she showed up at my hospital bed. Katie said, ‘Pathways is not going to leave you. We are still here even though everything seems like a lot right now; we are still here.’” Ronni moved into their current apartment this past February. When asked what their favorite part of the apartment was, they replied, “My live-in aide, Tim, is my favorite part. I knew when I was housed, I would need help; that is a hard thing to admit. It is difficult to have someone move in with you and see the more vulnerable sides of you, but Tim has become the most meaningful part of my apartment.” Now that they are re-housed and feeling stable, they are looking forward to focusing on themselves and connecting to their community as a community member, not as a resource. Ronni still communicates with Pathways staff, who are a daily part of their life. Ronni looks forward to game nights and other events at the Pathways Vermont Community Center, and appreciates the ease of having access to so much within the community.