Places of Privilege & Poverty:

County and Town Profiles

In the United States, rural people and places are often overlooked among scholars and policymakers. …[I]mproving the circumstances of the rural poor will therefore require greater commitment to public engagement and information outreach than we have seen to this point.


Daniel Lichter and Kai Schafft

“People and Places Left Behind: Rural Poverty in the New Century”

The economic and social conditions of poverty and inequality are complex and multidimensional. This site introduces only some of those topics: education, food insecurity, housing, and health and wellness. Geographically, we focus on Vermont, comparing statewide measures to national and local measures. We highlight Addison County, home to Middlebury College, comparing it to the state’s thirteen other counties, and we dig deeper into Addison County’s twenty-three towns. All measures for counties and towns come from the American Community Survey’s 2018 5-year estimates.
Throughout this site, we reproduce excerpts from a 2015 report co-authored by Pamela Berenbaum, Director of the Global Health Program and Professor of the Practice of Global Health at Middlebury College, and Alessandria Schumacher, Middlebury College Class of 2017. Their report, Local Determinants of Health in Addison County, provides valuable insights into the breadth of issues affecting life in Addison County. We share quotes from the interviews collected for that report to include voices of community members and local experts.
We also profile local organizations working to address the challenges associated with poverty and economic inequality in Addison County. Many of these community partners host summer internships affiliated with Middlebury College’s Privilege & Poverty Academic Cluster. We incorporate reflections from the student interns as well as staff from the organizations.
Use a full screen for the best viewing experience. Hover over maps and figures to easily compare across geographies and click on column headings to sort tables.

Fast Facts

Addison County was incorporated in 1785 and is located in central Vermont. It is nestled in the heart of the Champlain Valley, with the Green Mountains to the east and New York’s Adirondacks to the west.

Twenty-three towns make up Addison County: Addison, Bridport, Bristol, Cornwall, Ferrisburgh, Goshen, Granville, Hancock, Leicester, Lincoln, Middlebury, Monkton, New Haven, Orwell, Panton, Ripton, Salisbury, Shoreham, Starksboro, Vergennes, Waltham, Weybridge, and Whiting.

County Demographics

Addison County's 36,939 residents represent 6% of Vermont's total population of 626,299. Addison County is Vermont's 7th most populous county.

Chittenden County, home to Burlington, is Vermont's population center, with more than one-quarter of the state's residents. Essex County, in the remote and rural northeast corner of the state, is the least populated county. Its population is less than that of the town of Middlebury.

Vermont is known to have an aging population. Compared to the country overall, the state has a higher percentage of residents 65 years of age or older and a lower percentage of children under the age of 18.

Twenty percent of Vermont residents are over 65 years of age. An additional 15% of the population is between 55 and 64 years of age. Yet some counties, like Franklin and Lamoille, have age profiles that closely match the patterns in the national distribution.

Chittenden County's age distribution differs from the distribution in other counties by its large share of young adults between the ages of 18 and 34. Thirty percent of Chittenden County residents fall within that age range compared to twenty-two percent of Vermonters overall.

Addison County has the second highest percentage of individuals under 24 years old, driven largely by the presence of Middlebury College.

All counties in Vermont have a higher share of white individuals than the United States overall. The total percentage of Vermont residents who are Black, Asian, Hispanic/Latinx, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, American Indian, another race, or two or more races is less than the percentage of residents nationally who are Black.

Chittenden County is the most racially diverse county in Vermont. Forty-five percent of Vermont's total population of Black, Asian, Hispanic/Latinx, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander, American Indian, and multiracial persons live in Chittenden County. Addison County is the second most racially diverse county in Vermont. Less than 5% of residents in Orleans, Essex, Rutland, and Orange counties are non-white individuals.

The percentage of foreign-born people in Vermont is much lower than the percentage of foreign-born people in the United States overall. Foreign-born residents make up less than one-tenth of the population in every county in vermont. Outside of Chittenden County, there are no more than 1 in 20 foreign-born residents in any Vermont county.

Town Demographics


The town of Middlebury is the most populated in Addison County. Nearly one-quarter of Addison County's residents live in Middlebury. The least populated town in the county is Goshen.

Goshen is also the oldest town in Addison County, with the highest percentage of persons 55 years of age and over.

Middlebury has a higher percentage of residents under 24 years of age than any other town in Addison County. This relatively high share is most likely explained by the presence of Middlebury College.

Unlike Burlington, however, Middlebury's large share of college-aged residents does not extend to a larger share of residents between the ages of 25 and 34. Within that age range, Middlebury has one of the lowest shares among Addison County towns.

Due to the small population counts, we do not provide racial and ethnic distributions for all towns in Addison County. For details about the racial and ethnic composition of other towns, click here. Note that the American Community Survey data includes margins of error for each of these counts which we encourage you to use as you analyze differences in these areas with small populations.

Middlebury is the most racially and ethnically diverse town in Addison County. Yet like the rest of the county and state, Middlebury is predominantly white. Approximately 84% of Middlebury residents identify as white, which is substantially less than the total percentage of white persons in Vermont (93%). The town's relative diversity is most likely a result of Middlebury College's presence in the community, as the institution attracts some students, staff, and faculty from marginalized racial identities.

For some reference of the lack of diversity in Middlebury, consider this comparison:

The total share of Middlebury residents who are Asian, Black, Hispanic/Latinx, another race, or two or more races is less than the share of the U.S. population that are Hispanic/Latinx persons.

Approximately 9% of Middlebury residents are foreign-born, which is about double the rate in Addison County and statewide. The foreign-born rate in Middlebury is lower than the US rate of 13.7%. Again, the relatively high rate of foreign-born individuals in the town may be influenced by Middlebury College, which attracts international students and employees to the community.

Further, the iconic dairy industry in Vermont attracts significant amounts of migrant farmworkers to local communities. According to Migrant Justice, the demand for cheap labor attracts an estimated 1,200 to 1,500 migrant farmworkers – many of whom are undocumented – to the state. Migration patterns in Addison County parallel migration processes nationally and globally. Some migrants feel a “pull” to Vermont because established familial networks on the state’s dairy farms may ease the social and cultural dislocation of migration and provide opportunities for economic advancement. In other cases, Vermont becomes an option after migrants feel “pushed” to escape political destabilization, violence, poverty, or danger to themselves and their families. For additional statistics about the foreign-born populations in Addison County, click here.

To learn more about the migrant community in Vermont, click the links below.

“The Most Costly Journey (El viaje más caro) is an ethnographic cartooning project that employs collaborative storytelling as a tool to mitigate loneliness, isolation, and despair among Latin American migrant farm workers on Vermont dairy farms. The Most Costly Journey is a collaboration between the Open Door Clinic, Vermont Folklife Center, UVM Extension Bridges to Health, UVM Anthropology, and Marek Bennett’s Comics Workshop.”

Visit The Most Costly Journey Project Now

The mission of Migrant Justice “…is to build the voice, capacity, and power of the farmworker community and engage community partners to organize for economic justice and human rights. We gather the farmworker community to discuss and analyze shared problems and to envision collective solutions.”

Visit Migrant Justice Now

Economic Inequality

Economic inequality is a general term that may refer to gaps in income, wealth, or the ability to pay for basic needs like food and shelter. The effects of such inequality are especially amplified in communities of color and among individuals and families with other marginalized backgrounds.

The national profile of Senator Bernie Sanders often links Vermont to issues of economic inequality. By comparing the measures Senator Sanders highlights, this report from the Economic Policy Institute shows that income inequality exists in Vermont. For example:

Vermonters in the top 1% of the income distribution earn 14% of the state’s income. On average, their incomes are more than 16 times greater than the incomes of the bottom 99% in Vermont.

As striking as those numbers are, there is less income inequality in Vermont than in other states. In fact, the EPI report ranked Vermont 43rd of the 50 states when measuring income inequality by the Gini Index. Every county in Vermont had Gini coefficients lower than the national measure of 0.49. Income inequality was highest in Lamoille County and lowest in Orange, Franklin, and Addison Counties.

How do economic conditions in Addison County relate to economic inequality in the state and nation? This section offers a brief summary of median household incomes, poverty rates, and deep poverty rates at the national, state, county, and town levels.  For more details on poverty, click here to visit our companion site.

The median is the middle point in the income distribution, so 50% of households in Addison County have incomes higher than $65,093. Addison County's median household income is higher than the national median ($61,937) which is slightly higher than Vermont's state median ($60,782).

Median household income in Vermont varies regionally. Northwest Vermont is the most metropolitan area in the state with a diversifying economy and about 35% of the population. Median household income is greater than $60,000 in all Northwestern counties, with the state's highest median household income in Chittenden County.

In contrast, Northeast Vermont (known as the Northeast Kingdom), comprising only 10% of the state's population, is the most rural part of Vermont. Median household incomes in Essex, Caledonia, and Orleans Counties all fall below $50,000.

Official measures count someone as living in poverty if their income is below the threshold amount for the size of their family unit. Individuals and families below the poverty threshold are often unable to access basic necessities such as food, water, shelter, education, and health care. When someone is in "deep poverty," their income is less than 50% of their poverty threshold. In 2018, a family of four in deep poverty had an income below $12,550.

Addison County has a total poverty rate lower than the state and national rates. The total poverty rate and deep poverty rate in Addison County are among the lowest rates of any Vermont county.

The Vermont counties with the state's highest total poverty rates (Essex, Lamoille, and Orleans, and Windham) have rates exceeding the national poverty rate. Lamoille County, the county with the highest deep poverty rate, has a higher share of residents living no more than 50% of the poverty threshold than the nation overall.

The distinction between being in or out of poverty is a technical one that obscures much of the experience of economic insecurity. Looking at how far incomes fall from the poverty threshold shows important nuances in poverty data, like the percent of people near poverty, meaning incomes within 100% and 125% of the poverty threshold.

Approximately 14 million persons in the US are near poverty. In Vermont, over 20,000 people are near poverty.

The near poverty rate in the US is greater than Vermont's near poverty rate, though most counties have near poverty rates equal to or higher than the national measure.

Addison County has the third lowest rate of residents near poverty and the third highest rate of residents with incomes more than 200% of the poverty threshold. Three-quarters of Addison County residents live 200% or more above poverty.

Essex County has the highest percentage of individuals near poverty and the lowest percentage of residents who are 200% or more above the poverty line.

Economic privilege and its benefits are unevenly distributed across towns, and Addison County's overall economic rewards are inaccessible to many of its residents.

There are great disparities in income among the towns of Addison County. The gap between the town with the lowest median household income (Ripton) and the highest (Monkton) totals $42,165.

Median household income in the Town of Middlebury is lower than the national, state, and county medians. Middlebury's median household income is lower than the median household incomes in seventeen other towns in Addison County. As discussed when comparing age distributions across Addison County towns, Middlebury's measures may be skewed by its large number of college students.

Poverty rates vary considerably across Vermont's towns. Bennington County, in southern Vermont, is home to the towns with the lowest (Winhall) and highest (Searsburg) poverty rates.

Although Addison County's poverty rate is relatively low in comparison to other counties, some towns are affected at higher rates than others. The town of Whiting has the highest poverty rate of all Addison County towns. Nearly 1 in 5 residents of Whiting live in poverty. The towns with the second and third highest poverty rates in Addison County are Granville and Ripton.

Middlebury has the 5th highest poverty rate in Addison County. Approximately 1 in 10 people in Middlebury live in poverty.

Seven towns in Addison County have a deep poverty rate greater than the state's deep poverty rate. The town of Granville has the highest deep poverty rate in Addison County. Goshen has the lowest deep poverty rate, which may be due to its older population. In the United States, poverty rates tend to be lowest for senior citizens and highest for children.

Middlebury's deep poverty rate is the 9th highest in Addison County and falls lower than the national and state rates.

Vergennes has the highest percent of persons near poverty in Addison County. Its rate is also greater than the national and state measures.

Middlebury's near poverty rate is less than the national rate, but slightly greater than the state rate.

In Cornwall, nearly 9 out of 10 households have incomes at least 200% above the poverty line, the highest in Addison County. In contrast, Granville has the lowest rate of households at least 200% above the poverty line.

Community Voices: Economic Inequality in Addison County

Economic inequality featured prominently in the 2015 report co-authored by Pamela Berenbaum, Director of the Global Health Program and Professor of the Practice of Global Health at Middlebury College, and Alessandria Schumacher, Middlebury College Class of 2017. One of the most common topics mentioned in the interviews with community members and local experts was the income divide in Addison County. As the report summarizes: 
One common topic related to poverty was the divide between those who are well-off and those who are poor, with very few people in the middle. Of those who discussed poverty, several brought up the idea that there are ‘two Middleburys’ or ‘two Addison Counties’: one made up of people who are well-off, employed in well-paying jobs, and living in comfortable houses, and the other made up of people working low-paying, unskilled, unstable jobs.

There is evidence that these gaps have been increasing. This 2012 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities revealed a growing divide between the rich and poor in Vermont. The richest 20% of Vermonters have seen a 75% increase in economic growth, while the poorest 20% have only seen a 32% increase in growth. Further, the richest 5% of households have an average income that is 9.6 times greater than the poorest 20% of households.

Individuals living in Addison county with low and moderate incomes face additional challenges. Their incomes may be too high to qualify for government assistance reserved for those living in poverty, yet they are not high enough to enjoy comfortable, financially stable lives. Residents in the 2015 report felt that this aid system “is one that forces people into poverty to get services, rather than assists those in the lower-middle income bracket to get them solidly out of poverty.” As a result, poverty persists for many residents, and the divide between high income and low-income residents continues.

Community Partner Profile: Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects (H.O.P.E.)

How does Addison County’s community respond to issues of economic inequality? One of the main local organizations combating poverty’s effects is H.O.P.E. The organization’s mission statement notes that its work seeks to “improve the lives of low-income people in Addison County, Vermont by working with individuals to identify and secure the resources needed to meet their basic needs.” In addition, H.O.P.E. provides budget counseling for individuals who hope to better manage their limited incomes, as well as grant job-assistance to help individuals apply or keep a paying position.
Jaime Donnelly, a Middlebury College student and Privilege & Poverty intern with H.O.P.E. in 2020, shared in an interview for this project that the organization provides financial assistance “to aid people in getting things such as stoves or heat or any other appliances. We also write vouchers for laundry, gas and appliances which allows people to access these things that they wouldn’t normally be able to.”


Vermont Governor Ernest Gibson (1947-1950) said, “the very existence of civilization as we know it depends upon our youth securing the very best education that it is in our power to give.” Such enthusiasm has allowed Vermont to have arguably some of the best public schools in the country. However, Vermont’s educational successes are uneven. The state has one of the highest high school completion rates in the country but one of the lowest rates of high school graduates entering college. These patterns are important to explain because poverty greatly affects educational attainment and education itself is a major factor in moving individuals out of poverty.

In the following section, we will look at two indicators of educational attainment: the percentage of the population with a high school diploma (including equivalency) or higher and the percentage of the population with a bachelor’s degree or higher. We will also profile the work of the Addison Central Teens Center, an organization in Middlebury committed to providing local students with the resources they need to thrive in school and beyond.

A higher percentage of residents in Addison County have high school diplomas compared to the US overall, but the county's percentage is slightly lower than Vermont's state average. Addison County ranks 6th in Vermont for the percentage of population with at least a high school diploma. Essex and Orleans counties have the lowest percentage of persons with a high school diploma. Both have high school diploma rates below the national rate.

The percentage of people in Addison County with a bachelor's degree or more is above the US rate but below Vermont's rate. Addison County ranks 6th in Vermont for the percentage of the population with a bachelor's degree or more.

Chittenden County has the highest percentage of individuals with at least a bachelor's degree. Essex County has the lowest percentage of individuals with at least a bachelor's degree.

Nearly all residents in Cornwall have at least a high school diploma, the highest rate in all of Addison County. The town's diploma attainment rate is nearly 10 percentage points higher than the national average. Hancock has the lowest percentage of persons with a high school diploma, approximately 5 percentage points below the national average.

More than half of the towns in Addison County have higher percentages of residents with at least a bachelor's degree than the nation overall. The towns of Cornwall, Weybridge, and Ripton have the highest percentages in Addison County of people completing that level of schooling. They are also above the national and state rates for bachelor's degree attainment.

Community Partner Profile: Addison Central Teens Center

The 2015 report noted that many local residents feel that educational programs and resources are available but are not widely used. One organization succeeding in providing those resources is the Addison Central Teens Center (ACTC), located in Middlebury. ACTC creates a safe, affirming environment for teens while providing programming for Addison County youth. As Cicilia Robison, Executive Director of ACTC, shared in an interview for this project, “It has been shown that both having access to (and using) a substance free space, as well as feeling supported by adults in one’s life, positively impacts youth’s educational outcomes.”
Robison also shared the non-profit will soon begin providing some important life skills classes. Material will include financial literacy classes, education on how to prepare for college, and job interview sessions. The group aims to offer sexual health education in the coming years as well. “All of this increases protective factors for youth and provides some of the tools that they need in order to escape the cycle of poverty,” said Robison.
Sam Collins, a Middlebury College student and 2020 P&P intern at ACTC, spoke about how the non-profit has been able to educationally enrich teens. During his internship, the group dedicated one week to different subjects including cooking, the outdoors, STEM, and art, making this programming as informative as possible for all participants. Collins described how they embraced Pride month by posting celebratory content on social media, as well as detailed infographics on a variety of monumental LGBT+ court cases, from Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) to One, Inc. v. Olesen (1958). Collins expressed the importance of sharing this sort of educational content given “LGBT youth in rural Vermont aren’t exposed to [this material].”

Food Insecurity

Food insecurity is a complex social and economic condition in which access to food is limited or uncertain because of cost or other barriers. This issue often intersects with other forms of economic and social inequality such as low wages, high medical costs, and housing insecurity. Additionally, food insecurity tends to disproportionately affect communities of color and households headed by a single female parent.

To assess food needs in Addison County, we will summarize data about usage of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP provides qualifying households with funds to buy nutritional foods in order to maintain good health. The total SNAP rate measures the percentage of households utilizing the food assistance program regardless of age. This differs from the child SNAP rate, which only refers to the rate by which this food assistance program is utilized by households with children under 18 years of age.
Many individuals facing food insecurity may not qualify for these benefits. Local organizations such as H.O.P.E., John Graham Housing and Services, Charter House Coalition, and Middlebury College provide additional resources for Addison County residents facing food insecurity.


Addison County has the third lowest SNAP rate in Vermont. One in ten households in Addison County utilize SNAP, which is less than the state and national SNAP rates.

Eleven out of fourteen counties have SNAP rates greater than Vermont's national SNAP rate. This is possible because the state's most populous county, Chittenden, has a total SNAP rate slightly below the state average.

Addison County's child SNAP rate is lower than the national child SNAP rate but higher than Vermont's child SNAP rate.

Essex and Windham Counties have the highest total SNAP rate and the highest child SNAP rates. More than 1 in 4 households with children in Essex and Windham Counties utilize the SNAP program.


Addison County's towns vary greatly in their usage of SNAP benefits. While approximately 1 in 5 households in Ripton utilize SNAP, 1 in 50 households in Waltham do.

In nearly every town, a greater share of households with children use SNAP than do households overall.

More than 1 in 4 households with children in the towns of Bristol, Hancock, Orwell, and Whiting receive SNAP benefits.

More than 1 in 5 households with children in Middlebury use the program.

Community Voices: Food and Nutrition in Addison County

Community members interviewed for the 2015 report mentioned positive things about food availability. The report states: “Several people noted options for local foods such as farmers markets and community-supported agriculture (CSA’s).” Additionally, many community members expressed the health-conscious culture in schools, among younger people, in food assistance programs, and among the general public. However, there are still many barriers to accessing these fresh and nutritious foods, as the quote below from one community member demonstrates:

“You can see the difference between families where one kid will have fruits and veggies and a really healthy 7-grain sun butter and jelly sandwich and then we have another family, and they bring in a can of Spaghetti-Os. It’s easier, and sadly, it’s cheaper, to buy that can of Spaghetti-Os than to buy those fresh fruits and veggies.”

Community members with lower and moderate incomes that are too high to qualify for SNAP face challenges in attempting to afford locally grown foods. Finding opportunities to spread knowledge about healthy nutrition is also important.

Community Partner Profile: H.O.P.E.

In addition to providing financial services, H.O.P.E. runs one of the largest food shelves in the state serving over 600 people every month. The shelf includes typical non-perishable canned foods as well as meat, eggs, dairy products, and unmarketable fruits and vegetables.
As Kerry Conley of H.O.P.E. discusses in this video, the food shelf is essential and meets the needs of residents when SNAP is insufficient: “We see an increase certainly in how many families come through [the food shelf] at the end of the month because food stamps don’t supplement the whole month by any means. Your food bill is usually far beyond how much you get for your food stamps. It just doesn’t stretch.” In an interview for this project, Jaime Donnelly, a 2020 P&P summer intern at H.O.P.E., shared how wonderful it was to help with food deliveries and pantry restocking, especially during a pandemic. To learn more about HOPE’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, click here.

Community Partner Profile: John Graham Housing and Services

Another organization working to alleviate food insecurity is John Graham Housing and Services. John Graham has provided services from housing to food aid for the homeless since 1980. During the Covid-19 pandemic, John Graham has been working hard to provide three meals a day for the homeless. According to Jubilee McGill, a front-line volunteer with John Graham tasked with delivering food:
There was a lot of fear at the beginning. How are we going to eat? How will our children get what they need? Food is so essential to survival. Once people knew they were safe, that they had a place to stay and 3 meals a day, they felt a lot of peace.

Community Partner Profile: Charter House Coalition

In Middlebury, the Charter House Coalition provides produce and meals to community members. Through their “Farm-to-Table” program, the Coalition grows and distributes approximately 5,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables each year. Families and volunteers gain access to healthy foods and learn how to grow and preserve organic produce. The Coalition also provides meals for community members every day of the year through their “Community Meals” program. The organization estimates that they have served over 30,000 warm meals.


For most Americans, housing provides safety, security, shelter, and the accumulation of wealth, yet also constitutes a major expense. It is not surprising, then, that housing instability has the power to severely harm the economic, physical, and mental health of families across the nation. Research suggests housing instability is linked with a family’s inability to access basic needs like clothing, food, and medicine, and can cause depression in adults and children. For children, there is more evidence suggesting that homelessness and unstable housing can lead to child neglect and abuse, and that evictions and moving can lead to lower test scores and decreased attendance rates. Such findings have led Matthew Desmond to write that “eviction is a cause, not just a consequence, of poverty.”
To learn more about eviction and poverty nationally, visit the Eviction Lab and watch the project’s introductory video below:

In this section, we compare key measures correlated with housing costs and instability to explore how these issues impact residents in Vermont and Addison County. We also profile the work of John Graham Housing and Services, the Charter House Coalition, and Addison County Community Trust.


Median housing values are closely associated with median household income. The counties with the highest median incomes also have the highest median values of owner occupied housing. The state's highest owner occupied housing values are in Chittenden County and the lowest are in the northeast corner of the state (where median household income is also the lowest).

The national owner occupied housing rate is lower than Vermont's state rate. Addison County residents have a higher owner occupied housing rate than both the US and Vermont.

Given Chittenden County's high values of owner occupied housing, it is not surprising that the county also has Vermont's highest median rents. Chittenden County renters spend a higher share of their income on housing than do renters in other counties though there is less variation in this measure than in other indicators described here.

While Chittenden County receives more attention for its housing costs, Addison County's costs are also high. Median rents are higher in Addison County than the national and state medians.


More than $200,000 separates the median value of owner occupied housing in the Addison County towns with the highest (Cornwall) and lowest (Hancock) values.

Higher percentages of residents own rather than rent their homes in every town of Addison County. Renting is most common in Middlebury. The towns of Goshen, Waltham, Leicester, and Addison have the highest owner occupied housing rates in the county.

Community Voices: Housing in Addison County

The 2015 report analyzed the community’s perception of local housing issues. One interviewee stated that “housing seems to be the biggest stress on service users,” with many more commenting on the lack of affordability and availability of housing in Addison County. The report found that some of the groups most vulnerable to housing insecurity in Addison County include those who are elderly, low-income, mentally ill, and struggling with addiction.
When it comes to emergency housing, community members highlighted the need for more temporary shelters for those who are housing insecure: “Some people end up living in hotels paid for by the state, which is costly for the state and probably not the best solution for the people living there.”

Community Partner Profile: John Graham Housing and Services

 At John Graham Housing and Services, volunteers and staff work rapidly to re-house people so they can get back on their feet. To do that, the shelter creates a space where individuals do not feel judged and instead fully heard and welcomed. As Jackson, a recipient of aid services through John Graham describes in the video below, “It really helps when you got people around you that just accept you, you know? There’s no judgement.” Elizabeth Ready, the Chief Financial Officer of John Graham, adds this glimpse of how they serve: “We help people articulate their own goals,” she says, “but before somebody can do that, they have to feel that they are going to be heard.”
John Graham currently has five shelters located in the towns of Vergennes, Middlebury, and Bristol, allowing the non-profit to house up to 75 people at a given time. They also provide families and individuals with food, job opportunities, and financial literacy courses, while supporting them on their journey to find permanent housing. 

Community Partner Profile: Charter House Coalition

In addition to community meals, the Charter House Coalition provides emergency housing for people who are homeless and connects individuals at risk of homelessness with services and programs. The shelter houses individuals and families year round, keeping people off the street during the extremely cold winter months.

Charter House, in partnership with H.O.P.E. and the Counseling Center of Addison County, wants to expand the housing options in Addison County through their “Tiny Homes” project. This project will begin to fill two needs in the community: the availability of housing in general and the availability of affordable housing that low-income individuals can access. They are seeking 2 acres of land to build ten to fifteen mobile homes that will be about 500 square feet each. The tiny homes will be near downtown Middlebury (to provide easy access to transportation and jobs), will be affordable for low-income persons, and will be equipped with solar panels.
Doug Sinclair, co-director of the Charter House Coalition, summarized the need for the project:
If you make minimum wage, you cannot afford to live in Middlebury, and you need a vehicle too. We are trying to help those who need a stable way to live. I can tell you that half of the people in Charter House shelters have jobs and can’t afford to live in the community.

Community Partner Profile: Addison County Community Trust (ACCT)

The Addison County Community Trust (ACCT) strives to provide housing for low- and moderate-income people of Addison County by ensuring the development, management, and maintenance of safe, quality, affordable homes and related support for families, seniors and individuals. Since their founding in 1989, the ACCT has been able to acquire over 600 units throughout Addison County available for persons who demonstrate a need for housing.

ACCT currently has apartments in Middlebury, Vergennes, Bristol, and Hancock. In 2020, they will open a new 24-unit apartment complex in the town of Vergennes. The ACCT also manages almost 300 mobile homes. Many are owner-occupied and the ACCT works to maintain the cost of living low to increase accessibility and affordability for individuals in Addison County.

Through the Shared Equity Project, the ACCT also helps families make homeownership a reality. By offering down payment grants to homebuyers through the Homeland Program and Vermont Affordable Housing Tax Credit, purchasers can receive up to 20 percent of the purchase price of a home in return for sharing appreciation with future buyers through a housing subsidy covenant or ground lease signed with the Trust. In addition to down payment grants, ACCT also facilitates resales of affordable homes currently in the program.

Health and Wellness

The 2010 Affordable Care Act expanded funding for the federal government and states to provide subsidies to effectively lower the cost of health insurance and make healthcare more accessible. Research suggests this Obama-era legislation led to increases in health care coverage and employment while improving health care affordability and financial stability for low-income families. The evidence highlights how access to affordable health care can assist in the reduction of challenges associated with poverty.

Nonetheless, many people remain underinsured or with no insurance at all. The percentage of individuals without health insurance shows the severity of this issue in the lives of Vermonters. However, this information does not paint a complete picture as the census data summarized below does not measure how many people are underinsured (i.e. inadequate insurance coverage), an issue which can leave families facing health and economic complications. Further, poverty and its effects significantly contribute to one’s inability to lead a healthy life. In the following section, we will look at the percent of uninsured individuals throughout Vermont. We will also learn more about the health care needs for Addison County residents and the steps the Open Door Clinic is taking to meet those needs.


Rates of uninsurance are higher in the US than in the state of Vermont.

No Vermont county has an uninsurance rate higher than the national rate.

Addison County's uninsured rate is roughly equal to the state's rate and less than half of the national rate.


About 1 in 10 residents in Hancock do not have medical insurance, making it the town with the highest share of uninsured persons in Addison County. Hancock is the only town in Addison County that has an uninsured rate greater than the national rate.

The uninsured rate in Middlebury is less than the county and state rates.

Community Voices: Overall Health Quality and Underinsurance in Addison County

The 2015 report noted that over half of the community members and local experts interviewed believed “it is easy for most residents to live a healthy life in Addison County.” Interviewees mentioned high-quality health services, opportunities for outdoor recreation and physical activity, and an abundance of social support networks.

Yet there were still issues relating to health in Addison County that, according to community members, seemed to be growing. For example, interviewees who work with children confirm that there are more cases of children on medication for emotional or behavioral issues, which they believe is linked to an increase in disturbances in the classroom and at home, among other possibilities. One interviewee said, “I think the biggest thing is mental health. We just have a huge lack of enough counselors and enough, certainly, psychiatrists. We just do not have enough psychiatrists.” Despite the high rates of insurance highlighted in the census data, community members deal with underinsurance. “Even with insurance,” stated the report, “one interviewee said she regularly sees people who come to her organization making the choice between paying for necessary medications and paying the rent.”

Community Partner Profile: Open Door Clinic

The Open Door Clinic (ODC) provides free healthcare for persons who are uninsured or underinsured in a respectful and culturally sensitive manner. ODC opened in 1990 and was initially a bus that traveled to towns and farms to serve those who needed healthcare. Three years later, the ODC opened its first clinic in the Town of Middlebury and it has since expanded to another location in Vergennes.

The ODC serves a diverse range of Vermonters, from immigrant farm workers to life-long residents. Regardless of different identities, the ODC is committed to providing the highest quality care to anyone who needs it. The services ODC provides include dental health, acute and chronic care (hypertension and diabetes treatments), mental health support, yearly physical exams, and nutrition counseling. In an effort to reach more isolated migrant farmworkers, the ODC has been traveling from farm to farm since 2009 to distribute vaccines, conduct yearly physicals, and provide education on health services in Addison County.

For more about the Open Door Clinic, watch the video below. To learn about the Open Door Clinic’s response to COVID-19, click here.


Visit the homepage for the Places of Privilege & Poverty project for links to our poverty site and additional resources.

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