COTS hosts first WT(Fix) Slam! on solutions to end homelessness


Community leaders judge evaluate innovative ideas from COTS staff

BURLINGTON – May 12, 2014 – (RealEstateRama) — COTS hosts inaugural “What the Fix” Slam from 4 to 6 p.m. Monday, May 12, at Arts Riot (400 Pine St., Burlington).

The WT(Fix) Slam was created by the COTS leadership team with the goal of developing innovative initiatives to further COTS’ mission. COTS frontline staff – who help Vermonters who are at risk or homeless every day – will present the three proposals at Monday’s community event. These staffers have identified a challenge in their work with homelessness in our community and developed a solution for addressing it.

Community leaders will serve as the judges for Monday’s competition:
· John Killacky, Flynn Center for the Performing Arts

· Katharine Monstream, Montstream Studio

· Lesli Blount, Vermont Public Radio

· Mary Powell, Green Mountain Power Corp.

· Rita Markley, Committee on Temporary Shelter

The impetus for the WT(Fix) Slam comes from the leadership style of COTS’ Executive Director Rita Markley. Rita frequently reminds staff to “focus on the fix” when they are faced with difficulties in COTS’ work to end homelessness in our community.

Judges will be asked to help evaluate the three proposals, according to the scoring rubric that includes benefits, feasibility and logistics. There are, of course, points, too, for presentation and creativity. Each finalist has 15 minutes to present their proposal, plus five minutes for questions from the judges. After all presentations, the scores will be tabulated, and the judges will have a chance to confer before the winner is announced at the end of Monday’s event.

All submissions for the WT(Fix) Slam had to fit with one of COTS’ three directives in the organization’s Strategic Plan:
1. Strengthen the Core: Ensure that COTS has the systems and resources available to effectively carry out our mission;

2. Reduce the Pressure: Streamlines access to resources and engages our community partners in strengthening the system of care;

3. Build for the Future: Expand prevention resources, housing opportunities, and creating new and innovative models for addressing homelessness.

COTS staff narrowed the more than 20 staff submissions down to three final proposals that will compete in the Community WT(Fix) Slam. The three finalists are:

· The Vermont Mobile Resource Guide, presented by Ted Berg, Gillian Taylor and Steve Von Sitas

We see an opportunity to create a mobile resource guide for smartphone/tablet users. This proposal aims to reduce the amount of time spent searching for resources for clients by improving access to a resources. Our proposal takes a 10 pound + binder of resources and makes it accessible through any smart phone or device that has online access. This proposal meets the COTS strategic direction “Reduce the Pressure.”

· Paint the Roof, presented by Sienna Fontaine

The “Paint the Roof” event is a 4-hour live-painting exhibition on Church Street with local artists. The paintings display the artists’ own interpretations, images, or meanings of home. Pre-selected local artists stand in front of 4’ by 4’ canvases on large wooden easels while the Church Street audience can bid on paintings (the bidding would begin at $100, with that $100 going to the artist for material use). In addition community awareness builds as on-lookers talk to COTS employees and read pamphlets displaying COTS’ mission statement. The Burlington community celebrates an open discussion and acknowledgement of homelessness prevention. The event ends with a final display of paintings on Church Street. The idea targets the strategic direction, “Building the Future.”

· Theater of the Oppressed, presented by Kim Garland, Matt Saltus and Rachel Wassal.

We propose creating a theater-performance group for COTS clients to empower COTS clients using theater and give them a forum to share their experiences as people effected by homelessness. The group will perform at a variety of venues, including those where public figures, policy makers, community partners and collaborators are part of the audience. The proposed group will use the techniques employed by Theatre of the Oppressed, which are structured to encourage audience participation in the performance, creating an open dialogue about the issues put forth. This proposal includes elements of all three Strategic Directions:

§ With minimal cost, we should increase engagement without taxing COTS’ resources and thereby Strengthen the Core.
§ This group will offer empowerment to COTS clients (Reduce the Pressure), encouraging their creativity and give them a voice in the greater community.

This project would not only empower clients but bring issues out into the community, engaging people who may not have ever thought about homelessness and its structural causes. Community engagement Builds for the Future.

Monday’s event is made possible through the generous support of KeyBank, Cabot Creamery Co-op and Arts Riot.

Founded in 1982, COTS provides emergency shelter to homeless families and individuals, homelessness prevention, case-management and referral services to those who are homeless or marginally housed, and permanent housing to low-income families and individuals. Learn more at

Becky Holt, COTS Development & Communications Director
(802) 864-7402, Ext. 204 or beckyh (at) cotsonline (dot) org


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