In recent years, the city of Burlington, Vermont has earned remarkable recognition in the national press. From being named the Healthiest City in the United States by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to earning kudos as one of the best cities for outdoor recreation (Outdoor Magazine), to being named one of the best cities for New Jobs (Forbes), this city of just over 42,000 appears to be a utopia of health, happiness and financial security.
Yet these awards and accolades mask a less rosy reality:
Burlington’s Old North End has the highest concentration of poverty in Vermont. According to Census data, over 31.4% of Old North End residents live in poverty (many are among the working poor), and 100% of the children qualify for free or reduced price lunch.
The homeless population doubled between 2008 and 2010. According to the 2010 Point in Time survey, the homeless population in Chittenden County grew from 424 in 2008, to 916 in 2010. A significant proportion of these individuals are concentrated in the Burlington area, where the number of agencies devoted to assisting them is high.
Over 6000 refugees have resettled to the area since 1987. Census data reveals that Vermont’s most diverse communities are located the Old North End of Burlington, as well as in its “sister” neighborhoods in adjoining Winooski. Many of these refugees and their children enter the country with limited English skills, which challenges their ability to find work, navigate the educational system, access crucial resources such as transportation and social services, and make meaningful community connections.
Among children living in Winooski, one in four has an incarcerated parent. And, when that parent is a father, says Dr. Mary Ann Donnelly-DeBay—a clinical and school psychologist for the Winooski School District—his child is four times more likely to be poor, to commit juvenile offenses, to run away from home, among other challenges.
It is precisely for these reasons that Bike Recycle Vermont—located in the heart of Burlington’s Old North End, and on the edge of Winooski—exists.