United Counseling Service of Bennington County
100 Ledge Hill Drive
Bennington, VT 05201
(802) 442-1700 (24-hour on call answering service)
United Counseling Service’s mission: Building a stronger community by empowering individuals and families to live healthy and meaningful lives.
The agency offers services for individuals with severe mental illness, developmental disabilities, and emotional and behavioral disturbances; 24-hour crisis intervention; job development programs for consumers seeking supported work; and outpatient and substance abuse counseling. UCS also runs the Bennington County Head Start Program and the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Program. Our Transitional Living Program is one of several specialized services, and is formally connected to the area’s JOBS Program – because both work with needy youth.
Transitional Living Program (TLP)
UCS’ TLP is an independent-living skills and housing program for youth 16-21 years of age who, for a variety of reasons, need to transition to their own apartment. Some are at risk of imminent homelessness. A majority of clients have been involved with other social service providers at some point in the past. Typical presenting issues include borderline personality disorder, PTSD, and depression; homelessness or risk of homelessness; and problems at home such as generational substance/alcohol abuse or domestic violence. The program also sees a number of young people who are either pregnant or who already have children.
Criteria for entry into this program are fairly loose. Youth do not have to be homeless or even at risk of homelessness; the program sometimes helps borderline disabled young people learn life skills in anticipation of their eventual departure from home, and can also assist young teen parents, helping them set up a household together so that they can function as a family.
Youth entering the TLP must commit to a series of 10 two-hour independent living classes that take place over two and a half months. Topics include money management, employment skills, shopping and cooking, social skills, and decision-making. If participants successfully graduate and have a job, the program will work with them to find a local apartment. Small stipends are provided on a month-by-month basis as needed, and range from $75 to as much as $400. Like many TLPs, the program is flexible in what it funds: in the past the program has paid for furniture, car repairs, and a client’s college course.
UCS has created a collaborative and youth-driven approach to serve at-risk youth in the Bennington Community. The “Teens for Change” group began in 2008 to give at-risk teens the opportunity to come together and create programs, mentor younger children and empower others, to create change in their community.