Gov. Shumlin Announces Strategy to End Family Homelessness by 2020

With over 1,500 Vermonters without housing on any given night and families with children now making up half of all people in emergency shelters, Gov. Peter Shumlin and Human Services Secretary Hal Cohen today announced a statewide strategy for ending child and family homelessness in Vermont by 2020. The Governor and Secretary made the announcement while celebrating a grant of more than a half-million dollars to rehabilitate and increase the number affordable housing units in Chittenden County, helping to relieve a shortage that affects all of those who face homelessness.

“Even with serious budget challenges, we are fortunate in Vermont to have many of the programs and partnerships already in place to support an ambitious initiative,” Gov. Shumlin said. “We can build on these foundations to achieve the goal of ending childhood and family homelessness by 2020.”

The administration’s initiative adopts the national strategy supported by the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, and others. Vermont’s plan will bring together programs operated by the Agency of Human Services, federal programs providing housing and shelter assistance, and local organizations that provide shelter, housing and services to Vermonters who are homeless or at-risk. The full three-part plan to attack homelessness includes:

  1. Adopting the national “Family Connection” framework, developed by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, to ensure that local communities have a coordinated system for assessing families’ housing needs and connecting them to the appropriate benefits, employment, and evidence-based intervention the first time.
  2. Bringing together rental subsidy programs with intensive services for people who are homeless so that families can get into housing faster and local providers spend less time chasing and coordinating resources and more time addressing and resolving the root causes that led to homelessness.
  3. Bringing together rental subsidy programs with intensive services for people who are homeless so that families can get into housing faster and local providers spend less time chasing and coordinating resources and more time addressing and resolving the root causes that led to homelessness.

During this announcement, Gov. Shumlin also presented a $580,000 grant for the construction and rehabilitation of fourteen new affordable apartments and a day station for the homeless at 95 North Avenue in Burlington. The project is being developed by the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS) and Housing Vermont. To read the full press release, click here. For more information on the full, three-part plan, click here.

For further media coverage, see the links below:
Shumlin: End Family Homelessness by 2020 (Burlington Free Press)
Shumlin Announces Plan to End Family, ChildHood Homelessness By 2020 (VT Digger)
Grant Bolsters COTS’ North Avenue Plans (Seven Days)
Governor’s New Plan to End Family Homelessness (WPTZ)
State Goal: End Homelessness in VT by 2020 (Rutland Herald)
VT Agencies Commit to End Family Homelessness in 5 Years (myChamplainValley.com)
Shumlin Unveils Homelessness Strategy (WCAX)

VCEH 2014-15 Membership Dues Drive

The VCEH is currently in the process of collecting membership dues for the 2014-15 year:

The Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness (VCEH), acting as the primary decision-making body of the Vermont Balance of State Continuum of Care, shall have a mission to end all homelessness in Vermont through sharing information, developing resources, providing a forum for decision-making, and promoting decent, safe, fair, affordable shelter for all. VCEH achieves this mission by:

  • Creating a network of organizations, service providers, advocates, consumers, concerned citizens and policy makers committed to ending homelessness.
  • Fostering communication and building local Continuums and developing collaborative partnerships.
  • Ensuring that all Vermonters, particularly low and moderate income persons, people with disabilities, homeless people, elders, families with children and others, have safe, adequate, physically accessible and affordable housing.
  • Encouraging resident participation and control in their housing. Advocating for the preservation of existing housing, protection of renters, and the development of new, perpetually affordable low and moderate income housing.
  • Promoting the recognition of housing as a basic right for all Vermonters through education of the public and elected officials.
  • Acting as a catalyst in the exploration and development of innovative means of preserving and increasing Vermont’s affordable housing stock.

Membership in VCEH is open to any individual or organization interested in participating in this grassroots effort. Members who pay dues receive the benefit of voting rights within their local continuums. Suggested organizational membership dues are based on the annual operating budget, or in the case of a multi-purpose organization, the housing program’s budget. Individual memberships are welcomed and encouraged!

To download the current membership form click here. Please contact our treasurer Dawn Butterfield at 802-477-5124 or dbutterfield@capstonevt.org if you have any questions. All forms and contributions should be returned to Dawn at the address provided on the form.

Record Cold Plays Havoc With Emergency Housing Budget

This week, VT Digger reported more on the strain that this year’s winter weather has put on the emergency housing budget. Read the article below or click here to view on their website:

In February, temperatures dropped to minus 19 degrees at the Burlington International Airport, breaking a record that stood since 1914.

Vermont set more troubling records this winter as well — the most consecutive nights where a cold weather exemption gave homeless people in the state access to emergency housing.

For 69 days, from Dec. 29 to March 8, every county in the state met the requirement for a cold weather exemption. When temperatures drop below 20 degrees, or below 32 degrees with snow or freezing rain, the state relaxes the eligibility requirements for emergency housing.

That’s the longest streak of statewide cold weather exemptions since the program’s implementation three years ago.

At the same time, the number of people, especially families, who are homeless and seeking emergency shelter from the cold has also increased, according to state officials. Their ranks well exceed the capacity of warming shelters, and the state is housing homeless Vermonters in hotel rooms.

The state approved $3.4 million to cover 36,314 hotel nights through the end of February; 8,942 were for the people who qualified under the cold weather exemption, at a cost of $1.5 million. Virtually all that money is spent on hotel and motel lodgings. Those numbers may come down as sometimes people approved for a hotel stay don’t show, and it can take up to two months for the state to receive bills from participating hotels.

The amount that has been approved already exceeds the $3.2 million in the current budget for emergency housing. That appropriation includes an additional $600,000 from the Budget Adjustment Act — and it does not include March, which has had a number of cold weather nights in many areas of the state.

“Based on our current spending we are going to be over budget,” said Sean Brown, deputy commissioner of economic services for the Department for Children and Families. “We are going to have to re-evaluate our budget for the program and find a new way forward.”

Appropriating more money for the current budget would require approval from the Emergency Board, a panel chaired by the governor and consisting of the chairs of the Legislature’s money committees.

Even with the opening of a new 20-bed warming shelter at the old Ethan Allen Club in Burlington, the highest demand area, costs continue to mount. That shelter has run at overflow capacity since opening in early February, housing between 24 and 28 people per night, according to Brown.

It still hasn’t been enough to keep up with demand, and costs continue to mount.

“Given the growth in the need in the program, that didn’t put a huge dent in spending,” Brown said.

Next year, the state will open a 52-bed shelter in downtown Burlington, which will help reduce costs Brown said, but at the same time, the governor’s proposed budget cuts $300,000 from the program in anticipation of those savings.

A dramatic rise in homelessness is driving the need for emergency housing. Requests for housing were up 64 percent through December, and the state provided 50 percent more hotel rooms per night. More families are seeking shelter, and there has been a 144 percent increase in the number of children who received housing through the cold weather exemption.

The events that lead to homelessness are varied and often unique to the individual or their family. Still, advocates point to the rise in substance abuse disorders, especially opiate addiction, stagnant wages and a lack of affordable housing in the state as a few of the underlying causes.