Category Archives: Warming Shelters

Board Gives the Nod to New Shelter

The Development Review Board in Brattleboro approved Groundworks Collaborative‘s application for the use of a new location for an emergency overnight shelter, which is set to open this November. Below is an excerpt of an article from The Commons with further details on this project and what lies ahead:

Despite the warmth of this summer, the staff of Groundworks Collaborative have the cold days of winter on their minds.

In November, the organization, which serves the area’s homeless population, will open its winter emergency night shelter. Come this November, however, the emergency shelter’s traditional location, the First Baptist Church on Main Street, may not be available.

To avoid leaving an average of 25 people out in the cold Vermont winter, Groundworks has sought a new location for the emergency shelter.

At its Aug. 24 meeting, the town’s Development Review Board (DRB) approved Groundworks’ application for a change of use permit at 39 Frost St.

Conditions to the permit included no construction in the special flood hazard area, adding a bike rack, and meeting fire safety conditions such as installing a sprinkler system.

The organization plans to retrofit the former auto body shop in time for the November opening of the emergency winter overflow shelter.

According to staff at Groundworks, the Frost Street site could meet short- and long-term needs.

In the short term, the property would serve as the emergency shelter.

In the long term, it may house the emergency shelter, moving the Drop-In Center from South Main Street; hold the food shelf; and provide space for case managers and administration offices.

To continue reading the article, click here.

Report: Emergency Housing Costs Unsustainable

The Vermont Agency of Human Services recently released a biannual report on the General Assistance Emergency Housing Program. Below is an article from the Burlington Free Press on how the report shows that the current cost of the program is unsustainable and what improvements may be made in the future:

The cost of Vermont’s emergency housing program is unsustainable due to burgeoning need during winter months and the use of motels, according to a report released Friday.

The state spent $4.2 million — $1.6 million dollars more than budgeted — this year on emergency housing. Some $2.3 million is allocated for next year, though in past years the Legislature has adjusted the budget to accommodate need in the community.

“The need for emergency housing and its cost continue to be prohibitively expensive, particularly among households with victims of domestic violence,” Chris Dalley of the Economic Services Division wrote in the report to the state Legislature. “Long-term funding for emergency housing in this manner is not sustainable.”

The number of people who received cold weather emergency housing increased by 80 percent between 2014 and 2015, from 6,835 to 12,279, said Sean Brown, deputy commissioner of the Economic Services Division.

When homeless shelters are full, the state sends emergency housing recipients to motels. The average daily cost of motels has continued to burgeon annually from $47 in 2009 to $71 this year, according to the report.

“Over the past few years, the budget for emergency housing has been significantly challenging,” said Ken Schatz, commissioner of the Department for Children and Families.

For example, last year, the Legislature adjusted the budget from $2.6 million to $3.2 million. The program still went over budget to $4.2 million for the fiscal year ending in June.

The majority of the overspending — $850,000—stemmed from need during the winter months.

Officials with the Department for Children and Families are working with community partners to come up with alternatives to motels, such as temporary or seasonal warming shelters, Schatz said.

For example, last winter, the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity opened a temporary warming shelter with 20 beds at the site of the old Ethan Allen Club on College Street in Burlington.

The Department for Children and Families helped to fund that community effort.

“That program was full every night it was open,” Schatz said. “Instead of having to pay for motels, the shelter addressed needs at a lower cost.”

“The cost of establishing and operating shelters is significantly less than giving motel vouchers, but opening them requires some preparation,” Schatz added.

Schatz said department officials are in discussions about the possibility of opening warming shelters next winter in Burlington and St. Johnsbury.

“We want to create alternatives to meet those housing needs without relying upon motels so motels would be a last resort,” Schatz said. “We are working with the community to identify what is missing in communities.”

State law requires the biannual report to the Legislature.

But Schatz noted that emergency housing in just one piece of addressing homelessness. The state also needs to provide more affordable housing, he said.

“Hopefully, we will move forward with more affordable housing and will reduce the need for emergency housing,” Schatz said.

To view the full article on the Burlington Free Press website, click here.

St. Johnsbury Officials Consider Warming Shelter

VT Digger reports on current efforts being made to open a winter warming shelter in St. Johnsbury. Below is an excerpt from the article:

A local steering committee hopes to open a winter warming shelter in St. Johnsbury to house up to 10 homeless people in time for the next cold season.

Organizers are looking for support to host the facility in part of the Northeast Kingdom Youth Services building on Bagley Street and would like to have it open by October.

The state spent more than $270,000 on motel vouchers for homeless people in the St. Johnsbury area last winter. A shelter could mitigate that cost while connecting people with other services to help them escape poverty, officials say.

About 25 people turned out Thursday night at the proposed shelter site for a spaghetti supper and to learn more about the proposed overnight transitional shelter.

The committee is made up of nonprofits, including the Northeast Kingdom Community Action (NEKCA), the Community Justice Restorative Center, Inc., Northeast Kingdom Youth Services, local clergy, the Agency of Human Services, the Economic Services Division and more.

Northeast Kingdom Youth Services has offered the shelter site at “a very affordable rate,” said Val Covell, warming shelter coordinator for NEKCA.

A similar effort failed last year after opposition rose against a proposed site on Lincoln Street, she said.

Covell said the state is working with communities to find better solutions to help homeless individuals than the present voucher system, where people in crisis are put into motels on an emergency basis.

A warming shelter would help to connect people to services such as housing and employment to help them get back on their feet, Covell said.

“It’s not just about housing them, it’s about trying to help them — why are they on the street? What happened, and what can we do to get them where they need to be?” she said.

The shelter proposal will be before the town’s Development Review Board on July 30, where a vote on the change of use application filed by Northeast Kingdom Youth Services is expected.

To finish reading the full article, click here.