ICYMI: New Criteria Makes it Tougher for Homeless to Get Shelter

ABC 22 News ran a story last week on some of the impacts the new point system for emergency housing are having on folks who are homeless in Vermont.  A partial transcript of the report (watch online):

The faces and the stories are different, but their experiences have a common theme.

“All we’re trying to do is survive,” Troy Capen said, who has been homeless for six months…

And now, assistance comes in the form of points.

“If we don’t have enough money to serve everybody, shouldn’t we serve those who are the most needy?” Department for Children and Families Commissioner Dave Yacovone said.

4,000 Vermonters stayed in shelters last year. If those are full, homeless with more than four points are eligible for a hotel room. A person earns points based on their need.

For example – a child under 18 gets one point. If you’re recently discharged from the hospital or corrections, that’s also one point.  A hotel room is only automatic for families who lost their home to a catastrophe, like a fire, and for anyone over 65, a woman in her third trimester, the disabled and families with a child under six.

“Right now, with three months worth of data, we’re saying no approximately 50 percent of the time,” Commissioner Yacovone said.

For those without enough points, there is a cold weather exception. If it’s below 20, or below freezing with precipitation – anyone struggling financially can get a roof over their head. But one degree higher means Troy Capen and his wife, sleep outside.

“Am I going to wake up one of these days and she’s going to be gone?” Capen said.

To get people on their feet permanently, the Commissioner Yacovone says the state is investing three million a year on community housing grants.

That grant money will be used to help get people in need into long-term housing.

It’s 28 degrees right now in Burlington, so all of those guys will be sleeping outside tonight.

Watch the full report online here.

See also: Update on Emergency Housing Rules Changes

Bennington Coalition Adopts New Name, Sets New Goals

Last week the Bennington Coalition for the Homeless held their annual meeting.  At the meeting it was announced they have changed their name and will now be called the Bennington County Coalition for the Homeless.  The Bennington Banner has a report from the meeting:

The Bennington Coalition for the Homeless will now be called the Bennington County Coalition for the Homeless, the organization announced at their annual meeting on Wednesday.

“Our guests come from all over the county to use our services,” said coalition secretary Mary Gerisch, who is also the founder of the Vermont Workers’ Center and a nationally-known activist. “We don’t want anyone to think our services are only available to the town of Bennington.”

The coalition also announced that it will be naming a paid executive director of the organization by early next year, a position that did not previously exist. The coalition is currently run by a board of directors made up by President Stacey New, Vice President Bob Marine, Gerisch, Treasurer Sarah White, Kathleen Wilkinson, Nora Lantz, Nan Lowary, Ceil Petrucelli, and Brian Maroney.

Chris Oldham, who also serves as the circulation sales and marketing manager for New England Newspapers, Inc., the parent company of the Bennington Banner, was previously the treasurer of the organization, but stepped down from the board earlier in the meeting. He will remain with the coalition as an advisor. Sarah White, the newest member of the board, was elected treasurer in his place.

The coalition also honored staff members Tiffany Sausville and Sharon Farrell for their service. New presented them both with flowers and a gift bag.

“They appreciate the courage it takes to be homeless and to strive towards stability. Their courage gives others the courage to do that,” said Gerisch of Sausville and Farrell.

Read the full article online here or in PDF format.

More on HUD Homelessness Report: Vermont Sees Increase in Numbers

According to a report from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Vermont has seen an increase in homelessness from 2012 to 2013. The HUD study showed nationally a decline in the total numbers of those homeless.  The HUD study uses data from a count conducted on a single night, known as the Point-in-Time. Shelters report how many people are using their facilities, and how many are left without shelter. This report is from data collected last January.  Vermont Public Radio has more:

While the number of homeless people in Vermont went up from 1,160 to 1,454, the number of “unsheltered” homeless Vermonters (those who aren’t in emergency shelters or transitional housing) went down from 223 to 184.

With decreased federal assistance – Department of Children and Families Commissioner Dave Yacavone said Vermont lost 774 Section 8 vouchers – state and local services have to do more to keep up.

One of those services is the John Graham Shelter in Vergennes, which opened additional space this year. Director Elizabeth Ready says the new transitional housing facility is already occupied.

“We’re also seeing people staying for longer periods,” Ready said. “An average of 60 days, people are staying at the shelter, and we used to see people staying like 21 days.”

The federal report comes after Ready and other community representatives gave Gov. Peter Shumlin a set of recommendations for how the state can help bring down the number of homeless Vermonters.

Listen and read the full VPR report here.

See also: HUD Releases Homeless Estimates for 2013

The mission of the Coalition is to end homelessness in Vermont through sharing information, developing resources, providing a forum for decision-making and to promote decent, safe, fair, affordable shelter for all.