February 19, 2016

Cold Temperatures Raise Housing Concerns

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Montpelier (Feb.17) – Concerns over the housing crisis for Burlington’s homeless population rose, this week, as the temperatures fell.

Sean Brown, deputy commissioner for the Economic Services Division of the  Department for Children and Families, presented a budget to the House Committee on General, Housing and Military Affairs outlining some of the greatest issues regarding the homeless population in Vermont.

One of the most recent concerns was the availability of emergency housing for the homeless who do not qualify for general assistance, Brown said.

According to the DCF website, if a person does not qualify for general assistance housing and the temperature or wind chill is less than 20 degrees, or 50% chance of precipitation and 32 degrees, a person might qualify for emergency housing from 6 p.m. – 6 a.m..

He said with the temperature and wind chill far below 20 degrees this past weekend, the ESD was concerned that the hotels they have contracted as emergency placement housing would be at capacity.

“Even the shelter in Burlington was full this last week,” Brown said, “and this past weekend is very challenging for us, it’s a holiday weekend and it was, for three years in a row, been brutally cold,” Brown said.

If a shelter is full,or a person doesn’t qualify for that assistance, the ESD relies on the hotel’s they are partnered with for housing.

“We were concerned that in Burlington, there might not be enough motels,even though we’ve opened the 50 bed shelter, it was full,” he said.

Hotel placement is not their first choice, Brown said, which is why they are focusing on more permanent solutions, instead of temporary fixes.

Brown said that they are working on “community alternatives”, like the warming shelter they opened with COTS in Burlington.

The ESD, is asking the state for 3.3 million dollars, which is an increase of one million dollars, for emergency housing assistance for FY17, Brown said.

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