Vermont urged to extend emergency motel housing program

While hundreds of homeless people in Vermont are expected to lose access to state-paid motel rooms during the pandemic, advocates on Monday urged officials to extend the benefit even longer.

In July, the state extended the hotel voucher program for families with children, people with disabilities, pregnant women and other vulnerable people by 84 days, and issued checks of $ 2,500 to those who are no longer entitled to it.

About 543 of the 881 households in motel rooms will reach their 84-day limit on Wednesday, advocates said at a press conference in Montpellier.

“My clients are terrified that the loss of shelter means that they will begin to experience a decline in their mental health, that the gains they have made in their recovery will be lost. Many of them have conditions that put them at high risk of serious illness from COVID. complications if they are to become infected, “said Mairead O’Reilly, lawyer with Legal Aid of Vermont.

Affordable housing:As house prices rise, Vermont pledges $ 53.8 million to create housing for the homeless

Earlier:Vermonters facing homelessness run out of options as emergency COVID hotel stays end

Lawyers say the extension is needed due to a lack of shelter beds and housing and an increase in COVID-19 cases with the spread of the delta variant.

A 30-day extension is available for families who are intensely engaged in case management, who can show a housing plan, and for people with the most severe disabilities, O’Reilly said.

“We don’t think that practically many people currently housed will be able to take advantage of it,” she said.

The groups sent a letter to the Vermont Department’s commissioner for children and families last week asking for the allowance to be extended for as long as possible. Commissioner Sean Brown did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The state is investing $ 120 million to create more permanent and shared housing while encouraging the expansion of shelters, officials said.

The ultimate solution is more affordable, safe and accessible housing, but at the moment that’s not available, said Kara Casey of the Vermont Network Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

Following:Vermont pledges to expand emergency housing eligibility

“For survivors of domestic and sexual violence and many others, this did not mean shelter but security,” she said. “In our current climate with an ever-present pandemic and the affordable housing crisis, 84 days has been insufficient to be able to afford and secure affordable housing.”

Another Way, a community welcome center in Montpellier, distributes camping equipment, meals and hand warmers, said chief executive Ken Russell.

While the motel program is flawed, “it at least allows people to escape the cold,” said Russell. “These are human beings that we are talking about here. People are not on the outside just because of moral failures. They are in crisis of life.”

They may have mental health, addiction, or life issues, he said.

“There isn’t a strong enough system in place to take care of these people,” he said. “Any of those people inside are doing better.”

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