700 households forced to leave homeless hotels

For another 1072, residency extended for 1-3 months

By Guy Page

Yesterday, June 1, an event WCAX-TV called ‘check out’ took place in the lives of about 700 people heretofore receiving free housing under the pandemic-era ‘homeless hotel’ program.

Almost all of the unfortunate 700 Club are people without disabilities or children, the two main eligibility categories allowing HH residents to stay until July 1 – and beyond. As seen in the accompanying graph, the state’s general assistance program will extend benefits another 28 days past July 1 for 482 people, and another 78 days past July 1 for 590 people.  

I spent most of yesterday afternoon and evening at one of Vermont’s homeless hotels, wanting to know ‘up close and personal’ what was happening. After returning home late last night, I watched WCAX’s excellent coverage of the wrenching departure day. For anyone wishing to understand what happened across Vermont yesterday with both compassion and heard-headed understanding, I strongly recommend viewing “Motel checkouts underway.”

Reporter Ike Ben-David recounted, from a Chittenden County homeless hotel, an almost identical situation from the motel I was watching, many miles away. Refugees from Third World countries not knowing where they would land next. People clearly plagued by choices that made them homeless. People with good jobs who can’t find a home, because of the shortage caused by (for starters) 50 years of housing-inhibiting legislation. Some people with both of those problems.

And amidst it all, young children – playing in the sunshine outside, wearing big, innocent, care-free smiles, giving and receiving hugs from the trusted adults in a (to me) surprisingly tight-knit community of neighbors. 

From some of the June 1 ‘checkouts’ – notably young men – there was defiance, which got them a prompt escort away by the local police. For others, departure was orderly and planned. From others with simply no enclosed place to go, there were tears and fears. Shelters? Full. Apartments? Nope. At this motel, anyway, the owners weren’t offering weekly and monthly cash-pay deals, even if the rooms were clean enough to rent.

In the WCAX coverage, the cleaning lady complains about the filth and destruction left by some residents. That was horrifyingly true from what I saw and heard. The lady in charge of cleaning the units from the newly evicted said they would take days to clean, she wouldn’t touch them now even double-gloved, and must first have some truly hazardous materials to be removed. 

One local hotel had a couple of vacant rooms for $239/night – scarcely a longterm option for anyone not earning six figures. 

“The safest place to stay is probably underneath that bridge over there,” one of the more seasoned residents said. 

All three branches of government were deeply involved in Checkout Day. A Vermont judge turned aside a request for a preliminary injunction, saying the decision to end the HH program is up to the Legislature. Some lawmakers in their capacity as constituent advocates helped the evicted navigate state services. And state housing and economic services leaders and line staff were on the phones all day trying to help everyone affected. 

I left around 8 pm. The sun was still shining. I don’t know how many, or if any, people who slept indoors Wednesday, May 31 ended up sleeping under that bridge or elsewhere outdoors. I do know that on Checkout, as with any other long-ignored day of reckoning, the fear and heartbreak were all too real.

Categories: Housing

11 replies »

  1. “The safest place to stay is under that bridge over there”. Instead, why not think that the safest thing to do would be to quit drugs/drinking/smoking should one imbibe, apply for any eligible grants, enroll in a GED program or trade school, and stop seeking for the government to nanny you, become gainfully employed, and rent an apartment somewhere – whether that be in VT or any other state wherein affordability might suit one better.

    We do not live under Communist rule simply because we have a Senator who aligns with socialism. Wise up, clean up, and become self-sufficient, likely just as your parents did before you and their parents before them. Social services were originally intended and implemented to assist people in the short term until they were back on their feet living independently.

    It is this leftist legislature that believes they should perpetually financially support addicts and those who do not wish to work – at the expense of the hard-working general population but of course.

  2. Well, our leftist legislature didn’t stop just there. They chose to “play God” and make Vermont a “sanctuary state” for child sex change, whether the child’s parents agree to the procedure or not. Also made it so law enforcement has no power to return such children to their respective states.So, maybe if you desire to play parents for children from other states perhaps consider taking care of this state’s business first. We can’t even balance our own budget and we want to be a sanctuary state for everyone else’s problems.

    Sex change operations for minor’s from another state? A monument for same sex marriage on your once hallowed grounds. Don’t we have more pressing issues? You all ought not be so consumed with geopolitics and begin concentrating on state issues and budgets, rather than passing legislation that is putting great harm on the good people of Vermont.

    Maybe try and balance the budget so our grandchildren aren’t paying for your grandiose ideations. Perhaps not worry about who is swimming and building campfires at fish accesses. You all have more pressing business, and it’s here at home, being stewards of your own state.

  3. You mean that they are going to have to take their chances like the rest of us? Does that seem fair?
    Consider it training for the next batch.

  4. I know a fair amount of these folks from my area in my work as a nurse. And it angers me that they are in this situation as I have stated in other venues and in comments as well as a letter to the editor. What continues to disturb me is that “Some lawmakers in their capacity as constituent advocates helped the evicted navigate state services. And state housing and economic services leaders and line staff were on the phones all day trying to help everyone affected.” Why did these apparently compassionate lawmakers, housing and economic service leaders wait until the final hours to do this? Why didn’t they do this several years ago shortly after putting them all in these hotels/motels? Well, some of the reason is people keep moving to the state for services. But mostly it’s “out of sight, out of mind”. And I’m not a bleeding heart anything because my response to all the patients I saw in these venues was to get a Social Worker in (usually a waste of time) or contact their coordinator and to coach my patient on preparing for eventual end of the program. You know, like, asking them questions such as: are you saving for rental deposits? Are you using again? Have you contacted your sponsor? What is your exit plan? They have to want to help themselves. Mostly they just want someone else to solve and handle their problems. They are either too disabled for a variety of reasons, too impaired or lacking in basic adult skill sets.
    Is it sad yes, was this preventable, yes. And that is what makes it so sad.

  5. This is what angers me. “In the WCAX coverage, the cleaning lady complains about the filth and destruction left by some residents. That was horrifyingly true from what I saw and heard. The lady in charge of cleaning the units from the newly evicted said they would take days to clean, she wouldn’t touch them now even double-gloved, and must first have some truly hazardous materials to be removed.” Instead of respecting the property too many feel the need to destroy property. Ever hear the word “gracious”?

  6. There are three big reasons why Vermont’s homeless population has ballooned during the covid panic, and they are ALL the fault of the democrat party:
    -A chronic failure to ease off on the building and land-use regulations makes affordable housing not worth constructing.
    -Offering the free motels rooms in the first place to single persons based only on an honor-system claim of homelessness attracted vagrants from afar to come take advantage.
    -letting 5 million undocumented migrants to enter the country who are all in need of cheap housing, and now are given preferential treatment over citizens, including homeless military veterans.

    If you voted for democrats, then you share in the blame.

    • 5 thumbs up to Rich. All of what’s happening now is because of democratic control. Like feeding a stray animal, does the animal come back for more food? If people can’t be civilized due to the fault of their own, are they equivalent to a stray animal.

      I’m not being heartless and most of us have had some form of hard times. Lots of people need temporary help but welfare assistance is not meant to be a career. It becomes a culture for the layabouts. The same culture is used in the worker’s comp insurance fraud industry. People will fake an injury, then have a medical operation to get a check from an insurance company just to get the money, it happens a lot.

      The liberal welfare system, paid for by people, who actually work, has created this dependency as a tool for election power. They buy votes with benefits. Keep voting for democrats and enjoy the fact that you are supporting a system of fraud designed by the people who care, your democratic rep. or your senator. You are being suckered and you feel good about your ignorant self for not realizing who is really the problem, your democrat rep. or your democratic senator.

      Democrats can not blame conservatives or republicans for the mess today, they have not been in legislative power for decades. They built it and they came. Now you Mr. and Mrs. taxpayer are expected to work harder and have less so you can be mandated through taxation, fees and penalties to pay for their scheme. 242,850 people voted for this in 2022, 112,000 didn’t. You can;t blame the latter, it’s you who continue to vote democrat.

  7. Some excellent comments here; wish the legislature would pay attention. It’s a complicated situation. One problem is that as soon as someone sets foot in VT, the leftists now consider them “a Vermonter”. And if they are homeless they are now added to the list in need of services. So we now have people from all over the US and other countries who are here demanding services. VT has a small population; we can’t afford to do this. Maine has discovered that if you build it they will come as Portland has become so flooded with illegal migrants they’ve had to open their equivalent of the Barre Auditorium complex to house them.

    Secondly, nothing has been done to put people into treatment programs, assist them with finding employment, saving money etc. Did you all think this motel housing was going to continue forever? Too many are in the same condition they were in 2-3 years ago and no better equipped or motivated to support themselves. Absolutely no accountability has been demanded from anyone!

    That we have employed people who cannot find or afford even simple housing is a travesty. This group should have been a no brainer to help find housing; why didn’t this happen? At an average price of $150/night/room, a used mobile home could have been purchased in less than a year for each of them and placed in a MH park. Even better would have been putting several people together; a single person doesn’t need a 3 bedroom MH. We desperately need to prioritize building affordable homes and apartments. Instead the NIMBY’s keep everything out while the affluent snap up vacation homes and homes to use as short term rentals for inflated prices far beyond regular rents.

    We now have a housing crisis such that not only the homeless are affected but people can’t move here to take jobs. A family member could dramatically increase his pay if he could relocate to take a job in the Burlington area but good luck with that! So he remains in his reasonably priced apartment (for here) and works a low pay dead end job. When people can’t afford to or can’t even find a place to live the jobs won’t get filled. And people can’t move to another part of the state to accept a new job when they have no hope of finding housing there.

    This is a huge problem and the impacts are many. Continuing to attract more people looking for benefits is not what VT needs. We need to do something to rapidly increase housing availability, provide treatment programs for mental illness and substance abuse and demand accountability from both the social service agencies and their clients.

  8. Suddenly, the emotional, pull of the heart strings spigot is turned on full blast. I watched the same coverage on WCAX. The issue is not new and the plight of the homeless is not new. I watched a video of what is going on in Portland, OR – you want to see something seriously dangerous and sickening, check out the streets of Portland, OR, or San Francisco, Los Angeles, or Philadelphia. Now, it is here in our communities. The Administration and the Legislature are responsible for it, but suddenly, we are to believe they are not responsible? Suddenly, their politics, their policies, their gaslighting, their mandates, their fraud and thievery is not at fault for the plight and blight in our State. Now, they want to rub our noses in it when it is them that must suffer the consequences of their actions over the past three years and two decades. The Truth is there are a great many more people on the verge of being homeless. Where are the Churches? Where are the social justice warriors who are so concerned about equality? They are pocketing their donations and grants and thumbing their noses at the homeless. They tow the line, they don’t cross it. My heart goes out to those who are suffering at the hands of our liberal, fraudulent government. It is being done on purpose. Maybe now many more people will wake up to the fact our leadership is anything but – they are corrupted and complicit in crimes against humanity.

  9. The illegals that show up make it worse for our homeless. But the illegals eventually find jobs and housing. These hotel residents could do the same. Head right on over to Champlain Beef in Whitehall. I’m quite sure there is a house next door full of illegal aliens who work there. If a person truly wants to succeed, they will. Our hotel
    population isn’t as motivated as those Mexicans in Whitehall and that is the overwhelming problem.

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