Burlington homeless pods ready for occupants

City official decries recent “anti-shelter tone” of homeless advocates, sees pods as bridge to ‘permanent supportive housing

Artists drawing of newly opened Elmwood Emergency Shelter Community

Mayor Miro Weinberger announced Tuesday, Feb. 6 that the City of Burlington’s Elmwood Emergency Shelter Community is ready for occupancy and up to 35 guests will be welcomed into the shelter by the end of the month. 

“Elmwood will serve as a temporary, critical resource in our redoubled efforts to bring a functional end to homelessness and to deliver on the promise of housing as human right in Burlington,” said Mayor Miro Weinberger. “From the use of City land and prefabricated shelter units, to the breadth of services provided, this low-barrier shelter represents an innovative new public health approach to homelessness. The need for housing is incredibly acute right now, and all levels of government and our many housing partners must continue to take urgent, high-impact actions to increase the housing supply and better support needed support services. I am grateful to the countless neighbors, City staff, local organizations, business leaders, contractors, and volunteers who supported the creation of this new shelter and who will be critical to its success moving forward.”   

Construction of the complete facilities at the Elmwood Shelter were underway from July 2022 to February 2023. The total building cost of the Elmwood project was $1.6 million; $1.2 million came from City ARPA funds, and financial support came from the Burlington Electric Department, the Vermont Low Income Trust for Electricity (VLITE), and the Vermont Community Foundation. Local businesses and organizations that donated goods and materials include: Minotair, Inc., American Floor Mats, Sherwin Williams, the Farmhouse Group, Homeport, Northgate Apartments Residents and Staff, and First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington.  

“The drive to end homelessness has, among some, taken on an anti-shelter tone. It should not. Shelters play a vital role in the crisis response system and are an essential part of ending homelessness,” said CEDO Director, Brian Pine. “To play that key role, however, the shelter must have a constant and unyielding housing focus in all that it does. The Elmwood Emergency Shelter is designed around the model of rapid rehousing with all of the services required to move from homelessness to permanent supportive housing. The City and our partners are equally focused on developing new permanent affordable housing to ensure that we’ve built a bridge to housing stability.” 

Champlain Housing Trust CEO, Michael Monte added, “We’re thankful for the City’s leadership and the State’s support for this new shelter, and eager to welcome our guests and provide them with a place to be safe and secure.” Champlain Housing Trust is the managing partner of the Shelter. 

With the City supported expansion of ANEW Place and the opening of Elmwood, the number of emergency low-barrier shelter beds in Burlington increased from 50 to 95 over the last year. 

In January 2020, the annual Point in Time (PIT) Count administered by the Chittenden County Homeless Alliance reported 261 people experiencing homelessness, including 10 unsheltered individuals, in Chittenden County. In January 2022, the number of people experiencing homelessness increased nearly threefold to 668. Local outreach teams estimate the number of unsheltered individuals increased to nearly 70 across Chittenden County in the summer of 2022, with the vast majority unsheltered within Burlington.  

Supportive services will be provided on-site: 

·       Meals and basic needs provided by CVOEO and Feeding Chittenden  

·       Housing navigation provided by CVOEO  

·       Substance use recovery meetings facilitated by the Turning Point 

·       Medically assisted treatment provided by Safe Recovery  

·       Contingency management and support for justice involved people by VCJR  

·       Health care and mental health support provided by Community Health Centers of Burlington 

·       Burlington’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Waterfront will provide a full-time facilities staff person 

·       Burlington Police Department Community Support Liaisons will regularly visit with guests 

·       Chocolate Thunder will provide overnight security on site 

Many community volunteers and numerous organizations have participated in the design, build, and program development, including: 

2nd Gen Builders Goliathtech of Vermont Pallet Shelters US Ecology 
Able Paint, Glass & Flooring Gordon’s Window Décor Peeters Consulting Vermont Energy Investment Corp. 
Atlas Harvestar Power Pill-Maharam Architects  Vermont Security  
BP Wastewater Services of VT Howard Street Center Red Bird Integrated Consulting YouthBuild 
Bronson Johnson Seamless Gutters Intuitive Engineering Red Rock Mechanical  
Burlington Telecom KBS Builders, Inc. Round Hill Fence  
Duncan Wisniewski Architecture Lakeside Electric Tru Engineering  
Elizabeth Emmett Liza Phillip Up End This  


·       In December 2021, the Mayor announced a ten-point Action Plan to Fulfill Housing as a Human Right in Burlington, which included the goal for the City to invest in shelter pods and related infrastructure to create a new low-barrier facility for 2022. Mayor Weinberger’s Action Plan seeks to end chronic homelessness in Burlington by the end of 2025. 

·       The City developed the Elmwood Emergency Shelter Community plan after securing City Council approval in March. In June, the Development and Review Board approved the zoning permit. 

·       Public engagement efforts included holding two presentations at Neighborhood Planning Assemblies and four Community Neighbor Conversations at the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington. 

Excerpted from press release from Burlington Mayor’s Office

Categories: Burlington, Press Release

14 replies »

  1. This article describes this as temporary or transitional housing but doesn’t inform the reader about what the rules will be. How long can someone stay there? What happens when they have exhausted their stay? Do they go back to being homeless? How much will it cost the city in cleaning in between occupants? How much to keep the staffing described in the article on site? I cannot tell if the details have not been worked out or if the article just doesn’t provide them.

  2. Any bets that these are destroyed within a year just like the Holiday Inn on Williston Rd was? We need a mental health work camp not a free for all.

    • That Holiday In had to literally be leveled & rebuilt. What a disgrace. What a failed program this has been for years, yet as in keeping with the definition of stupidity? The government of Vermont is engaging in it all yet again!

  3. This will not fix the homelessness in Vermont, it will only exaggerate it. The root cause of homelessness, quite frankly, all of America’s problems, come from the rejection of God. History repeating itself.

    2 Chronicles 7:14 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

  4. Total nonsense. What about long term mental health treatment? Then you can get to the root of the problem. Otherwise you’re putting a bandaid in the problem.

  5. I truly hate saying this, but what is Burlington going to do when one by one, the people given these “pods” are replaced by new candidates on the streets ? It’s going to happen. Others are going to hear about the free housing in Burlington, and replace those that are given a pod. If two people come to Burlington for every one that is given free housing, what will the Progs, and Mayor Weinberger do then ? I’ve got an idea, how about turning city hall, and the auditorium into low income housing, the park into a “camp ground”, and the pods into municipal offices !

  6. The mayor is quite the brainiac, I have discerned. It’s obvious that he has discovered that having the homeless live in quarters that significantly resemble outhouses will vanquish these souls of all that ails them and alleviate what have been long-determined to be the direct causes homelessness altogether – which are, as always, mental illness, drug addictions, and criminality. Abracadabra!! Fixed! Sheer brilliance, really.

    Thanks, mayor. Let’s revisit this then in half a year or so whereby you can officially unfurl this entire pathway to success in eliminating homelessness in Burlington using these aforementioned outhouse-style living quarters which can very obviously salvage humankind and even save the world.

    • Kathleen J. Gaffney, it is a lie to state that “mental illness”, drug addiction, etc., are the primary causes of homelessness. Inability to afford rent is the primary cause of homelessness. Drug addiction, confusion, anxiety, etc., are often the result, not the cause, of homelessness.
      I have been homeless twice. I receive SSI based on a debilitating physiological disability. I have been homeless twice, a total of 8 1/2 or 9 years. I simply didn’t have enough money to pay rent.

      • Do you believe that everyone on Social Security Disability is really disabled? I know a few people who claim they can’t work but are able to do almost everything else. Patrick above is correct. For SSD all you have to do is to get a DR to sign off and then make a call to your congressman. His staff sees it as a vote so you get the benefits, he gets the vote and the taxpayer gets screwed without getting so much as a kiss. There is a culture in all these programs. Welfare recipients teach others how to get on the government teat. The Gov. agency sees it as a new client and a larger budget for the next year and job security. In the meantime, SS is going broke and the gov. benefits keep rising and the taxpayer gets screwed again. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and the same road leads to big government.

      • I’m sorry to have to disagree, but not according to the US government and not according to the research & statistics the government has been compiling for many decades on the topic. Those are consistently the two reasons which have been consistently cited as the primary reasons for homelessness.

        Addiction in the USA alone & apart from any connection to homelessness, is increasing and is vast; we are a nation of addicts be in opiates, alcohol, nicotine, fentanyl, etc. Mental illness has also been on the incline over decades as evidenced by “hot-line” calls, the sheer number seeking counseling & those requiring/filling psychotropic medications, as well as suicide AND murder rates.

        While your reason(s) may have been different for you, it is not the case for most. As a former professional news videographer, I request that you try watching file & news footage of typical homeless populations taken within any urban area within this nation from the past couple of decades.

      • @ Scott

        So you acknowledge you have a mental health condition yet insist that wasn’t the reason you were homeless. True what you receive for SSI can’t be all that much and rents are high but if you didn’t have a mental health issue and were working full time you’d likely have had enough money to pay rent. Sorry but I don’t think your argument that you weren’t homeless due to mental illness and only to not being able to afford rent holds water. And I know that it is a truism that the majority of people that are homeless are so due to mental health issues and/or substance abuse. It doesn’t matter if you don’t like the truth or agree with it: facts don’t care about your feelings.

  7. Remember when the substantially constructed Brandon Training School was a valued State facility?
    It’s shelter, care, and programs, dealing with essentially those people and their problems who will be housed in the Burlington Pod Community, worked well. Of course, the progressive liberals managed to shut it down in 1993. Could have been very useful now. Way to go progressive liberals. Now these people are being warehoused in the ‘Elmwood Emergency Shelter Community’ of pods, built with about $1.6 million taxpayer dollars, or approximately $60,000 for each pod, about the size of a garden shed.
    What a farce…

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