By Guy Page
Gov. Phil Scott and administration officials today outlined his plans to help transition the estimated 2700 homeless Vermonters out of the 76 hotels and motels since the pandemic began.
Rather than extend the $145/night homeless hotel programs, the State will:
- Evaluate homeless hotel residents’ needs, and assist in providing services for mental health, health care, workforce training, substance abuse, and housing.
- Increase homeless shelter capacity by converting temporary, seasonal shelters to fulltime.
- Work with communities to find solutions. “There won’t be a one-size fits all solution,” Human Services Secretary Jenney Samuelson said.
- Add substance use/mental housing beds.
- Re-establish the General Assistance housing program for needy families. This program has taken a back-burner to the homeless hotel program.
The homeless hotel prgram didn’t require recipients to seek help with the problems that contributed to their homelessness – including mental health, domestic abuse, substance abuse, and workforce training. That will change, Scott said.
“That’s been one of the challenges with the program,” Scott said. “There hasn’t been that accountability. Going back to the [general assistance] program we will have more accountability, more oversight. It will look like the general assistance program we had previous to this…finding them a job, finding them the substance abuse counseling they need.”
“We were actually just the credit card they used to get into the program,” Scott said. “There obviously wasn’t a lot of oversight there.”
What will it happen if people refuse to leave?, Ike Ben-David of WCAX asked. Scott didn’t answer specifically, saying the contract is between the residents and the hotel – the state has just been paying the bills.
To date, hotel/motel operators have called police to help evict tenants who are unwilling to leave.
Scott and all other administration officials said Vermont’s homelessness emergency didn’t occur in a vacuum, but is an outcome of an overall housing shortage that has been decades in the making. The State is working hard on rehabbing older homes and building new units, Housing Commissioner Josh Hanford said.
Housing advocate Brenda Siegel has warned that Vermonters without emergency housing soon will be sleeping on the couches of their drug dealers or returning to domestic abusers. People will die and that will be on the Scott administration’s head, she said earlier this month.
“We don’t think the hotel motel program we have right now is healthy,” Scott said. “A lot of what you’re hearing is actually happening in this program, because they’re isolated.”
“The hotel and motel program is not helping people thrive,” Samuelson added.
Vermont does have available capacity for domestic violence shelters, Winters said.
Will they be isolated in tents?, a reporter asked. Winters admitted that “it will be really difficult” to address the real issues behind homelessness and keep people safe, all within budget constraints.
Will the State offer hotel/motel owners financial assistance to transition?
“I think they’ve received quite a bit of federal cash already,” Scott said. If they’ve budgeted properly, they should be able to transition. When the $145/night deal was made, the State of Vermont had little negotiating leverage, he said.
Some homeless hotels may convert to more permanent housing, offered the same units to the same clientele on a paying basis. About 14 already have done so, Hanford said.
My frustration with our legislators and indeed a great many of the residents of our fine state, is that no one really planned for this eventuality. They put in place some “plan” but was not robust and carefully thought out. Then they didn’t require anything of substance from the recipients. Something that would have required a measure of responsibility, imparted dignity and providing a graduated approach from the recipients.
They just knee jerked and threw money at it. This requirement could have been helpful for the community.
For instance, for every night in the hotel/motel, four hours of supervised work should have been required. Everything from maintaining the property they were living in, to working with meals on wheels.
When you take away people’s ability to be productive and provide for themselves, you enslave them in a backwards type of manner. You mustn’t just give things to people. You must require inputs from them. Time and labor.
Of course there are many other factors in their homelessness… but actual housing is not the biggest priority. They lived someplace before they became homeless. How did they end up homeless? Solve that problem and the homeless part will resolve itself most likely.
There are many who simply can’t find a willing landlord, despite having the money. These people are still out of luck. They have jobs, they have the money (and pay for their motel rooms out-of-pocket), yet they are being given the message that their communities either want them to leave or live in substandard housing indefinitely.
This housing situation is one which can have severely detrimental effects on the room-renters’ health.
Where is the data that this program worked? We paid millions of dollars for it, the evidence proves that people traveled from out of state to receive this benefit but there is no clear analysis that this was a worthwhile taxpayer investment. Vermont had homeless before the pandemic but it’s worse now…Why? Because people came here for free room and board when they couldn’t get it in their own state.
And Pam Baker I couldn’t agree with you more, people should be required to give something to get something. Life’s not worth living if you can’t have a little dignity, where does any pride come from if the state meets your every need with no work?
Brenda Siegal needs to realize and admit that there have been overdose deaths SPECIFICALLY BECAUSE of the privacy the hotel room program affords. These deaths could have been avoided if the junkies were in a communal shelter situation where others could intervene. That blood is on HER hands…
Homelessness in Vermont is because of their leadership, their policies, their ignorance, and their corruption. They own it, lock, stock, and barrell. The voters and taxpayers own a portion of this crisis for being ignorant to facts and reality. The majority just goes along to get along with blinders and useless masks firmly affixed to their faces. The situation is not a new phenomenon either. It was exacerbated by the plandemic. All the thievery, deception, and lies under a cloak of biological warfare and weaponized lawfare. All that free money pouring in from DC. What did the State of Vermont do? Create task forces, committees, boards, and an alphabet mafia that wails endlessly about racism and gender-bending.
Spare me the empty platitudes, the far-too-late rules and regulations, the bleeding heart pantomimes, and pretending to actually address the situation. Their only goal is to invent new ways to use and abuse the population, housed or homeless, because that is all they do and they profit from all of it.
I know more than a few people who moved from other states to Vermont just for the free housing, medical insurance and lax approach to drug crimes. You reap what you sow Vermont. Now deal with the increase in drugs, crime and mental health issues. How much housing could have been build with all the free hotel money?
Burlington’s mayor has pledged to “end chronic homelessness” by 2024, and his plan is to add more units of free accommodations. He does not seem to realize that by making more free housing available, he is in fact making the problem WORSE by attracting more vagrants to the city, and to the surrounding area.
Not all who are homeless are mentally ill, drug addicts, or other stigmatized demographics that justify stuffing the homeless into a ‘unseen and unheard.’
SOME of us are simply put out of a job, too old to work, have age-related health issues, and cannot live in a ‘smart world’ let alone EMF-laden housing that depletes mental capacity, and undermines health by weakening the immune system, and affecting DNA. This is not hyperbole.
There is NO senior housing, income based, that offers SAFE and HEALTHY housing for those of us affliced with the electromagnetic hypersensitivity illness that is becoming more wide spread as we insist on ‘smart’ cities, towns, housing — that undermines HEALTH and that in and of itself undermines ones ability to contribute meaningfully, let alone feeling society values our contribution, or not. Depending on whether our sensitivities are accommodated or now…
I am ‘homeless’ surrounded by three vacant building that ALL are healthy for me to live in because they are not outfitted or retrofitted with wifi/smart hotspots/towers/antennae — and ethernet (secure and 100 times faster than wifi without the health risks) fiber optics are not available from MOST telecomms (ECFiber is one exception).
Politics and labeling undermine acceptance of the spectrum of those who are homeless (working and single moms with kids, service people who cannot afford the rents now 3 times what they were prior to 2020, and young people just starting out wanting to stay near family). We need to get over the idea that all homeless are the denizens of society. We may BE the throw away useless eaters of a Marxist society — but we ALL deserve safe, healthy housing that is affordable.
What kind of society throws money at a problem and doesn’t address the HUMANITY or lack thereof in a broken system …that creates this problem. NO landlord is going to lower their rents unles subsidied by the State… how did that little bit of bribery slip into reality?
As another commenter noted, many who are homeless are working (as I was until the plandemic disappeared my job at 69 yo) adults who cannot afford the rents.
How about rent control across the boards, and income sensitive rent across the boards — wouldn’t that be cheaper than this neanderthal solution?