By Guy Page
The State of Vermont’s pandemic-era emergency housing funding will end May 31 for some recipients, and June 30 for the rest of them.
However, a vocal advocate for emergency housing and 2022 Democratic candidate for governor hopes to change lawmakers’ minds at 12:30 today. She, and supportive lawmakers, want $20 million reinserted into the state budget for emergency housing including homeless hotels, expanding the shelters, and other options.
Many residents now staying in ‘homeless hotels’ around the state received a letter May 2 telling them that as of the end of this month, the funding will end and they will need to seek other housing. The letter promises counseling and assistance. The May 2 letter was sent to people who are not disabled, living under threat of domestic abuse, parents of young children, or other categories for whom emergency housing recipients have until the end of June to stay in the ‘homeless hotels.’
But as of July 1, they need to be out, too – a situation housing advocate Brenda Siegel hopes to avert today in a pitch to lawmakers grappling with the 2023-2024 state budget. Her plea for an extension to the emergency housing benefits will be made to the House/Senate conference committee seeking to agree on a common budget figure. And depending on the size of that figure, a veto by Gov. Phil Scott is a possibility.
Siegel is hoping the lawmakers will agree to continue at least some of the emergency funding. She will argue – as she has often in the past – that the State of Vermont will incur harm to the individuals and community if it stops the emergency housing subsidies.
People with substance abuse problems may land on their drug dealer’s couch, she said recently. Women with children seeking housing to escape abuse may have no alternative but to return to their abusers, she warned.
Scott has said in recent weeks that enough is enough, the pandemic is over and the State can’t afford to drain other housing funds to continue pandemic-level emergency housing. In January, he noted that the State had spent $400 million (mostly federal funds) on emergency housing through the pandemic.
The City of Montpelier has planned a press conference for this afternoon asking the State to continue emergency funding. Montpelier, which has passed vagrant-friendly ordinances and whose House representative wants to have a 24-hour public bathroom installed on state property in Montpelier, has a sizeable and highly visible homeless population.