McClaughry: Burlington’s homeless problem

by John McClaughry

A major issue dividing Democrats and Gov. Scott is what to do with some 2,800 homeless who’ve been relying on a state-run motel program that is weeks away from terminating.

Apparently, everyone agrees that this can’t go on without the Federal COVID relief funding that is now disappearing.

John McClaughry

At the last-minute left-leaning lawmakers and advocates, persuaded the Legislature to add $12.5 million to the budget but that just kicks the can down the road. Gov. Scott says no.

Burlington is most acutely aware of the problem since, as one prominent Burlingtonian accurately observed, “Burlington has all the services – you can get excellent medical care, three hot meals a day and be around the action. So that’s where the homeless congregate.”

Maybe Burlington should ask the homeless to serve in a community improvement corps in return for all the benefits that are attracting them there…But then Burlington would have to say No to the homeless who didn’t care to participate. Progressives can’t bring themselves to say no to people they believe to be victims of something or other.

Another approach would be to export the problem. Homeless volunteers would get a one-way ticket on the Amtrak train to Albany or New York City, and a hundred-dollar reward at the far end.

The one clear fact is that Vermont cannot forever spend millions of dollars a month supporting a homeless population, that doesn’t care to do anything in return.

The author, a Kirby resident, is founder and vice-president of the Ethan Allen Institute. To read all EAI news and commentary, go to

Categories: Commentary

15 replies »

  1. Remember the quote from Field of dreams “build it and they will come” ? We did, and they did . It seems nobody thought about, “what’s next” ?

  2. I think the biggest issue for Burlington is that many surrounding areas have taken John McClaughry’s advice and exported the problem. Vermont taxpayers are hopefully done providing the luxury and privacy of hotel rooms to single persons based only on the honor system claim of having nowhere to live. The word spreads easily these days about where progressives are bending over backwards to give free stuff away and accommodate the needs of vagrants, and Burlington is no deep secret. It draws the most accomplished deadbeats from miles around. Mayor Weinberger thinks he will solve the “homeless crisis” by 2024 by mobilizing to create more free housing. That will only make the problem worse.

  3. Let’s start with the premise that this is a mental health issue( you may include all forms of chemical abuses – not I do not say sickness/illness- in this pile).

    Treat it as such. Institutionalize the people with appropriate treatment. Not a hotel or other motel facility..Reopen the old Waterbury campus for treatment. Dependency issues get one swing at the plate. No return trips.The success rates are minuscule.-single digit at best Recidivism is the order of the day in these programs. Fund only programs that can show sustained success. Do not enable. Perhaps some tough love is on order.
    FYI love is not handing out needles and creating a cesspool in Burlington.

    Be empathetic where needed. This is not a carte blanche systematic cure system. If children are involved help up and not hand out. Hold the parents accountable ( yes that may mean hunting down the dads). Everyone seems to know their rights to procreate but miss the responsibility aspect of the equation. With unemployment at less that 3% there are jobs for all who can get off their duff and out of the state funded hotel. No effort… no bed.

    If we create a program too inviting the uninvited will come and overwhelm. I know we are a progressive state but sometimes being a true progressive may be a return to a balanced approach which channels people to success not to a warehouse.

  4. “One prominent Burlingtonian” painted the picture with a wide brush after the fact. Didn’t see it coming? After decades of Bernie Sanders and Pete Clavelle didn’t ring any bells? C’mon man. The Queen City, and Chittenden County as a whole, flung their rainbow painted doors wide open to well-heeled grifters from the political left. Meanwhile, the RINOs sat back and counted their coin fed to them incremently from the same syndicate. The emergency crisis of the day, “homelessness”, is now distracting citizens from the alphabet mafia stalking children and the DEI stealing every dime of grants, taxpayer money, and tax write-off donations. The problem is corruption on the left and right! Spare us the finger wagging op-eds as it serves no purpose (other than gaslight the shared blame of the VTGOP) and doesn’t help the multitude of serious problems in Vermont.

  5. Give an inch, they’ll take a mile.
    You want to eat,you have to work.
    Fools, and their services/money, are soon parted.
    Vote out the starry eyed progressives, that brought in drug gang bangers, and freeloaders, by the thousands,than gave themselfs a big raise on the taxpayers backs, and vote in common sense Republicans.

  6. Burlington business owners tried that in the past. Anyone remember a program called “Westward Ho”. Business owners were buying a oneway ticket anywhere for the homeless that were interfering with their business.

  7. There are also the panhandlers, they have lined out their turf and brag about the amount they make per day, per month, per year. Time to pay taxes and to be considered income. Their turf can be defended viciously. Time for demographic profiles of those being paid with our taxes.

    • I always wonder how the panhandlers have newer iPhones than I have.

  8. Two words….county farm. Provide housing let them grow their eats make clothes ect. Everybody who lives there can something

  9. We once had similar problems with the old “County Farms” & work to eat as they would ALL leave for paying farm work at 1st haying & return after a hard frost..Now we/they have cellphones & the “pandemic” motel freebies word got out & life’s a lot easier here than Boston or Worcester or Hartford & now look around. Can’t stay out in summer as it’s too hot, spring & fall too rainy, and winter? Forget about it! Add to this any property owner with half a brain lets out as an “Air B&B” for a LOT more and also avoids the Inspectors & Legal Aid vultures, a win/win. And just WAIT until Phil Scott & Co. invite even MORE “New Americans” (border jumpers) here, some 5 Million and counting, wheee!

  10. Interesting how politicians use the incomes of working Vermonters to encourage the wrong behavior.

    • Vermont and the Federal government. It’s the leftist, vote getting playbook. And somehow, inexplicably, it works.

  11. Thank you John, for your note. As one who volunteered in the past with homeless, I understand that some are truly needy however many are users, abusers, manipulators and takers. The word was out across the country that Vermont takes care of its’ homeless so many people came here from far & wide. I believe that proof of residence for at least 6-8 months should be required along with working at least a part-time job and a desire to help themselves. More programs should be implemented to encourage becoming independent. I understand that this takes time & money but should still be done. In the long run it’s better than paying for unlimited motels on the taxpayer dime. Supporting the homeless has also been done to a large degree to get leftist votes. It’s time to end this theft of hard-working people.

  12. More divisive divide and conquer sponsored by the progressives – ‘us vs them’ — that avoids the real source of the problem: a system that marginalilzes anyone who doesn’t comply and go along with it, promoting homogeny, and ignoring that MOST homeless have neither mental health problems or drug issues and are just caught between the highest rental prices in the nation (or close to), a NIMBYism that is endemic among progressives, and a lack of accountability that nothing happens in a vacuum — we have ignored poverty for a LONNNNNG time, and progressives think Marxist culture is the answer.
    Or, indentured slavery, as Mr. McL promotes above, punitive response to a problem no homeless person created.

    Doing the minimal amount of research or serving the homeless will debunk the stigmatization that McL promotes here – treat the poor like criminals.

    Vermont’s housing problem is due to no rent control, removal of rental options, affordable housing, and choice from renters. Because clearly, if you own a home, you’re not homeless. So we are talking about renters.

    No one wants to be homeless, and options now available for the homeless are humiliating and continue the cycle of poverty. NO solutions the state or progressives like McL have proposed addressed the primary issue of too high rents, empty housing stock, and a judgemental and ignorant attitude towards those whose values are simply… not into one world globalization, and still value choice, indepedence, and good works.

    Opening up your extra bedrooms, your mother in law apartments, your second homes to those who need housing and capping rents commensorate with the minimum wage…but that’s too common sensey for progressives, and no one is making any money …just right action and good works. Can’t have that …

    We are sooooo lost.