McClaughry: Vermont a magnet for the homeless

By John McClaughry
Columnist Tom Evslin recently quoted The New York Times report of the partial end of Vermont’s Emergency Hotel Program for the homeless:

“In the first year of the expanded hotel program, the number of Vermonters counted as homeless more than doubled, to 2,590 in 2021 from 1,110 in 2020. In 2022 the total jumped again, to 3,295.

John McClaughry

“The rural state, with a population smaller than any but Wyoming, had risen to the top of two national rankings by last year: It had the second highest rate of homelessness per capita in the nation, after California — but also the lowest rate of homeless people living outdoors.”  

Tom continues “The Times did not consider the possibility that Vermont has such a high rate of homelessness at least in part because it provides such good accommodations for the homeless as evidenced by the low rate of people living unsheltered. … Free apartments are attractive.” 

“WCAX tells about the increased demand for free food at social service organizations in Chittenden County. Why does the demand for free food keep going up? At least in part, because it’s available – and free.”

“It’s an iron law of economics that there is no limit to the demand for free stuff. When programs are extended beyond the emergency which gave rise to them, people do become dependent. …Free food, with no means testing to qualify, has also become a staple.”

Thank you, Tom Evslin.

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

24 replies »

  1. Windham College once ran an experiment on the demand for something free.
    They cut the tops off beer bottles and set out the bottoms as ashtrays in the dorms.
    The Question: If they replaces ashtrays taken, how many bottoms would reach equilibrium with no more needed?
    The free supply needs never stopped growing. And that was only bottle bottoms, not free housing and food without any skin required in the game.
    Is there a lesson here?

  2. When you have a government that wants to look like kind, compassionate people, you have people who will give all from the working class and call whoever complains inhuman!

  3. Burlington and it’s Mayor are a good example of what NOT to do to reduce the number of homeless people. The Mayor’s strategy for “reducing homelessness” is to provide more free housing to people who claim to be homeless, based on the honor system. This will of course provide them with homes, and they will no longer be homeless. But of course the word gets out that a normally expensive service is being provided for free and like birds to a feeder, they come flocking from afar. Now you have doubled or tripled the number of “homeless” in Burlington. Wait until the word gets out to the recent migrant community that not only is Burlington providing free housing, but they are a welcoming sanctuary for the undocumented. Not a great strategy, Mayor Weinberger. You reap what you sow.

  4. The homelessness industrial complex is real. From education, to housing to immigration, and beyond…democrats are doing their best to mass produce “marginalized” people in whatever fashion they can. To them, it guarantees the preservation and expansion of their power and it virtually ensures everyone of these people will vote D across-the-board. And along the way, they dont really care how many direct or indirect victims they create. God is watching.

  5. Vermont’s behemouth welfare system began decades ago. The Vermont welfare is securely tied to Federal Section 8 housing and a cornicopia of other benefits funded by the Feds and supplemented by State of Vermont taxpayers. All by design to keep people impoverished and dependent on Big Brother. Most importantly, the more recipients; the more voters for Dem/Progs and their welfare politics. They are the biggest recipients of corporate/elitist welfare after all. The amount of homeless is a direct result of the Dem/Progs. They are not leaders and their policies prove it. They are corrupted with dirty money for their done dirty deeds. One day, I pray Vermonters can be spared the endless pontificating, empty platitudes, and finger wagging from the self-righteous, go along to get along, VTGOP. They are as guilty as their brotheren across the aisle. They too will now reap what they sowed by sitting on their hands and pretending it’s the otherside’s fault alone. The Truth is their pockets are lined with dirty lood money from all their wars spreading freedom and democracy around the world….see how it works?

  6. Given that there are myriad thoughts published on the misbegotten benefits of ‘free stuff’, …

    “Those who would administer wisely must, indeed, be wise, for one of the serious obstacles to the improvement of our race is indiscriminate charity…. Of every thousand dollars spent in so called charity to-day, it is probable that $950 is unwisely spent; so spent, indeed as to produce the very evils which it proposes to mitigate or cure.” – – Andrew Carnegie

    ‘Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.’ – – A ubiquitous proverb

    “Human beings are born with different capacities. If they are free, they are not equal. And if they are equal, they are not free.” ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

    “I have found that, to make a contented slave, it is necessary to make a thoughtless one.” ― Frederick Douglass

    “It’s not an endlessly expanding list of rights — the ‘right’ to education, the ‘right’ to health care, the ‘right’ to food and housing. That’s not freedom, that’s dependency. Those aren’t rights, those are the rations of slavery — hay and a barn for human cattle.” ― Alexis de Tocqueville

    “Mankind is so fallen that no man can be trusted with unchecked power over his fellows. Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters.” ― C.S. Lewis

    “When people get used to preferential treatment, equal treatment feels like discrimination.” Thomas Sowell

    ‘Soft bigotry of low expectations’ – The practice of expecting less from members of a disadvantaged group and thus implicitly encouraging those people not to reach their full potential. – Wiktionary

    … it’s always curious to me why so many persist in providing it.

  7. Both the commentater and the commentors here just whine about the problem while offering no solutions whatsoever other than the unsaid insinuation that it’s better to turn our backs, do nothing, let them starve, freeze, and die. How about a follow-up with your creative solutions to the problem, Mr McClaughry?

    • Re: “…offering no solutions whatsoever other than the unsaid insinuation that it’s better to turn our backs, do nothing, let them starve, freeze, and die.”

      Another false dichotomy: a situation in which two alternative points of view are presented as the only options, whereas others are available.

      There are myriad solutions, Mr. Castello, one for every individual’s circumstance. That’s the point. One size doesn’t fit all. Never has. Never will.

      Vermont is but one of democracy’s experiments, the outcome being resolved when the impending and inevitable catastrophe, common throughout history when the stars of socialism’s tyranny are aligned in this way, takes place. After all, can you explain why homelessness increases in direct correlation with Vermont’s legislative efforts to limit it?

      What remains curious to me, again, is how and why so many people ignore history.

      Praemonitus Praemunitus

    • My solution is plain and simple – prosecute the fraud! Start auditing all the books with a magnifying glass. Stop overspending tax money. Balance a budget just once! Stop implementing unconstitutional, unethical, immoral laws, rules and regulations. Stop lying and deceiving. Stop relying on Federal pork to absolve any culpability or liability for being inept and unable to manage State government. I got plenty of solutions, but none will work under a corrupted, installed regime.

      • But who is it that can be trusted to prosecute the fraud, etc., etc..?

        Another fallacy promoted by those who believe in government control over free enterprise is that they assume those same people who are corrupt in a free market would somehow see the light and be less corrupt when operating in a government setting – when, ironically, as government operators, those same people are held less to account for their actions than they would be in a free market.

        “Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.”
        – – Milton Friedman

      • Here is a thought – if no one can be trusted to do the right thing, we may as well take all the prescribed clot shots, lie down, and die. Defeatist thinking is why we are stuck in this Matrix of flying monkeys hurling their excrement at us on a daily basis. If one is not willing to fight for what is right, stay on the sidelines, and pontificate on what ifs until dragged off to the gulag. Those who are willing to fight for the future (i.e. our children) and mankind will take it from here. No surrender, no retreat.

      • And just how are we supposed to ‘fight’, Melissa? Do you have a plan? Or is your comment mere bluster? Mike Tyson said it best: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”

      • If I have to tell people how to fight, they need to seriously evaluate their purpose for being here and what actually matters to them. I got a plan. My plan is not to be defeated by feckless despots with fake authority and low vibrations. My elders raised no fool and God is not to be mocked or underestimated.

    • The state has to request proof of Vermont domicile for one year before granting any benefits! Each state should be responsible for there own citizens, not Vermont 👎👎🇺🇸🇺🇸

  8. Similar to birdfeed, finite supply, infinite demand…………something has to give.

    • Something always gives. That’s the nature of free enterprise.

      When supply diminishes and increased demand results, prices rise. When prices rise, supply increases to meet the demand because profit motivates. And when supply increases beyond demand, prices naturally decline in order to cut inventories and increase demand yet again. And so it goes. Market equilibrium.

      “The most important single central fact about a free market is that no exchange takes place unless both parties benefit [and] most economic fallacies derive from the neglect of this simple insight, from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another….” – – Milton Friedman

  9. Mr. Brian Costello or “briancostellovt”, I offered up several options and several suggestions for consideration when I wrote an opinion letter on May 30th. If you make requirements of people who receive these benefits, it not only provides them with a sense of dignity (for those who really do need the assistance), but it also weeds out the “takers”. The ones who are just here for the free stuff.
    No one is served when opportunities are given without a personal cost/investment. We do no one any favors by making them dependent. Unless you have other nefarious purposes of course.
    Are you willing, Mr. Brian Costello or “briancostellovt”, to offer up your home, your income to support some of the homeless or “unsheltered”? More importantly, I don’t see you offering any solutions. As far as I can ascertain, you have written nothing of substance yourself. What ideas do you have?

  10. When we feed the hungry, we give of ourselves personally and then our lives shine in dark places. Our needs are also met ‘like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail’ (though that’s not the reason we give—it’s a byproduct) (Isaiah 58:11).

    As a Christian I find it sad that ANYONE goes hungry. Government is not the Body of Christ, and should never be left with the responsibility. That responsibility lies on us.

  11. the old axiom of whatever you subsidize you get more of and whatever you tax you get less of.

  12. Anybody but me old enough to remember the “poor farms” that used to dot the state?

  13. People move here to the state of Vermont because they know that they can make a good living off from the state without doing anything. Four or five years ago the help the state offered was equal to $42,500. Most working people don’t even make that. It’s time to rethink our welfare program.

  14. Sections of this are also being stated elsewhere: I myself have lived on SSI for decades. I have a neuro-metabolic “invisible disability”. In sober reality, often the social welfare system, and people working in it, tirelessly attempt to force people into mental health, despite clinical evidence and in defiance of Law. This is standard operating procedure in many parts of the country. Even non-ambulatory people are shunted to mental health. It is immensely profitable to the behavioral health/pharmaceutical industry. It also allows case workers to avoid a lot of real work. Furthermore, it strains mental health resources and adds enormous “hidden cost” to housing. It also perpetuates the fallacy that homelessness is the result of mental illness, rather than simply inability to afford rent, etc.
    Actually, a person would have to be mentally defective to have chosen such a starveling existence. In reality, many people strive to find a way out of this problem. Being tricked, lied to, abused doesn’t habilitate. Not everyone on social welfare prefers to be there.
    Since 1987 I have operated the “Phantom Rose Express”. An alternative social service project. For some time I worked with homelessness. This was years before I ever expected to become homeless. I witnessed the horror of homelessness. I saw the Communist Party exploit the plight of people. I heard the false statements that there was no homelessness in the Soviet Union.
    In 2016 I moved to VT at the urging of former friends, Marina Brown and Laura Potter. They are trans, radical, Marxist. Members of the old “Liberty Union Party”. Now entitled the “Green Mountain Peace and Justice Party”. Bernie Sanders was an early member. I hope that this Reply is not censored. It is my own testimony, based on the best that I may recall. I have some evidence.
    I learned a great deal through my experience with the Left, in VT and elsewhere. Today’s Left and its predecessors, claim to wish to see homelessness eliminated. “Equity” is a popular phrase. In reality, efforts of political/social rivals are disparaged. Any project or effort that may be is, literally, infiltrated. If feasible, it is “taken over”. If not, it is to be ruined or utterly destroyed. The more effectual efforts to improve conditions are perceived as particularly threatening by the “woke” Left.
    I have learned that VT is a favored destination of “woke” people from around the country. The goal is to influence politics and, of course, elections. This is facilitated by the sparse demographics.
    As concerns homelessness, VT’s social welfare system, including subsidized housing, facilitates such immigration.
    The U.S., Russia, and many other countries have serious problems with homelessness. Patronizing solutions, bureaucracy which over emphasizes “mental health” and its drugging doesn’t help. It does overstrain the mental health system and guarantees recidivism, not habilitation. It also exposes those of us with very real problems to exploitation. It drives some people to lean into extremism, even into violence, in the belief that such is the only long term solution.