Press Release

Rally to continue motel program

Homeless hotel advocates Josh Lisenby (left) and Brenda Siegel have now slept on the State House steps for 18 nights.

Yesterday, former gubernatorial candidate and anti-poverty activist Brenda Siegel and Josh Lisenby, a former motel resident, were joined by about 50 legislators, representatives from Rights and Democracy Vermont and Interfaith Action, Lived Experience Experts, and advocates to call on the Governor to fully reinstate the program to house homeless Vermonters in hotels.

Siegel and Lisenby now have slept on the State House steps for 18 nights. Siegel read a statement from Senate Pro Tem Becca Balint and Speaker Jill Krowinski in support of the program’s extension beyond December 31. The full statement is available in the linked live stream.

“We have to use the tools available to us in the immediate future. We must reduce the gate to being safe this winter and allow anyone who is houseless to access the federal reimbursement for GA Motel Program, followed by state allocated funds,” said Siegel.

Siegel and Lisenby have consistently said that any extension of the GA Motel program must include both the people who are already on the street and those who may become homeless in the future. 

High school advocate Addie Lentzner has identified nearly 1,000 open rooms from currently participating motels, as well as hotels that have never been asked by the state if they would like to participate. Many legislative leaders gave a clear message of support for full reinstatement of the program. 

“It does not make sense to me that we are not opening this program up. It makes a clear statement about how this administration, this Governor feels about me. He has the tools and he doesn’t care,” reflected Lisenby.

15 replies »

  1. Having “open motel rooms from participating motels” only means that the businesses are more than happy to have a guaranteed commitment paid for by a seemingly endless source of money…the Vermont taxpayer. The Legislature heard from the lobbyists and the advocates for those who claim to be homeless. What they really need to hear from are the overburdened Vermont taxpayers, many of who can barely afford the LUXURY of even one nights stay in a motel. I can understand that BASIC SHELTER is arguable a “human right” and therefore justifies some level of public expenditure, but the privacy and luxury of long-term stays in hotel rooms are over the top. What’s next, a house on the lake in Charlotte for anyone who claims to be homeless? Bear in mind that Vermont is a VERY welfare-generous state, and no one can claim to be without some level of financial resources. Just because some people CHOOSE to spend their limited resources on tobacco, booze, cocaine, opioids or lottery tickets does not justify them demanding that their housing be provided gratis in anything fancier than a communal shelter. This creeping socialism is bankrupting Vermont.

    • You make a great point Rich. Many of the camps on Lake Champlain are summer homes, and therefor empty in the winter. Do you suppose that those that are well off enough to have “summer homes” should be “socially responsible” and offer up their “camps” ? Just for the winter, you understand. Hell, Beanie has three homes, and he can only use one at a time. Right ?

    • I recently needed to find a motel room to attend a meeting in Mass. The only affordable one ($100 night) in VT had so many complaints from recent guests (drug deals in parking lot, drug use in rooms, loud parties all night long, fights and people hanging around motel late at night, trash, etc.) I did not feel safe and ended up cancelling my reservation and could not attend the meeting because I could not afford the cost for a pricier hotel. But as a taxpayer I have to pay for homeless to stay in a hotel? What about putting the money into emergency shelters with dorm style bedding and a community kitchen to be shared. Much cheaper and people are safe. Must be supervised. Many previous guests (tourists) said they would not come back to that motel. I expressed my concern to owner and chain. They told me they keep homeless in separate area away from paying guests, but guests did not think they were separated. When i told them I was cancelling because of all the negative comments they removed the comments from their website. I understand during the lockdown restrictions the lodging industry was badly affected and the hotels taking homeless were helped, but now it would be best to bring back the tourists so all the businesses that depend on them can survive. The tourists complained during foliage season about lack of availability of rooms to come here. Taxpayers are footing the bill, whether the state pays or FEMA pays. Homeless folks need to have the opportunity for shelter but hotels?

  2. “Siegel and Lisenby have consistently said that any extension of the GA Motel program must include both the people who are already on the street and those who may become homeless in the future.” Do you suppose that if the SOV offers hotel rooms for homeless with the knowledge that there will be more made available if the need be in the future, that will lead to a situation where homeless will come from out of state to avail themselves of free lodging ? Kinda like Biden stating at the 2020 Democratic campaign debate that there should be free health care for any illegal alien that crossed the boarder . “Build it, and they will come!” Is that what we want ?

    • Your prophesy of future demand and accommodation is valid and scary, and few dare to risk being called horrible names by opposing such proposals. This motel program is nothing new. Some may recall about 5 years ago a New York couple were busted for selling opioids out of a Vermont taxpayer-provided hotel room.
      Anywhere that significant numbers of homeless people congregate trouble soon follows. Burlington encampments have been host to a disproportionate number of drug busts, overdose deaths, and a murder. Communal shelters have rules, supervision and resources available to mitigate such issues but the privacy and isolation of private hotel rooms provide incubators for all sorts of nefarious activity, and numerous fatal overdoses have been noted during the huge COVID expansion of the hotel program.
      It also needs to be acknowledged that “being homeless” is a matter of interpretation and definition and is accommodated using the honor system, based simply on a claim. If there was reliable means testing for those claiming to be homeless, there may be more public support for paying for alternatives. It is not a big surprise that if the taxpayers are going to provide the luxury and privacy of hotel rooms, some deadbeats will take advantage and obviously spend their cash resources on other things. Understanding human nature is not rocket science.

  3. shows units that have been used in addressing homeless accomodation needs in the Hartford region. These can cost $500-$5K, which is much cheaper than the nearly $150M that has been spent on hotel housing for one year. Granted these funds have come from federal resources, but that still comes from our taxes – just a different pocket.

    If money were spent to winterize some encampment sites near public transportation with these insulated winter units were allowed, it would be much cheaper. This answer would have something to show for the expenditure at the end of the year, too.

    • JMO, but I think any kind of accommodations should be conditioned on the recipient seeking help in bettering their situation. If they can’t find a job, the state should help them find suitable employment so they can move on. If they refuse that opportunity, they should lose that assistance. The same if their issue is one of addiction or mental health. You can lead a horse to water………..

      • Check out Community Sheltered Support out of Eugene, OR. They have 3 clusters – one for Vets, one for mentally challenged and another for rehab folks. The first two are easy to see how they are falling through the cracks. Those affected by drugs are harder to keep from relapsing.

  4. Ahhh….”Rights & Democracy VT”: The Marxist radical organization that is literally “importing” gang members, criminals, & homeless people from all over the nation into VT in order to “diversify” this once safe & peaceful state. Their mission statement is to have these same lawless, unemployed, uneducated folks run for and be elected to public office in order to lord all these detestable hard-working Americans who are the direct cause for their lot in life.

    No fooling: LOOK AT THEIR WEBSITE – They are a dangerous extremist group.

  5. The governor has the “tools” & doesn’t care”. The GOVERNMENT is NOT responsible for your living situation, pal. YOU are. Get a job. Get off drugs. Get mental health help. Learn some accountability & responsibility. This state has gone mad thanks to the massive influx of out-of-staters who have ruined their own states & now are determined to do the same here.

  6. There won’t be any hotel/motel rooms available as they are being occupied by crimal illegals. Why should the administration want to hp Americans?

  7. BTW, may I ask where these two are relieving themselves there at the Capital in the middle of a pandemic to boot? Never mind……I don’t wish to know.

  8. As I have suggested several times in the past. if there is a problem, why not solve the problem? If there are those who want free rooms in hotels or motels, what would be the incentive to leave the comfortable surroundings supplied by the tax payers of Vermont. Perhaps every adult be prepared to accept a full time job with follow up to be sure they fulfill the obligations of the job. Provide a communal day care center for children of families. All those with drug or other addictions attend a regularly scheduled consultation with trained leader. All with physical or mental problems be assigned to a group home that offers daily care, including scheduled hours, etc. Close and eliminate all outdoor shacks, tents, trailers, all year round. Hotels and motels that accept state sponsored residents, after a ten day emergency period would be responsible to the state
    for a $10,000 permit per room.

  9. Shame on everyone who considers themselves superior over a fellow human being based on their social or financial standings. These are still people. Regardless of how they got there or where they will end up. Your tax dollars still support programs for individuals with the same problems whether they are housed or not. This continuing rhetoric of how/who pays for the programs will continue to circumnavigate the underlying issues.
    This is an issue that doesn’t need ego getting in the way of progress.

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