Siegel: New homeless hotel rules should consider danger of hypothermia

by Brenda Siegel and Josh Lisenby

Last week the “Adverse Weather Rules” for the 2021/2022 season were announced. We are being told that in order to “create more stability” these rules will again be changed on Monday. We believe that this highlights some of the inconsistencies and instability of the way that these rules are made, outlined and announced.

As of today, the rules say that in order to be given an emergency Motel for Cold Weather, it has to be at least one of the following conditions:

  • Below 20 degrees
  • Below 20 degree wind chill
  • Below 32 degrees with a 50% chance or more of precipitation according NOAA.

We believe that the current rules as written are a death sentence to Vermonters. Science and data show that 50 degrees or below is when the risk of acute hypothermia begins or higher when there is precipitation according to the National Library Of Medicine, National Center For Biotechnology Information and National Institute of Health. People experiencing houselessness and homelessness are thirteen times more likely to die of hypothermia. The long term health impacts of the stress associated with houselessness are well known. The very barriers and conditions for folks to access the GA Motel program for longer periods of time are conditions often created by the experience of being without a home. It is a catch 22 that causes a longer term fiscal hardship for the state and the individual.

There is no capacity issue in motels. There is 100% federal reimbursement. The GA Motel program offers a form of stability that we rarely are afforded the opportunity to offer. Expanding the program should be an easy yes. Each year people die of freezing to death both because the temperature has not dropped enough and also because though it has, they can not get to the motels.

Finally, an announcement of “new Adverse Weather Rules” on a Friday, that no districts qualify for, when the administration is again going to change the rules on Monday is irresponsible and confusing. This weekend it is in the mid to low twenties. People with no gear will sleep on our side walks, benches and in the woods. If anyone dies, it should be stated, that we as a state had the tools to prevent it and chose not to.

The authors are homeless advocates currently sleeping on the State House steps.

Categories: Commentary

6 replies »

  1. Well then, better get yourselves jobs & get indoors. Easy Peasy – virtually everyone is hiring.

  2. I would expect that the authors of this piece would never read these comments, as it is beneath them- however- I would remind folks of Phil Scott’s recent admonishments of ‘personal responsibility’. His words were intended to shame the vaccination rate higher, but they can and should be applied to society in general.
    As to the innuendo regarding 100% federal reimbursement, last time I checked, the lowest federal rate for income tax was 23%. The highest Vermont rate is 8.95%. No, the cheese isn’t free.

  3. When this was reported on WCAX, I had to rewind and watch it three more times. I expect the result of this will be a number of frozen cadavers donated to science for further exploitation and crimes against humanity. Mike Smith couldn’t help but laugh when he was attempting to explain how this “help” works – Satan’s army is active and very, very busy.

  4. The authors of the article seems to not be concerned with finding “permanent” solutions to the problem but in perpetuating very expensive band-aids by tugging on heartstrings and citing faulty science. Anytime the temperature surrounding a person falls below body temperature and the person is wet and wearing improper clothing, hypothermia can result. If they get the criteria changed to 40 degrees, then they could next argue for 50 degrees…
    They imply that with “100% federal reimbursement”, that somehow the productive element of society is not on the hook paying for it. That may be partially true in the short term as long as the printing presses keep turning out currency, but eventually EVERYONE, productive or not, gets punished by the resulting inflation.
    Obviously, hypothermia is a deadly threat so I can buy the concept of publicly funded BASIC SHELTER such as communal bunkhouses in properly sited facilities as a “human right”, but motel rooms are an expensive LUXURY that even many working Vermonters can’t afford even for just a night or two. One argument by advocates such as these is that it is beneath the dignity of people to be “forced” to stay in such communal shelters, but the privacy and isolation of individual motel rooms has resulted in a disproportionate level of deadly overdoses and criminal activity which spreads out beyond the motel property. The same zoning regulations which originally allowed the siting of a motel would not necessarily have allowed for a homeless facility, except for this supposed-temporary re-purposing. If you or I got zoning approval for a doughnut shop and later decided to offer alcohol and nude dancing, you can bet there would be an uproar.
    Providing BASIC shelter for the elements can be argued as the provision if a compassionate society. Providing the luxury and privacy of hotels for anyone claiming to be homeless just encourages more people to make that claim, legitimately or not. A claim of being homeless is based on the honor system and I as a taxpayer demand a higher level of scrutiny in the form of real means-testing. Brenda, please go back to what you do best: dance instruction, yoga and alternative healing and keep your sticky fingers off our tax dollars.

    • The first line of Richlachapelle mares an important point. One that I have made in several letters in this publication. What efforts have been established to SOLVE THE PROBLEM?? I am sure we both would be interested in the answers. Perhaps those who make a habit of sleeping on the court house steps could put there efforts beyond “professional” demonstrators!

  5. If you’re interested in supporting a homeless assistance program in VT that works, check out ANEW place in Burlington. Personally, I was impressed with the staff and the work they do. The program they have is comprehensive, compassionate AND holds the people they serve accountable.

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