As temperatures drop and December 25th draws near many feel fortunate to be heading home for the holidays. Rita Markley, Executive Director of the Committee On Temporary Shelter, asks us to think of those who don't have a home, or even a warm place to go. "30 years ago, 40 years ago people who worked full time did not have to turn to a charity for a place to sleep at night," Markley said.
Thursday on Church Street COTS celebrated 30 years of service, Markley reflected on how difficult homelessness in Burlington has become. "It's a 1% vacancy rate, the recession continues, wages haven't kept pace with housing costs so of course people are losing their homes or housing is precarious," Markley said.
As COTS illuminates this issue outside city hall, the development review board debates two proposals for homeless shelters this winter season. "It's basically going to be run the same way, whether it's a hostel or serving needs as a quote unquote shelter," said Brad Rabinowitz, member of the Burlington Development review board.
One proposal the board is considering, turning the Burlington Hostel into a place for the homeless to go. A program that would require financial support from the state. The other proposal would turn the gymnasium of the Alliance Church on North Avenue into a homeless shelter. That proposal has become contentious as the church runs a full-time daycare in the same facility. Markley says neither leads to a solution. "We need more housing the answer to homelessness is not shelter," she explained.
Markley says despite increased homelessness, they did see some success this year. COTS prevented 233 at risk families from losing their homes, Markley says this saved the state more than a million dollars in potential hotel bills as the state has been putting homeless families in hotels when shelters are full.