The state is looking to dramatically scale back an emergency program for housing the homeless.
When traditional shelters are full, the state has been handing out vouchers for hotel rooms. But the cost of the program has more than doubled since 2010 to an estimated $3.5 million this year.
State officials said funding for the program could be better used to set up apartments and understand the underlying reasons for individual homelessness. They hope doing so will cut down on people's dependency on the motel program.
"Nobody's really getting at the underlying issue as to why you need to get into a shelter or a motel in the first place. So we want to redesign the benefits package and have case managers say to you, 'What's really going on?'" said Vt. Children and Families Commissioner Dave Yacavone.
Beginning with the next budget year, the state plans to eliminate hotel vouchers for most individuals, reserving the rooms for homeless families and people with disabilities.
Homeless advocates have been strong critics of the hotel program. They say it undermines efforts of shelters to help people find permanent solutions to their housing needs. Still, they don't want to see the vouchers eliminated for individuals. They would rather the state find a way to better regulate the program to make sure it's not being abused by people who choose a comfy hotel room over a crowded shelter.
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