"We are trying to create a few new affordable housing units so that people have a chance to move beyond shelter and regain their independence," said Rita Markley, Executive Director of the Committee on Temporary Shelter.
Markley says Vermonters are in desperate need for affordable homes. That's why COTS has plans to make additions to its current administrative building on North Avenue to add a new day station and affordable housing units. The daystation is currently housed temporarily at the First Methodist United Church in Burlington. Those in need can use computers to aid in their job search, get financial counseling and meet with veterans and women's groups. COTS moved to the church after the old daystation was damaged in a flood, but they need a permanent home. COTS officials say converting the conference room on North Avenue to the new daystation makes sense, as does the other planned additions. The affordable housing will be built on the second floor and will contain between 12 and 16 units.
Just next to the North Street building sits a residential area. What do people in those homes think about their possible new neighbors? "A lot of homeless people do use the area in and around our neighborhood -- both at the parking lot down by COTS and battery park, so it would be helpful for them to have some place to go," said Oren Guttmann, a neighbor.
Although Guttmann welcomes the idea, he says he has spoken with some of his neighbors who own homes in the area, and they have a different point of view. "People who do, I could see them having many varying opinions on it," Guttmann said.
Markley says what the neighbors think is important. She says they have had meetings and will continue to communicate with residents as the project moves along. "I think people are always nervous when there is change. What we are trying to do is so before we have everything set in concrete, we are trying to get their input first," she said.
Markley says construction will take two to three years and they are in the very early stages of making plans and getting city permits.