Burlington opens new multimillion dollar homeless shelter - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Burlington opens new multimillion dollar homeless shelter

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A new multimillion dollar facility opens for the homeless in Burlington, but advocates worry many may still be left out in the cold next winter.

With a few snips, state and city leaders officially opened a redeveloped space for those without a home in Burlington.

The North Avenue space will provide shelter from the cold, a range of services to help Vermonters get and keep a roof over their heads and 14 permanent, affordable housing units.

More than $8 million in federal, state and private funds made the vision a reality.

"This will be the place where those who come last everywhere else, this will be the place where they come first," said Rita Markley, COTS executive director. 

While advocates celebrate the renovated space, they also voice concern about a recent plan under consideration at the Statehouse, which would cut back on the homeless motel voucher program. They say that would leave folks out in the cold.

Vermont created the cold weather exception in 2012. It pays for motel stays for the homeless when temperatures drop dangerously low.

The House plan provides more funding for shelters in Rutland and Washington County, while limiting motel money to $200,000, $1.6 million less than Vermont spent two years ago.

"I think it could be disastrous," said Markley.

House budget writers say shelters better connect the homeless with services and a slush fund would open the door to motel stays if shelters don't have space.

Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vermont, says the concept is solid but he has questions.

"We'll figure something out and make it work so we can take care of the most vulnerable," said Scott.

It will be up to Senate leaders to determine whether the idea will have a home in their budget plan.

Several Progressive state representatives voiced concern with the plan during last week's budget debate, but,all of them ultimately voted for the bill despite their reservations.

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