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Vt. officials: Homeless hotel program to continue for duration of COVID emergency

Published: Mar. 10, 2021 at 5:49 PM EST
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - As part of Vermont’s efforts to manage COVID-19, over 2,700 homeless people are being housed in hotels and motels across the state, and state officials say that will continue for the duration of the public health emergency.

Vermont DCF Commissioner Sean Brown says there have been around 10 positive cases of COVID since the program began about one year ago. The program began as a way for homeless people to get out of close spaces with other people. As of Tuesday night, 2,296 adults and 425 children are staying in 1,964 hotel rooms. “This program has provided a critical need to keep Vermonters safe during the pandemic and I would say we’ve been very successful,” he said.

And as more people are eligible for the vaccine, Brown says he does not foresee people being kicked out of housing to find shelter in other places. “Our focus is really on the public health response and making sure all homeless Vermonters have a place to quarantine and isolate. So, there is not a vaccine component to our program right now that has any criteria regarding whether someone is vaccinated or not,” he said.

Brown says he does not foresee a vaccine rule being implemented down the road and that as long as the state is responding to the public health emergency, the program will be available.

But Paul Dragon with the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity is worried the program will end when FEMA stops giving out money in August. He says the program has been beneficial, giving some people the means to enter permanent housing. “Congregate settings, or people living outside again in encampments, that’s stigmatizing for people and it’s not the kind of respectful approach we want to have towards people who are disinvested in this economy,” Dragon said

It currently costs FEMA a little over $6 million a month to house, feed, and provide services to these Vermonters.

Recipients are not required to provide any financial contribution and Brown urged anyone who is being charged to reach out to DCF for help.

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