Homeless advocates vow to remain on Statehouse steps

Published: Nov. 3, 2021 at 5:05 PM EDT
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MONTPELIER, Vt. (WCAX) - As the temperatures begin to dip, advocates for the homeless remain adamant that the Scott administration open the hotel-motel program for all Vermonters who need it.

Former gubernatorial candidate-turned housing advocate Brenda Siegel has been sleeping on the Statehouse steps with colleagues for three weeks now, urging the governor to fully reinstate the general assistance program.

Right now there are about 1,500 people living in hotels and about 500 people in shelters and there are others that are currently unhoused and living in camps. Seigel and others want the governor to house about 1,000 people who lost their rooms this summer.

Scott administration officials say hotel rooms aren’t the answer. At the same time, they are preparing their seasonal expansion of the hotel program and plan to release those criteria Wednesday or Thursday. “We immediately increase entry into the hotel-motel program. We’ve done this for years now in terms of the adverse weather policy,” said AHS Secretary Mike Smith.

Siegel and others contend that the temporary vouchers and warming shelters during cold weather are not stable housing.

The state will be rolling out new financial assistance for the homeless in January including 18 more months of rental assistance, which can be used for hotels or apartments. Leaders hope those funds will help bridge the gap until more affordable permanent housing can be built, and that can’t happen without a full commitment to Governor Scott’s $250 million housing proposal.

As for Siegel, she says they’re going to stay outside the Statehouse until the governor acts and reinstates the program for all homeless Vermonters.

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