Motel owner on the good, bad from voucher program for Vermont’s homeless

Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 5:05 PM EST
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ST. ALBANS, Vt. (WCAX) - Beginning Monday, Vermont’s motel voucher program is housing homeless people regardless of weather conditions. It means for the next 100 days, they can count on having a roof over their heads.

The Vermont Department for Children and Families says currently, 1,269 adults and 441 children have received vouchers. That is 1,710 people in total.

One motel owner taking part in the program is Bonnie Turner of the Cadillac Motel in St. Albans. She spoke very candidly about the good that comes from this program and the difficulties.

The Cadillac Motel is one of about 70 hotels the state says are currently offering rooms under the emergency housing program.

“Everybody deserves an opportunity,” Turner said.

She says her motel has been housing the homeless for about five years. It became a passion for Turner when her son became homeless.

“I realized at that time that they all have a story,” she said.

The Department for Children and Families says because of motel capacity issues, the state has not secured a room for every participant in their home district. Transportation and a room away from an applicant’s current location is offered when available, but not everyone accepts that.

Turner says the state calls her on a daily basis asking about vacancies.

“They have been very helpful in kind of vetting out their people when they place them, that here are the rules and this is what’s going to happen and if you break those rules or you lose your housing, you’re going to lose it for this amount of time,” she said.

The state pays the hotels a set rate for each room occupied under the voucher program. The state does not pay for any damage done to a room after a participant in the program has stayed.

At the Cadillac Motel, Turner says a majority of the guests are respectful, but she says some with mental illness or addiction do cause damage.

“There are a lot of grateful people there and there are a lot of people who just wreak havoc on the place on their way out the door, so it is an expense, yeah,” she said.

But this does not discourage Turner. She does not believe COVID increased homelessness; it has been a crisis for years.

Turner hopes when the federal funding from COVID ends, those being helped now are not forgotten.

“For as long as we own the motel, that’s what we’ll be doing,” Turner said.

The Cadillac Motel does not have any vacancies Monday night.

The emergency housing program-- regardless of weather-- ends on March 1, but the adverse weather conditions policy will pick back up on March 2.

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