Vt. homeless hotel undergoes health inspection
BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (WCAX) - The Vermont Department of Health is following up on complaints filed against a Brattleboro hotel that has been housing the homeless during the pandemic. It’s one of 70 hotels participating in the homeless housing assistance program that has been sheltering upwards of 1,800 people this winter.
“Well, I have a very slow toilet and sink. My sink is not draining out very well,” said one tenant at the Quality Inn who asked not to be identified. Inside his room, the toilet needed two flushes to work and water was also backing up in the sink. But the man says the room is a better fit than the shelter he was staying at down the road. “Now in the hotel atmosphere, I can kind of pull myself back together, you know, just mentally. You are not dealing with 40 other personalities,” he said.
Hotels in the state voucher program are inspected routinely. The recent inspection in Brattleboro came after a complaint filed with the health department.
“Well, we’d be really glad to know that people have heat,” said Libby Bennett with Groundworks Collaborative, the outreach agency in southern Vermont for those struggling to make ends meet. The organization works with hotel guests on basic day-to-day needs like food and health care. “Making sure that public health and safety issues are being addressed is of importance to us because we aim to make sure people have a dignified place to be and to live.”
State officials say the inspection identified issues that included cosmetic, cleaning, and general maintenance violations. However, the violations did not force the closure of any units. “They have had a number of hotels that they have received concerns about but to our knowledge, only one hotel was shut down during the pandemic that we were using, but that wasn’t by VDH, that was actually by the city of Rutland,” said Tricia Tyo, deputy commissioner of the Department for Children and Families’ Economic Services Division.
We talked by phone with one of the owners of the property who said they are working to fix the problems. The group owns two other hotels participating in the voucher program and they say maintenance is ongoing, but also noted that it can be a challenge when guests refuse to grant access to their rooms.
Meanwhile, Bennett says her organization is thinking about what comes next for the people living here. “This program is not forever and we want to get people into permanent housing,” she said.
The tenant we spoke with says he’s grateful to have his room at the Quality Inn. “People should be grateful to have a spot like that they can go when their living situation is not that together,” he said.
Health department officials say they will follow up with the hotel to ensure the issues and violations are corrected appropriately to ensure the health and safety of guests and staff.
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