Burlington mayor showcases new homeless pod community

Published: Oct. 12, 2022 at 11:35 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 12, 2022 at 5:56 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - After months of delays, Burlington’s $1.5 million low-barrier shelter pod community is taking shape in the Old North End. Mayor Miro Weinberger Wednesday showed off the Queen City’s response to the chronic homeless problem.

“We’re in a challenging time right now when a lot of people are suffering and when the community is suffering. This is a facility that is going to be a very significant step in the right direction,” Mayor Weinberger said.

The project on Elmwood Avenue is slated to consist of 30 individual shelters that will house up to 40 individuals. They are heavily insulated and have electricity and heat for Vermont’s coldest nights and provide residents with a place of their own for several months. It will include a separate building with bathrooms and a community resource center.

The city is finalizing a contract with the Champlain Housing Trust to operate and create the rules and procedures for the facility. It will be low-barrier, meaning that people won’t be turned away, even those who actively struggle with substance issues. There will be a variety of services from human service agencies to provide assistance on-site. “In a focused, centralized way that we are doing everything we can to help people get into permanent housing, find jobs, get into drug and mental health treatment programs -- if that’s appropriate for them. We’ve never had a facility quite like this where we can reach so many people at the same time,” Weinberger said.

The facility will be staffed 24-7, the city said CHT managers are still looking to hire people to run the facility, but that they hope to open in late November. The pod project is expected to continue operating for the next three years.

“They are going to have access to that bed and they are going to lock themselves in at night so they don’t have to worry about people trying to break into their tent or break into their car. So, really without that, you can’t get a good night’s sleep. You can’t leave your belongings during the day because it might get stolen and it’s very difficult to actually transition out of homelessness without that security,” said Ben Simons with Pallet, the Washington state company that built the units.

In the coming weeks, the mayor says they will be asking local residents who want to help to plant gardens or paint murals to make this a place where people can feel at home.

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