How does the cost of Burlington’s new pod community compare to state emergency housing?

Published: Jan. 20, 2023 at 5:57 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2023 at 6:03 PM EST
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - Burlington is now just weeks away from opening a shelter pod community in the city’s Old North End for the homeless.

Construction continues on the pods on Elmwood Avenue. All the buildings, including the resource center and bathhouse, have now been delivered. And the city is working toward making the property operational.

The shelter will accommodate around 30 people who are chronically homeless. They will go through a selection process with the Champlain Housing Trust, which will operate the shelter.

As far as costs go, the city says each pod will be about $133 per bed nightly, which comes out to nearly $4,000 a month.

“We really want to make sure that the outcomes for the folks staying at the shelter are really successful, but the other measurement of success is that it be an asset to the community and that it not have unintended consequences on the neighbors. So in order to do that, the staffing level was set accordingly,” said Brian Pine, the director of Burlington’s Community and Economic Development Office.

On an eight-month budget, the city says the breakdown of cost is $740,000 for shelter operations, including $530,000 of staffing and security, and $210,000 for custodial, maintenance, utilities and other expenses. This will be in addition to $120,000 for case management, helping those living in the shelter move on toward permanent housing.

The Vermont Department for Children and Families, which operated the homeless hotel program, said the average price for a hotel room per night in Chittenden County is $149, more expensive than these pods will be per night, without the services.

“We think this is a better investment or at least an investment worth pursuing to see if we can really create better outcomes for folks and really move to permanent housing, which is the goal,” Pine said.

Pine says the majority of cost goes toward staffing because they needed to hire skilled and experienced people for these jobs working at the shelter, which will always have at least two workers on site. The goal is to have full wrap-around services at the site to help those living there succeed.

“There’s going to be meals provided on-site, medical care will come to the site, mental health services will be available. So, again, think of it as a therapeutic living environment in a temporary setting,” Pine said.

The shelter will have substance use treatment services, as well.

It is not local-taxpayer funded. The city is using around $1.4 million in American Rescue Plan Act money to build the shelter, and more than $600,000 of Vermont Office of Economic Opportunity grant money.

Officials hope to open the shelter at the end of January or in early February.

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