Checkout time begins for Vt. homeless hotel program

Published: May. 31, 2023 at 5:54 PM EDT
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BARRE, Vt. (WCAX) - Federal funding for Vermont’s emergency hotel program has run out, and for some, it’s time to check out. An estimated 800 households are expected to lose their pandemic-era housing starting Thursday, and about 1,000 more by the end of June. Now, community service providers and homeless shelters are preparing for the impact.

At the Good Samaritan Haven, a shelter in central Vermont, executive director Rick DeAngelis says they are looking at all options, including a new lease on a local hotel. Exactly how that would be paid for is not clear, but he says it would take state support. “We could bring for Washington County a significant number of units online,” DeAngelis said.

They are also collecting supplies and handing out tarps, tents, and camping supplies as well as helping people leave Vermont for friends and family elsewhere. The bottom line, DeAngelis says, is that they need more time. “That should be our goal -- keep people where they are and gradually be able to work on people finding other solutions.”

Down the road at Capstone Community Action, Alison Calderara and other staff are working to pair people leaving hotels -- many of whom have steady incomes -- with prospective landlords. “We want to be all that we can for these folks to make sure they have everything they need to make the best of a very bad situation,” Calderara said.

Two of the eight motels in Barre have agreed to extend the deadline for two weeks. That means 35 people in Barre will leave their hotels this week instead of 100. But Calderara adds the best solution is money included in the state budget, which Governor Phil Scott vetoed this week over cost concerns. “We’re focusing on short-term planning to help the folks segway from the motels but also the long-term planning,” she said.

House Speaker Jill Krowinski, D-Burlington, this week called on the governor to declare a state of emergency over people losing their homes. Governor Scott Wednesday said using the executive tool could free up federal money -- and places to live -- and that it’s an option that’s still on the table. But he added that it’s a power that should not be taken lightly. “We’ll know it when we see it. We don’t actually know what’s going to happen on June 1. We’ve been honest about that, clear about that,” he said.

Permanent housing is the goal, but even with hundreds of millions invested in recent years, progress has been slow.

Standing in front of a new 35-bed transitional housing facility that opened last summer, DeAngelis remains realistic about the steep challenges. “I don’t mean to paint too dark a picture, but more people get out of here by going to the hospital or by dying -- it’s that slow,” he said.

Meanwhile, negotiations are still underway over the vetoed $8.5 billion budget and what additional supports, if any, should be included for the homeless.


People leaving the hotels could receive a cash windfall.

Anyone staying at a hotel for four months or longer is eligible to collect the security deposit the state paid upfront. That’s up to $3,300 per household -- minus any money deducted by the hotel to pay for damage.

State leaders say the funds will help transition people into permanent shelters. “They will be able to utilize that money for any purpose they want to, maybe even negotiation with the hotel to provide a longer stay,” Gov. Scott said Wednesday.

People living in hotels for less than four months won’t be eligible.

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