Vermont to use Holiday Inn as temporary recovery site for homeless

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) The state of Vermont has a housing plan for people of vulnerable groups who test positive for the coronavirus.

On Monday, Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith announced the state is using the Holiday Inn in South Burlington as a temporary recovery site for anyone who can’t "effectively or safely" self-isolate. That includes anyone who is homeless or lives in a group setting and can’t return due to the risk of infecting others.

“The location will be used as our primary isolation site for COVID-19-positive individuals who do not need hospital level of care but cannot return to their primary place or location of residence,” said Smith.

Homeless people in Burlington like Perry Thornley say they applaud what the state is doing to keep people who don’t have a home safe during the pandemic.

"I think it is a very good thing the city is doing. Burlington Vermont, yes, I praise you," Thornley said.

He is one of Vermont's 1,000 homeless citizens. He and his friend Cory MacDonald-Powden live on the streets of Burlington. MacDonald-Powden says he thinks the city is doing a great job taking care of the homeless population.

“They give us housing that they don't usually give us unless it's cold weather. They're helping us out with food, making sure everybody is getting food, bringing it to the hotels, meeting people out in the community. Yeah, they're doing enough,” he said.

Thornley and MacDonald-Powden say they've stayed at the Holiday Inn and some of the hotels offering shelter to homeless people. The duo also says they've visited some of their friends staying in the campers at North Beach Campground, which the city set up about three weeks ago for guests of the Low Barrier Shelter to live in for the duration of the pandemic.

But Thornley and MacDonald-Powden are opting to stay where they are and they feel safer on the streets.

“If I was going to die, I would've already died. I'm not afraid of the virus. That's why I'm out here every day,” said MacDonald-Powden. “The hotels— you're not allowed to have any visitors. I go crazy in my own hotel room if I can't have visitors. The streets [are] my home. I got family and everything.”

They say they’re still appreciative options are available.

“They're doing everything well. Doing everything right. Thank you,” said Thornley.

To end up at the Holiday Inn recovery site, you must be referred by your primary care provider or through the Vermont Department of Health.