BURLINGTON — The Burlington homeless shelter ANEW Place has purchased the Champlain Inn on Shelburne Road, and plans to open the new, year-round facility on Dec. 1, staff and city officials announced Monday.
In March, the onset of the pandemic forced ANEW Place out of its downtown location, which did not have the space to comply with Covid safety measures. The shelter has been urgently searching for a new space ever since.
Standing outside the Shelburne Road inn at Monday’s press conference, director Kevin Pounds described a tumultuous year for the shelter, which has provided housing for guests “in RVs, in tents, all while navigating the challenges of Covid,” and rushed to find a permanent home before the winter.
“This is a big deal today,” Pounds said. “It’s a way of saying, to some of our most vulnerable neighbors, in a very practical way, that you matter to us.”
ANEW Place is the city’s only low-barrier shelter, which means that guests often do not meet the restrictions, like sobriety, of other shelters — and have nowhere else to turn.
The shelter has been working with the city to finalize the purchase of the Champlain Inn for the last month. On Oct. 5, the Burlington City Council passed an emergency resolution allowing the shelter to bypass zoning restrictions that would limit the number of residents it could serve — but at that time, the shelter was still waiting for final approval of funds from the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board.
On Oct. 13, the board signed off on a $2.5 million grant for the purchase and renovation of the Champlain Inn, using federal coronavirus relief funds, and the sale was finalized Friday. The renovations, Pounds said Monday, should be complete in time for a December opening.
When ANEW Place opens its doors, it will become the city’s first low-barrier shelter to operate year round. In years prior, the city’s low-barrier shelter has opened seasonally, from November to June.
That is a meaningful change, Mayor Miro Weinberger said Monday.
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“The wraparound services provided to people staying in this facility should be far superior to what we’ve been able to provide in the past,” Weinberger said.
The seasonal shelter previously had “limited success” in transitioning guests to more stable housing situations, the mayor said.
This is due in part to the city’s serious affordable housing shortage. The new year-round facility will offer more long-term support, Pounds said, which he hopes will make a lasting impact for residents.
The facility will be able to house 50 residents in 33 private and shared rooms. The Champlain Inn also has an office space on the property, allowing for on-site staff support and programming.
“We have an absolute housing crisis in our state,” said Cindy Reid, director of development at Cathedral Square, a local affordable housing provider. But ANEW Place, she said, provides a “first stop” for those left without homes.
Until December, however, there are limited options for many who are experiencing homelessness in the Burlington area. The state’s hotel voucher program is housing many people in need of shelter, but there is still “a gap,” Pounds said. In normal years, the low-barrier shelter began operations at the beginning of November, as temperatures drop.
“We feel the weight of getting this open by Dec. 1,” Pounds said.
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