The Vermont Conversation with David Goodman is a VTDigger podcast that features in-depth interviews on local and national issues with politicians, activists, artists, changemakers and citizens who are making a difference. Listen below, and subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify to hear more.
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced Vermont to transform how it responds to homelessness. The state has garnered national attention for its use of hotels to house people who are experiencing homelessness. The unprecedented effort, which began last spring, was initially driven by the need to minimize the risk of contagion posed by congregate homeless shelters. Some 2,700 unhoused Vermonters are now living in hotels, where they also receive social and health services. However, the hotels have also struggled with a rise in criminal activity.
How do Vermonters end up being homeless, and what is the long-term solution to homelessness post-pandemic? Three frontline service providers join us to discuss the landscape of homelessness in Vermont: Paul Dragon, executive director of Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, a community action agency; Dawn Little, a street outreach worker in the Barre-Montpelier area for Good Samaritan Haven, a 35-year-old shelter in Barre; and Ken Russell, director of Another Way, a drop-in center in Montpelier for people with mental health challenges.
In the second half of the program, Sean Elsass, a transgender Vermonter who formerly worked in corrections, shares his experience of being homeless. Elsass first publicly shared his story in January at a hearing on homelessness in the Vermont Legislature.
“Everyone is really a paycheck away [from] homelessness,” says Elsass.
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