Vermonters experiencing homelessness will have expanded access to emergency housing Friday night and this weekend, as the state enacted its “adverse weather conditions” policy earlier than previously announced.
Last week, the Department for Children and Families said it would house people in shelters and motels from Nov. 22 to March 1, regardless of the day-to-day weather forecast. Participants’ income limits are based on the federal poverty guidelines and amount to about $24,000 for a single-person household.
But with cold temperatures expected this weekend, the relaxed eligibility will take effect Friday evening, according to a state memo.
Anyone seeking shelter Friday night or this weekend can call 211 — an after-hours hotline — and request a placement, according to state officials and housing advocates. People who obtain shelter via 211 this weekend would need to then call or visit the Economic Services Division during business hours Monday to extend their housing.
Brenda Siegel, a housing and anti-poverty advocate, said eligibility is much wider than many people understand it to be. Vermonters who accepted the $2,500 payment to exit the hotel program earlier this year can now get back into the state’s housing program under the cold-weather rules.
“Even if you were denied before or recently, you likely still qualify,” she said. “Even if you were previously exited from the program or were kicked out from the program July or since, you still qualify.”
Tricia Tyo, deputy commissioner of the Economic Services Division, said shelter and hotel capacity are not guaranteed, but as of Friday afternoon, her department had been able to secure placements for everyone who requested one. If staff members could not find a placement in a person’s district, the department offered transportation to shelter in another district.
“The Department has raised capacity concerns for the GA Emergency Housing Program for many months and those concerns remain true this weekend,” Tyo wrote in an email to VTDigger on Friday. “We do not know of any additional pressure on the motel/hotel capacity going into the weekend that would pose an additional challenge.”
Siegel recommended that Vermonters in need of shelter make the call and ask this weekend and not wait until busy days around Thanksgiving.
“Don’t be discouraged,” Siegel said. “If you’re struggling to get in, reach out to one of the supports that can help you, and we’ll make sure that you are housed this winter.”
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