Politics

Burlington City Council moves forward with construction of pods for those experiencing homelessness

A rendering provided to the Development Review Board of what a pod would look like. Image courtesy of the Burlington Community and Economic Development Office

As housing in Burlington remains hard to come by, the city is continuing with the creation of “pods” for individuals experiencing homelessness. 

On Monday the city council authorized the director of the Community and Economic Development Office, also known as CEDO, to enter into five construction contracts, distributing nearly $1.5 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds previously set aside for the project. 

The pod site is expected to include 25 single-occupancy and five two-person shelters equipped with electricity, heat and air conditioning at the city-owned parking lot of 51 Elmwood Ave. in the Old North End. A building with communal showers and toilets is also planned. 

Infrastructure work on the site was scheduled to begin Friday, according to CEDO’s website. The pods were originally supposed to be open by July, but the city is now aiming to have them ready by late fall. 

Even as it gears up for construction, CEDO has yet to announce a management organization to run the pods. However, city leaders suggested the city might be close to making such an announcement. 

“I know that we’ll hopefully have an announcement on a manager soon but we’re not quite ready for that yet,” said City Councilor Joe Magee, P-Ward 3, at Monday’s meeting. “But we’re moving forward and hopeful for a Nov. 1 open date and look forward to continuing the community outreach whenever we find a manager.”

In June, city officials expressed concern when larger social service organizations in the area, including the Howard Center, ANEW Place and the Committee on Temporary Shelter, rejected the city’s requests to oversee the pods.

In February, the council approved the allocation of almost $3 million in American Rescue Plan Act funds to address the homelessness issue in Burlington — which included almost $1.5 million to create the shelter and almost $1 million for a community resource center that would offer food and employment assistance to those experiencing homelessness. 

The five contracts approved Monday night included contracts with 2nd Gen Builders, LLC for construction management, with ​​Up End This for the pods and with Pallet for shelter products and services. 

In addition to struggling to find someone to manage the pods, the city has also encountered supply-chain issues, CEDO Director Brian Pine told VTDigger in late June.

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Juliet Schulman-Hall

About Juliet

Juliet Schulman-Hall recently graduated from Smith College, majoring in English, minoring in sociology and concentrating in poetry. Most recently, she has worked for MassLive covering abortion and the environment, among other topics. Prior to that, she worked for Ms. Magazine and has done freelance work for PBS's Next Avenue and Arkansas Nonprofit News Network.

Email: [email protected]

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