Government & Politics

Move-ins to begin this week at Burlington ‘pod’ community

The Elmwood emergency shelter community in Burlington on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. Photo by Patrick Crowley/VTDigger

BURLINGTON — The buzz of table saws still rang in the background Monday as city officials toured the Elmwood emergency shelter, one day before its first residents were scheduled to move in. 

Commonly referred to as “pods,” the 30 small shelters could eventually house up to 35 people. Twenty-five are single-person units and five can accommodate two people each. Two other community buildings contain bathrooms, a kitchen and a common area. 

Move-ins will take place in phases, officials said during a press conference before the tour. The community is expected to be full by the end of the month.

City officials initially hoped to open the Elmwood community in July 2022, but that was delayed to late November, then again to early this year.

“The need for this project to open is so acute,” said Samantha Dunn, assistant director for community works of the city’s Community and Economic Development Office. “And so every day the shelter wasn't open was interminable for me.”

Dunn said the entire Elmwood project cost about $1.6 million. The bulk of that money came from federal Covid-19 aid.

The Elmwood emergency shelter community in Burlington on Monday, Feb. 6, 2023. Photo by Patrick Crowley/VTDigger

Last year, the city selected Champlain Housing Trust to manage the site. Michael Monte, CEO of the housing agency, said late last week the organization had begun calling people to inform them when they could move into one of the shelters. 

Monte grew emotional while speaking about his staff making those phone calls.

“That’s what it’s about, right?” Monte said. “It’s about meeting people’s needs right where they really need to be. They need to be sheltered and housed.”

Monte said the first step in the selection process was to work with people on the street experiencing homelessness and encourage them to apply. Champlain Housing then went through the applications and tried to screen out anyone with a recent history of violence. But Monte said it was a “low barrier” to be selected.

Brian Pine, director of the Community and Economic Development Office, said 80 people expressed interest in the Elmwood community.

“The need is intense,” Pine said. He sees the Elmwood community as a transition to permanent housing. “The idea here is that at one facility … guests who are staying here at the shelter will have access to services and programs that they previously may have had to schlep all across Burlington or maybe even outside of Burlington to have access to.”

Pine said those services include recovery groups, mobile health and mental health services, and support for people in the criminal justice system. The city’s urban park rangers will perform upkeep at the site, and the police department’s community service liaisons will be on-site as well. Nighttime security will be provided by Chocolate Thunder Security, a Burlington-based contractor.

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Patrick Crowley

About Patrick

Patrick Crowley is VTDigger's Burlington Reporter. Previously, he has worked for the Brattleboro Reformer and wrote as a freelance reporter in Ventura County, California. Patrick is a musician and volunteers as a firefighter and advanced EMT.


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