The town of Rutland has come to a financial agreement with the Days Inn, a hotel that provides rooms to unhoused Vermonters during extreme winter weather as part of the state’s emergency shelter program.
The program allows Vermonters “who are homeless and don’t have adequate financial resources to receive housing in hotels or motels that participate in the program,” according to a summary from the Department for Children and Families. The program runs from Dec. 15 to March 15, and people who qualify can stay for up to 30 days.
The town selectboard’s negotiation with the Days Inn stems from municipal officials’ concerns that policing needs in the area near the hotels are greater than what the town’s tiny police force can handle. Officials report a spike in crime near the hotels, and blame it in part on the state’s housing programs.
Rutland Town has just four officers, according to Police Chief Ed Dumas. Since 2019, total calls to police in the southern end of town have risen from 158 calls out of 989, to 1,446 calls out of 2,016 in 2022, Dumas said.
While the chief noted that the hotels are located in the southern area, he cited increased calls from stores in the vicinity, not the hotels themselves.
Dumas said the hotels’ financial support for patrolling the plaza has “been plenty,” but the town remains short on officers. He said he’s checked with the Rutland County Sheriff’s Department, but it has no officers to spare.
Rutland Town does have two constables who aid the small police force: One covers speed enforcement in the town, and the other either patrols the plaza or patrols the neighborhoods, “just so there’s somebody in the rest of town, doing what we should be doing,” Dumas said.
Rutland Town Selectboard Chair Don Chioffi said that, while the community is a “very progressive” and “very compassionate town,” the rise in crime in the southern plaza “has been endemic,” and “we can't deal with this imposed solution that the state has.”
“It's not appropriate for a state to impose these kinds of costs on a local community without giving them the financial support to sustain it,” he said.
With no financial help from the state, the town has turned to the hotels that the state is paying to house people. The agreement between the Days Inn and the Rutland Town Selectboard requires the hotel to pay $4,070 for December, and $7,200 for the three months remaining until the program ends in March, “to cover additional policing expenses related to cold weather housing,” according to Jan. 31 selectboard minutes.
“We agreed to take care of this,” Days Inn owner Vidyasagar Gudipelly said about the payments to the town. “We thought it was reasonable, and we were able to come to that agreement to help the town.”
The agreement isn’t the only financial negotiation between Rutland Town and local hotels. Last fall, Chioffi said, the selectboard also entered a financial agreement with Anil Sachdev, owner of the Cortina Inn and Quality Inn, two hotels that house people under the state’s transitional housing program.
“Starting with the Cortina Inn, we've been asking them, ‘Hey, listen, you got to share some of this wealth you're getting from the state because one of the responsibilities you have is to provide for law enforcement problems you're creating down there,’” Chioffi said.
The transitional housing program, which began in July 2022, allows Vermonters who qualify to get housing for up to 18 months in a post-pandemic effort to provide stability to people experiencing homelessness, Katarina Lisaius, senior adviser to the DCF commissioner, told VTDigger last July.
Sachdev agreed last fall to pay the town $22,500 per month until the program’s completion, and a one-time $75,000 payment to cover the previous two years of the program, according to the Rutland Herald.
Sachdev could not be reached by phone on Monday.
In Rutland Town, a combined 204 households are staying in either the Cortina Inn or the Quality Inn under the transitional housing program, according to Nicole Tousignant, economic benefits director of the Department for Children and Families.
As for the Days Inn, Gudipelly said he has allocated 24 rooms out of 97 total for the emergency housing program. He said he has not observed any crimes, but the staff reports some rules have been broken, most commonly for smoking in areas where it’s not permitted.
“He, along with our police chief, have been closely monitoring it and there are some problems there, but the problems there have been very minimal,” Chioffi said of Gudipelly.
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