Halfway Hotels
 Vermont's quick fix for homelessness
Investigation by Laura Krantz & Cory Dawson
 

You check into your motel, plop down and the bed crinkles. You pull back a cigarette-burned bedspread, threadbare sheets, and find a bed-bug infested mattress wrapped in plastic and duct tape.

The carpet smells like dog urine. From across the parking lot, other guests stare.

And you may have to live in this room for 28 days.

To top it all off, your fiancé’s mother just died, you’ve been laid off, and your two children want to go to the playground.

This is the story of Sara Bowen and her family’s first journey into homelessness, which began with 10 days in the shabby Budget Inn in Barre last month.

And it is the story of thousands of homeless Vermonters that the Department for Children and Families houses each year in motels from Newport to Brattleboro.

Chrystal Stilwell set up a baby bassinet between two motel beds for her 1-month-old son. Wade Johnson Jr. cooked canned food in motel microwaves for 36 days.

Vermont spent $3.2 million last year on motels for homeless families like these. In the past five years, state spending on vouchers ballooned. State officials say they’re creating better alternatives. Meanwhile, plenty of people still end up at the Budget Inn.

Some of the motels the state uses, including the Barre Budget Inn, are unsafe and unsanitary. That plastic on the mattress? It’s to entomb the bed bugs.

Local officials in Barre also found loose wires, piles of trash and holes in the walls at the Knoll Motel, Hollow Inn and Budget Inn. Police in Rutland respond five days a week to the Economy Inn and Suites, where voucher recipients often create disturbances.

And although the state is supposed to enforce motel health and safety codes, inspectors work from 40-year-old state rules that do not address bed bugs or long-term guests.

Meanwhile, housing advocates say the problem is bigger than dirty motel rooms. The lack of affordable housing and lack of programs to prevent homelessness, are the harder, and more important, problems to tackle. If the state dealt with these issues, people would never end up at the Budget Inn in the first place, they say.


 Cassidy and Kaydence Bowen play in a puddle in the parking lot of the Budget Inn
Chrystal Stilwell and her newborn son Logan in their room at the Budget Inn
Part 1: FROM CIGARETTE BUTTS TO DOG FECES

Matthew Cetin, the city’s fire marshal, found serious problems at eight motels and has revved up an “aggressive inspection process” to bring the facilities up to code.

Cetin found cigarette butts and dog feces and bed bugs in rooms. Many motels were just plain run down, he said.

At the Budget Inn on North Main Street he documented mold, holes in the wall, dangling outlets, cooking devices, missing carbon monoxide detectors and people sleeping on bare mattresses.

“These are the same conditions you may find in somebody’s home, but not what you would expect in a hotel,” he said.

At other motels he documented exposed wires, shaky steps and railings and piles of trash that had been building up for a year.

Barre officials struggle with how to handle motels that allow long-term guests. Some people who live in motels do not receive state vouchers and pay out of pocket. Some live in motels for more than a year. Under Vermont law someone who rents a room for longer than 30 days becomes a tenant, but motels often don’t follow housing codes that landlords must obey.

The city of Barre sent violation notices to motels for ignoring housing codes and the motels appealed them, Cetin said.

Barre officials have also sued the Budget Inn over long-term stays. David Singh, who owns the Budget Inn and Knoll Motel, declined to comment for this story.

Meanwhile, state health inspectors, who also inspect motels, seem mostly absent, Cetin said.

The director of the state’s health inspection division said her nine inspectors visit Vermont’s 4,600 restaurants and 900 hotels once a year and more often if they receive complaints, such as one in April about the Knoll Motel in Barre about a missing smoke detector and piles of garbage.

At the Budget Inn, state inspectors in April said rooms 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24 were out of service for “remodeling.” Many of those rooms also failed local inspections six months prior.

Allen Kentner, who lives at the Knoll Motel and helps with maintenance jobs there and at the Budget Inn, opposes the push for higher standards by local and state officials.

“Last year it could have been OK but this year it’s different, it’s fail,” he said. It costs the motels thousands to remodel and update features that in the end don’t pass inspection, he said.

The majority of establishments do pass inspections, according to Elisabeth Wirsing, chief of the state food and lodging inspection program.

Inspectors are enforcing 1975 codes that don’t address concerns specific to long-term stays and how often rooms should be cleaned. The state plans to draft new regulations and seek input.

I.J. Patel at the Hollow Inn just down the road reserves about five of his 41 rooms for state voucher guests.

“Most of the time they take care of themselves,” Patel said.

Patel said state inspections found only minor issues. Inspection reports told a different story. (See the report posted at the end of this story.)

Barre City Fire Marshal Matt Cetin speaks to us in his office in Barre
Allen Kentner, maintenance worker at the Budget Inn and Knoll Motel
Part 1: FROM CIGARETTE BUTTS TO DOG FECES

Matthew Cetin, the city’s fire marshal, found serious problems at eight motels and has revved up an “aggressive inspection process” to bring the facilities up to code.

Cetin found cigarette butts and dog feces and bed bugs in rooms. Many motels were just plain run down, he said.

At the Budget Inn on North Main Street he documented mold, holes in the wall, dangling outlets, cooking devices, missing carbon monoxide detectors and people sleeping on bare mattresses.

“These are the same conditions you may find in somebody’s home, but not what you would expect in a hotel,” he said.

At other motels he documented exposed wires, shaky steps and railings and piles of trash that had been building up for a year.

Barre officials struggle with how to handle motels that allow long-term guests. Some people who live in motels do not receive state vouchers and pay out of pocket. Some live in motels for more than a year. Under Vermont law someone who rents a room for longer than 30 days becomes a tenant, but motels often don’t follow housing codes that landlords must obey.

The city of Barre sent violation notices to motels for ignoring housing codes and the motels appealed them, Cetin said.

Barre officials have also sued the Budget Inn over long-term stays. David Singh, who owns the Budget Inn and Knoll Motel, declined to comment for this story.

Meanwhile, state health inspectors, who also inspect motels, seem mostly absent, Cetin said.

The director of the state’s health inspection division said her nine inspectors visit Vermont’s 4,600 restaurants and 900 hotels once a year and more often if they receive complaints, such as one in April about the Knoll Motel in Barre about a missing smoke detector and piles of garbage.

At the Budget Inn, state inspectors in April said rooms 8, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, 21, 22, 23, 24 were out of service for “remodeling.” Many of those rooms also failed local inspections six months prior.

Allen Kentner, who lives at the Knoll Motel and helps with maintenance jobs there and at the Budget Inn, opposes the push for higher standards by local and state officials.

“Last year it could have been OK but this year it’s different, it’s fail,” he said. It costs the motels thousands to remodel and update features that in the end don’t pass inspection, he said.

The majority of establishments do pass inspections, according to Elisabeth Wirsing, chief of the state food and lodging inspection program.

Inspectors are enforcing 1975 codes that don’t address concerns specific to long-term stays and how often rooms should be cleaned. The state plans to draft new regulations and seek input.

I.J. Patel at the Hollow Inn just down the road reserves about five of his 41 rooms for state voucher guests.

“Most of the time they take care of themselves,” Patel said.

Patel said state inspections found only minor issues. Inspection reports told a different story. (See the report posted at the end of this story.)


BED BUGS 
 

Under current code, the state can’t punish motels for bed bugs. Since the pests haven’t been proven to transmit disease, they are not considered a public health threat, said Elisabeth Wirsing, who heads the food and lodging inspection program at the state health department.

But inspectors do work with motels to deal with bed bug and other pest problems, she said.

Allen Kentner, the maintenance man at the Knoll Motel and Budget Inn, said he eliminated bed bugs at both motels. His trick is to put plastic over the mattress and tape it shut.

“We used the sprays on them that’s meant for them and then we wrap them in plastic. It chokes them,” he said.

Cetin said only powerful heat treatment kills bed bugs.

Listen to the conflicting viewpoints. 


IMAGES OF THE KNOLL MOTEL TAKEN DURING A BARRE CITY INSPECTION
Photos courtesy of Matt Cetin/Barre City Fire Dept. 
 Room Interiors
Basement
BACK ON YOUR FEET AFTER YOU'RE NOT

Into the bed bugs and filth come homeless families, many with children 6 years old or younger. Some are victims of catastrophe, others victims of themselves. For many it’s both.

“As soon as they said you’re going to the Budget Inn the only thing that crossed my mind was the shooting that was here,” Bowen said.

The family has moved three times since 18-month-old Kaydence was born. Bowen and her fiancé Shawn Sedor have never been homeless before.

“It’s such a slap in my own face. I would never have thought that I would put my kids in this situation,” she said.

The family was kicked out of a rent-to-own trailer and qualified for 28 days in the motel but DCF cut the stay short when they found out Sedor had a small retirement savings account.

DCF requires most voucher recipients to pay 30 percent of their income toward the motel and use any savings. Bowen and Sedor also pay nearly $500 a month for their car, loan payments to two for-profit online universities, $75 a month to store belongings.

At the other end of the L-shaped motel in July was Chrystal Stilwell, 28, with her boyfriend and then 4-week-old son. Life has thrown her curveballs, Stilwell says, but she also lives with the consequences of some admittedly poor choices.

“It’s definitely hard to get back on your feet after you’re not,” she said.

Stilwell’s income, derived from food stamps, Social Security disability and a state grant, amounts to about $1,600 total per month. She hesitates to get a job because she would lose her $772 monthly disability pay.

People shouldn’t be required to use part of their income toward motels because they need to be saving for an apartment, she said.

Stilwell doesn’t eat much because the Subutex she takes to quell her drug addiction leaves her with little appetite. She has had run-ins with DCF child protection workers, lost all or partial custody of her three older children and worries they could take her 2-month-old away.

She can't legally drive because an ex-boyfriend totaled her car, and she has several motor vehicle charges, she said.

Stilwell qualified for a discounted apartment through the federal Section 8 housing program, but lost it when she was evicted after a 16-year-old she let live with her trashed the place, she said.

She was evicted from the most recent place she lived, with her mother, after reporting safety code violations to the fire marshal, she said. While she was pregnant she had bronchitis and lost her job after a longer than expected hospital stay, she said.

At first Stilwell said the social worker at the community organization that helps people find housing was hard to reach and not helpful. A few weeks later, when the organization, Capstone Community Action, helped her find a 1.5 bedroom apartment on Spaulding Street and paid the deposit, she sung their praises.

Stilwell didn’t feel safe at the Budget Inn. “There’s a lot of people in this hotel that aren’t all mentally stable,” she said.

Earlier this summer guests at the Budget called the police to report a man who had a knife in the parking lot, she said.

Barre police said they don’t have a record of that incident, but it doesn’t take long for Chief Tim Bombardier to query his database and find many records of mischief at motels, some caused by people on vouchers.

“There’s some level where, OK, we as people or as an agency deserve some blame, but we’re not the total problem,” he said.

The chief thinks motels are a bad temporary solution for homelessness. He wouldn’t house a family at the Budget Inn, or stay there himself.

“The system needs to change,” he said. Two or three nights would be one thing, he says, but there are houses and apartments for rent in Barre.

Bombardier said some people have unreasonable expectations about where they want to live. Others choose to be homeless, he says.

The problem is not in Barre alone. In Rutland, Police Chief Jim Baker said his officers respond to the Economy Inn and Suites on U.S. 7 about five times a week.

“It’s quickly becoming a location where we’re called more than other locations in the city,” Baker said.

City officials have threatened to withdraw the license for the Economy Inn, but hesitate because they know it’s a haven for homeless people who have nowhere else to go.

The motel needs 24-hour supervision, for starters, Baker said. And state money funneled to “shoddy” establishments like this one create no incentive for them to clean up, Baker said.

Seven Days has reported similar problems with motels used by the state in Burlington.
 Chrystal Stilwell and her newborn son Logan. Chrystal speaks about  the effect drug use has played in her life. 
Barre Police Chief Tim Bombardier in his office. Bombardier speaks about taking responsibility for yourself.
Sara Bowen watch her daughters Cassidy and Kaydence play in a puddle at the Budget Inn in Barre.
CASH FLOWS FROM THE STATE TO MOTELS

While local officials, police and people like Bowen and Stilwell are frustrated with the motels, the state says the program is essential to keep families, disabled people and the elderly off the streets.

The state funnels more and more money into the voucher program each year.

Vouchers are part of an $11 million DCF program known as General Assistance, which sometimes also pays for rent, mortgage payments, fuel and utilities, personal items and medical needs. DCF says it uses motels when other housing options, like crashing with family, friends or at a shelter, isn’t possible.

People must meet several criteria, including that they have exhausted all other income and resources, like Sedor’s 401(k). People are allotted up to 28 days if they are considered part of the “vulnerable population,” while those who are victims of “catastrophic situations” get up to 84 days, usually seven days at a time.

DCF Commissioner Dave Yacovone said depending on temperatures this winter (eligibility criteria loosen in the winter) he thinks he can come in on budget.

“If we can get more shelter in the Burlington area, where most of the pressures are, I believe I can come in on budget,” he said.

Shelters are supposed to be the first option for people who need a place to sleep. Yacovone said they are often full, or people don’t want to use them. DCF is strategizing now about how to make more shelter beds available for the winter, he said.

Meanwhile, DCF knows people abuse the voucher system, he said.

Yacovone said he was surprised to learn about the unsanitary and unsafe conditions at the Barre motels. He vowed to visit them and said people who find the rooms unsatisfactory should report them to the state health department.

DCF asks the health department for inspection reports about motels it uses to house people and assumes motels that pass are acceptable, he said. People should report problems to DCF, he said.

“We won't fix it unless people call it in,” he said.

In response to police concerns, Yacovone said vouchers alone are not the problem.

“If they’re not in the motel, they’re in the community,” he said.

Yacovone said the increase in the number of people using motel vouchers is linked to the lingering effects of the recession and a 2009 decision to loosen eligibility rules.

A new law that took effect in May reduced the percentage of income people must pay in order to stay in motels from 50 percent of the cost to 30 percent. Extremely poor people, such as a family of four making less than $1,064 per month, would not be required to contribute.

Bowen and Stilwell said the money they put toward hotel stays leaves them with less cash to save for an apartment. Yacovone said people should contribute what they can. The median rent in Barre for a two-bedroom apartment is $950 per month, according to the Vermont Housing Data project.

There are few caseworkers to help people find housing but DCF officials say the system has greatly improved over the last 30 years.

Yacovone touted several efforts DCF uses to help people find apartments and avoid becoming homeless in the first place.

The state this year doubled the funding for the Vermont Subsidy Program, a state version of Section 8 housing, which brought total spending up to $1 million.

DCF also streamlined the application process for vouchers recently, after a 2012 report characterized the administrative structure for obtaining vouchers as “seriously flawed.”

In addition, the state in 2013 worked to build more room in shelters, especially in Chittenden County, where the bulk of motel placements occur. Shelters and friends and family are always supposed to be a first resort for homeless Vermonters.

The Champlain Housing Trust purchased Harbor Place, a former motel that has been transformed into transitional housing. The facility has 30 rooms at a rate of $38 per night versus the average cost of $60 a night in other motels. Last winter 100 percent of the rooms were full.

The state keeps a spreadsheet of 147 hotels, motels and campgrounds where it sends families.

 WHAT IS GENERAL ASSISTANCE ?
 

Vermont Department for Children and Family rules define General Assistance (GA) as "an emergency financial assistance program for eligible applicant households whose emergency needs, according to department standards, cannot be met under any other assistance program administered by the department and cannot be relieved without the department's intervention.”

A person qualifies for 28 days if a member of the household:
A. Is 65 years old or older
B. receives SSI or SSDI
C. Is 6 years old or younger
D. Is in the third trimester of pregnancy

There is also a point system that qualifies other households with criteria including having an open case with child protection workers at DCF, being a disabled veteran and having been recently discharged from the hospital.

GA Housing Program Unduplicated Count of Households Served

The state also runs a rental subsidy program, an alternative to motels. Participants pay a percentage of their income toward rental costs and the state pays the difference directly to landlords, similar to the federal Section 8 program.

That program was allocated $1 million this year, double the amount from last year. The motel program got $2.4 million out of the total $11 million general assistance budget.

The program housed 57 people in 2013, according to DCF. The state paid an average amount of monthly rent of $642 and tenants paid about $293.

Families stayed on the program for an average of 11 months. About a third of the families moved off the program by December 2013 onto another subsidized housing program, a third moved off because their earnings increased and a third left because of non-compliance, according to DCF.

Source

 
 WHAT IS THE RENTAL SUBSIDY  PROGRAM?
BAND-AID, NOT SOLUTION
102% 
 

Data: (January-June 2014)

9,503 – emergency housing requests
6,932 – housing only requests granted
14,752 – total nights paid for
$60 – average cost per night
$892,422 average total costs

Primary stated cause of homelessness:
1. Domestic violence/child abuse
2. Other
3. Household conflict or change in size
4. Eviction with cause

84 maximum days per year for temporary housing for “catastrophic” circumstances
28 maximum days for “vulnerable populations”

Dave Yacovone, the commissioner of the Department of Children and Families, said he was surprised to learn about the unsanitary and unsafe conditions at the Barre motels.
Austin Johnson lives in the Hilltop Motel with his parents.
Liz Genge, director of property management at Central Vermont Community Land Trust, is part of a team of service providers that meets weekly to address housing problems for homeless Vermonters.

The motel voucher program is the butt of criticism from many who work with the homeless.

Chris Curtis, an attorney at Vermont Legal Aid who co-chairs the governor’s Pathways Out of Poverty council, says motels are a Band-Aid, not a solution.

“Housing homeless people in motels for less than a month on average is not a safe, long-term affordable housing solution,” Curtis said.

Yacovone says motels are an important temporary transition for moving homeless people into more permanent housing.

“It’s that fine line between enabling somebody and helping somebody to move toward independence,” he said.

Eric Peterson, a service coordinator at Capstone Community Action, said DCF not only issues the vouchers but also connects people with service organizations like his.

Capstone and other nonprofit social service agencies help people in the voucher program learn life skills and find apartments. But caseloads are heavy. The Capstone field worker in Barre, for example, juggles around 60 cases, connecting people with services and life skills classes.

“They definitely have a lot on their plate,” Peterson said.

Meanwhile, housing advocates are pushing for more affordable long-term choices. They are also trying to coax landlords into renting to tenants with rocky rental histories.

Erhard Mahnke, coordinator for the Vermont Affordable Housing Coalition, says rental assistance and places to live with in-house services are especially needed.

Wade Johnson Jr. and his family spent about 40 days in motels in Barre this year. His Capstone worker told them she was too busy to help, he said.

The family is frustrated because the state planned to cancel their $700 per month Reach Up assistance when they reached the five-year maximum. Later DCF said it had made a mistake, Johnson’s wife, Christy, said.

They also spent a few days living in their car after DCF said they weren’t eligible for a motel. Then officials said they made a mistake and granted another voucher.

“We feel like little kids. The state feels like the parents and we’re the little kids and they tell us everything they can and cannot do,” Johnson said.

Johnson has a work-related injury and his wife can’t lift more than 5 pounds, he said. They volunteer to maintain their Reach Up assistance and receive about $600 in food stamps.

Johnson cooks canned food in the microwave of the Hollow Inn, one of several motels the family has stayed in over the course of a month, but he misses making his specialty -- spaghetti sauce.

Their two boys Austin, 9, and James, 3, said they like living in motels. They also like eating lots of cereal. The Hilltop Motel “made me feel bigger because of how small the room was,” Austin said.

The family was living with Christy’s parents but left after an argument over how to raise Austin and James, Johnson said.

The Johnsons' problems are not uncommon. Job loss, expensive health problems and chronic poverty are frequent reasons why people become homeless. Local landlords know who the problem renters are and “once bitten, are twice shy,” as Peterson puts it.

The common denominator is instability. Circumstances that lead to homelessness are half avoidable and half beyond a person's control, Peterson says.

“There’s usually a lot of other crisis going on in their life, it’s not just the housing,” Peterson said.

In Barre, Liz Genge is part of a relatively new team of service providers that meets weekly. The group cuts across agencies and is comprised of housing advocates, local churches, nonprofit groups, mental health workers, Department of Corrections staff and others.

Genge, the director of property management at Central Vermont Community Land Trust, is one of several housing providers at the meetings. Over the course of two hours, the group discusses options for about 50 families each week.

Similar teams are popping up across the state. It's part of a new strategy to bring together social service providers in “catch-all” meetings to discuss clients who use multiple services or who could benefit from services they don’t know about.

The land trust rents to low-income people but tenants have to make enough money to afford the rent.

“It hurts when you can’t rent to them. It’s hard to say, ‘sorry you don’t qualify.’ Where are they going at night?” Genge said.

Household income needed to afford a two-bedroom apartment in Barre City: $36,000. Assuming housing amounts to one-third of household income.

Percentage of average monthly Social Security income ($762) needed for a one-bedroom apartment in Barre City: 102 percent.

Source

In each of the past three years the state budgeted about $1.5 million for emergency housing. That amount has consistently been inadequate to cover the cost.

This year the Legislature added $2.6 million to the program in the mid-year budget adjustment cycle. Budget writers asked DCF to use motels vouchers less frequently in the coming year.

Comments

  1. Important read. We can do better.

    One correction: the Champlain Housing Trust purchased and created Harbor Place, not DCF:
    http://vtdigger.wpengine.com/2013/10/28/motel-converted-emergency-housing-homeless/

    • Tom Brown :

      Thanks Chris. We noticed and corrected. Tom Brown, VTD

  2. Matt Fisken :

    Laura and Corey are really earning their keep. Thanks so much for this look at an overlooked part of Vermont about which we should all care more.

  3. Add this shocking and sad story to the two articles on Vermont’s drug problem that appeared on the front pages of the New York Times earlier this year and Gov. Shumlin almost has a platform to run on for reelection.

    Add the tens of millions of dollars wasted on an ego driven state health insurance exchange, Jerry Dodge, the mystery financing for single payer and the platform is near completion.

    This is reality at a time when the Governor spouts off about low unemployment and a great Vermont economy.

    Can anyone say why Mr. Shumlin deserves to be re-elected?

    • If you think heroin and homelessness and the inadequate responses to each began with the Shumlin administration, you must be new here.

      • Rahmi Kart :

        Finger-pointing is too easy John – we see it on the national stage weekly too. At what point, exactly, does the incumbent own it?

  4. As one who once worked on affordable housing and homelessness, let me say, good job, Diggers!

  5. Christopher Teel :

    First, this is an excellent piece of journalism.

    Second, I would like to encourage people to support their local shelters in whatever way they are able. I was a weekly overnight volunteer at the shelter in Barre for two years and they do very good work there. They are in need of more overnight volunteers, and of course are always in need of donations of money, food, or supplies (detergent, toiletries, clothing, etc.).

    One story I would like to relate concerns a gentleman who took a homeless friend of his into his own home out of the kindness of his heart. I don’t know all the particulars, but after a certain period of time, relations deteriorated and he asked this man to leave. As it turns out, in Vermont if one has been living at a place for a certain period of time, he can claim that as his domicile, and long story short it was nearly impossible to evict this man (despite the fact that he was not even paying rent). This is the kind of situation that the legislature should address; we ought not have a system where no good deed goes unpunished.

    The crux of this problem, as the article makes clear, is that it’s both a systemic and an individual one. How do we on the one hand provide societal support for the homeless, while on the other encourage more constructive behaviors? And how can we simultaneously patch the social safety net and address steeply rising property taxes, which must in turn raise rents and turn more people out into the streets?

    In any case, I would also like to commend the churches for the work they do for the homeless. In Barre, the various congregations and ministers provide meals every day of the week as well as different sorts of assistance.

    Finally, it’s too bad Mr. Racine got fired. He is a good man, and I’m sure he was doing his best with what resources he had to address these and other problems.

  6. Fred Woogmaster :

    The disparity between those who have far more than they need and those who have far less than they need is obscene – in America!

  7. Brooke Salls :

    Chris,
    We should connect around your testimonial to the need and the work, after all the work you have done to serve homeless folks at the Haven. Well-written pieces like this can serve a great deal of good to bring awareness!

  8. Well done VTDigger! Not only excellent journalism, but I love the use of multi-media to tell the whole story.

  9. Connie Godin :

    The police in VT are of no help except to tell people to not sleep anywhere. There is no place to go. Addiction is a health matter treated as a crime. All people deserve food and shelter. Issues Chief Bombadier, really, if you were out on the street you’d have issues too.

  10. Connie Godin :

    Agree

  11. ray giroux :

    Vermont does not exist in a void. What’s going on in our Nation is a big part of Vermont’s problems, we are part of the problem. (I would just like to remind everyone about who has been running the show for the past 6 – 7 years)

    If you have been in the “Main Stream Media Fog” lately, wake up! The Government controls the narrative and what we hear is, “we are recovering, plenty of jobs, growing economy, Wall Street is booming” and on and on. It is not reality. Our jobs have been sent elsewhere, what we do produce here in our country, no one wants. Not our GMO crops/food, not our “back door” electronics, not our faulty military weapons and certainly, not our Foreign Policies. Our Foreign Policies are why some countries hate the US, at this point, and are starting to opt out of the US dollar for trade, especially for oil. Yes, all the wars and invasions is for the oil. (oil is bad for your health so why do they keep fighting to gain control of and profit from – that)

    What we are seeing here at home has been going on, going on in the shadows, since before the BIG crash of “08”. It’s been building since they shipped our jobs to China and then blew up the Trade Center in NYC.

    So, Vermont, not living in a Utopian Bubble, means we are in the same dire straights as all other States, SOME States having declared bankruptcy.

    Strange how the very people who have gotten us into this mess keep getting re-elected. Kill your TV!

  12. Bob Dobalina :

    I have to say that while this article has very good intentions, it doesn’t address an essential part of the solution. With all of the barriers that many of these families face, moving them into a permanent residence via voucher isn’t going solve the greater issues that this population often faces. Many of the towns in Vermont lack viable short and long term shelters that would not only provide the essential safe housing these clients need, but also provide in house services to address the barriers that may have contributed to their homelessness in the first place. Why not allot the GA funding to willing housing coalitions and other potential partners, to create, safe, clean housing that allows for proper staffing that would support the needs of the clients, (E.G. mental health and substance abuse services) and provide some accountability with regards to follow through. To say that the hotels are solely responsible for the conditions of the hotel rooms would be excluding a big part of the problem. A lot of these similar motels that fall under the public scrutiny of this article are victims of having their room’s trashed and soiled beyond repair. That leaves the state with few options on where they can house this vulnerable population. If you want to change this cycle, than we need to fund more effective means of adequate housing, that can also support families towards change and independence.

  13. Karen Ranz :

    Bob, I have to agree. Service-enhanced supportive housing is a model that’s proven. CSH.org has an immense amount of usable information on the model. Most shelters I’ve known, on the other hand, are far short of being able to provide more than just some oversight of residents’ actions to improve their own situations short-term, just as more funding for social service programs doesn’t seem to be working long-term. This is where service-enhanced housing is much more effective in addressing community needs. It’s a model more that’s more economically efficient than other efforts for helping chronically at-risk individuals and families, particularly those individuals at risk for recidivating.
    The number of community land trusts in Vermont are part of what drew me here. They and other LIHTC affordable rental housing producers are doing wonderful work, but these are not necessarily focused on nor able to address underlying causes and consequences of poverty, particularly where mental illness and co-occurring disorders are involved. Even still, there are the effects of income instability or outright poverty which negatively impact a person’s executive functions – the ability to juggle multiple competing and shifting demands, to make decisions in one’s best interest more generally, to avoid impulsive reactions and delay gratification. And then there’s cyclical, generational poverty which can be self-perpetuating.
    In the case of Rutland City, Mayor Louras has unilaterally declared a moratorium on any more decent, affordable rental housing being developed. I understand what he claims as his justification – reverse discrimination until the surrounding town of Rutland has caught up in terms of affordable units on the market, a marginal difference. I think it’s absurd to push low-wage working families into the town or county, further from access to public transportation, early childhood and other programs they value, from family and other informal support networks, away from shopping and services, in some cases jobs and in other cases sidewalks, when the supply altogether is insufficient to address the need. The alternative for low-wage working families here is to remain severely housing burdened, hoping that one unexpected, insurmountable event doesn’t happen and they don’t also end up taking their children to live in a motel room indefinitely.

Comments

*

Comment Policy

VTDigger.org requires that all commenters identify themselves by their authentic first and last names. Initials, pseudonyms or screen names are not permissible.

No personal harrassment, abuse, or hate speech is permitted. Be succinct and to the point. If your comment is over 500 words, consider sending a commentary instead.

We personally review and moderate every comment that is posted here. This takes a lot of time; please consider donating to keep the conversation productive and informative.

The purpose of this policy is to encourage a civil discourse among readers who are willing to stand behind their identities and their comments. VTDigger has created a safe zone for readers who wish to engage in a thoughtful discussion on a range of subjects. We hope you join the conversation.

Privacy policy