Vermonters struggling with homelessness hope for expansion of hotel housing program
Throughout the pandemic, Vermont has rented hotel rooms to fight homelessness. FEMA funding supports the emergency housing program through the end of the year.
However, the program is due to expire next Thursday, October 21. Gov. Phil Scott is expected to extend it before then – perhaps at his weekly press conference on Tuesday – but the hundreds of people taking part in the program risk losing the roof over their heads.
April Metcalf is staying at the Hilltop Inn in Berlin as part of the program. She said domestic violence started her fight against homelessness.
“My ex-boyfriend tried to kill me,” Metcalf said. “He’s in jail, but I’m afraid he’s going to get out – and, you know, am I safe?”
Belinda Lamphear became homeless in May despite a long, stable professional experience in the mental health field. She and other residents of the Hilltop Inn are stressed on a daily basis that they could be evicted.
“All I see is a trail of tears if everyone had to go,” Lamphear said. “What are the disabled going to do? I mean, I have half a foot; I have a hand that doesn’t work. There are people in the walkers. There are only people and – where are they going to go? They can’t do that. They would die there.
Scott Pearlman said he noticed a cyclical trend every few weeks during his time on the program. He said people do not periodically know where they will be the next day.
“There are a lot of people here who are good people who are kind of mislabeled as part of this system because they’re kind of bad people or kind of lazy or drug addicts – there are so many. different stereotypes, ”Pearlman said. “And I’m here to tell you – I’m a working taxpayer – you know; I see what they are going through.
The Economics Division of the Vermont Department of Children and Families has offered a stipend of $ 2,500 to anyone still staying at the hotel who chooses to leave. Kathy Marsha said on Friday that she refused.
“We were told that if we didn’t accept it, we would be accommodated as long as we worked with Economics (DCF) and with Capstone (Community Action),” Marsha said. “We did everything we had to do. Now come on! Do what you said you were going to.
Ending the deals is one of the things housing advocates are asking Governor Scott to do while camping on the steps of Statehouse in Montpellier. One of them was a 2018 Democratic candidate for governor.
“Looks like we’re going at least until Tuesday,” said Brenda Siegel. “We hope the governor does the right thing and announces much sooner that he’s going to expand the program to include the thousands of people he took to the streets in July, but we don’t see that happening before.” – so we’re gonna keep pushing so that can be included when this announcement is made on Tuesday. “
Another of the defenders who have sleeping bags with them on the steps has been homeless for more than five years.
“It’s great to have all of this support,” said Josh Lisenby. “I think it’s just something that finally had to be done. It’s just something we’ve been putting off for decades now, literally. Something must be done; it just can’t go on.
The group’s other demands include ending the 12-week limit on state hotel accommodation allowances and creating a cohesive, safe and long-term homelessness plan.