…And It Begins

Even as the Legislature moves forward with a budget that will end the motel voucher program this spring, local people are preparing to deal with the consequences. One little piece of that is covered in the new issue of The Bridge, Montpelier’s twice-monthly paper, in a front page story entitled “Local Orgs Prep for 30% Increase in Homeless Population.” (The above photo accompanies the online version of the story.)

The story outlines the frantic preparation efforts involving municipal officials and local nonprofits. It’s pretty damn daunting stuff, and I’m sure a parallel version could be written in any one of Vermont’s cities and larger towns — well, those blessed with an active media presence, anyway.

Short version: Local shelters are full, and the end of the voucher program will increase the area’s unhoused population by an estimated 30%. Two nonprofits that provide shelter and assistance, Good Samaritan Haven and Another Way, are trying to raise $20,000 to pay for camping supplies, food, medical supplies, and other basics.

Yeah, “camping supplies.” We’re giving tents to our unhoused and sending them out to fend for themselves.

The city of Montpelier allocated $425,000 in its current budget for addressing homelessness. That money is likely to run out. The city may open another shelter in its Barre Street Recreation Center, but would have to bear the cost of preparations (the building has issues with lead, asbestos, and lack of accessibility). and would need someone to operate it. Good Samaritan says it doesn’t have the capacity to do so.

These are small-bore examples of what I’ve said before: The costs resulting from ending the voucher program will exceed the cost of extending it. But the state won’t have to pay, at least not directly, so the budget writers can pretend these consequences don’t exist. At least for now.

The Bridge reported in November that Washington County had 434 people considered homeless. Of that number, 314 were in motels, 65 were in shelters, and 55 were unsheltered. At the time, Rick DeAngelis, co-executive director of Good Samaritan, told The Bridge, “All these years in affordable housing, I have never seen a situation this bad with homelessness.”

Now we’re about to make that situation 30% worse, thanks to Gov. Phil Scott and our Democratic Legislature, both of which profess to make protecting our most vulnerable a core principle of their governance. It is to laugh. The Bridge:

Ericka Reil, chair of the Barre City homelessness task force, reported to the Barre City Council last week: “[The state is] exiting … people from the hotels. Currently (there’s) no plans where folks are going to be housed. All the shelters are full. Where are folks going to be? They’re going to be on the streets. In Montpelier, Berlin, Barre — (there are) no plans where folks are going to be.”

And yet, somehow, legislative budget writers careen blithely toward this humanitarian cliff. Meanwhile, local officials and nonprofits don’t have the luxury of looking the other way.

This is bad, folks. And it’s just beginning.

If you’d like to help fill the gap that our political leaders are leaving on our collective doorstep, consider giving to a local agency like Good Sam that provides shelter or helps the unhoused. They’ve been stretched to the max, and they’re about to get another couple turns of the rack.

I still can’t believe we’re doing this.


3 thoughts on “…And It Begins

  1. montpelier28

    Where are people supposed to put these tents etc. I cannot think of a place that people will not object to or there is not a local ordinance against. Used to be in the old days “the jungle” down by the rr tracks. Looks like it may be that way again soon. On second thought the rr isn’t going to let that happen anymore either.

  2. Fubarvt

    “I still can’t believe we’re doing this.”

    I can and am not surprised at all, considering that it’s all about protecting property and wealth at the expense of everything and everyone else.

  3. zim

    One of the obvious unstated motivations is to create pressures that push the ‘unproductive’ and ‘unredeemable’ social elements out of the pure, lilly-white liberal metropolis of Vermont. This state has one of the stingiest and incompetent social welfare systems ever and that is in keeping with the bullshit narratives Vermont and its elites serve up to the public about how ‘good and moral’ Vermont is when in reality, its nothing more than branding, nothing more than a dreary middle-class morality play where poor people, people of color, etc are just props to be used to defend privilege, wealth and class domination (Virtue Hoarders: The Case against the Professional Managerial Class).

    The poor and homeless are, of course, a drag on the economy, hoovering up resources that rich white liberals can put to better use – adding additions onto their already monstrous homes in chittenden and addison counties, acquiring 2nd homes, buying up more real estate for ABNBs, new tesla purchases, starting grant farming non-profit orgs, etc The endless needs of the deserving are always more important than the needs of common folk. I suspect that many of the lumpenproletariat are probably trumpian in deposition so the overarching liberal hatred of the untermenschen can express itself legitimately as a bumbling, incompetent bureaucracy instead of the malicious and calculating thing that it is.

    For someone who purports to be an analysis/observer of VT politics, you seem to lack erudition in both the realms of poli-sci and history with regards to the underlying forces that dominate our lives. Not to mention your sociological imagination is bereft of insight as to why your class/race peers in power act they way they do.

    Is this laziness or genuine confusion?


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