The Burlington Free Press reports that Burlington's Spectrum Youth and Family Services has been selected as the agency of the year by the National Network for Youth. The award is presented annually "to honor the vital role that youth agencies play in the healthy development of youth, families and communities." In a news release announcing the award, Spectrum was called "a model for otheragencies." Notably, "Spectrum has offered shelter, counseling and support to at-risk and homeless youths since 1970."
Shelter & Affordable Housing
Vermont Public Radio reports that Governor Jim Douglas has put forth a plan to cut money for Vermont's housing and land conservation program to save money for various human service programs. Under the Governor's plan, "all funding for the state's land conservation program would be frozen for one year," and the affordable housing budget would be reduced by $4 million. Douglas believes that new federal funds can help fill the $4 million gap. In response, "the Vermont Housing and Conservation Coalition says the proposal would derail dozens of important projects." Kenn Sassarossi with Housing Vermont noted that the "federal funds [would] come with restrictions that would force the cancellation of projects in Springfield, Troy, Newark, South Burlington, East Barre and Shelburne."
The Brattleboro Reformer reports that "Vermont 2-1-1 saw a big increase in calls this past October, but is keeping up with the high demand for assistance." Vermont 2-1-1 is a service provided by the United Way of Vermont that is "equipped to help Vermont residents with almost any issue including child care needs, housing, food and drug and alcohol problems."Through the service, "Vermonters who pick up the phone and dial 211 will receive help when it comes to getting in touch with the local agencies that can assist them." Notably, "in October, 2,382 calls were made to Vermont 2-1-1, the second highest call volume ever in a given month. Referrals for basic needs (food, housing/shelter, material goods, temporary financial aid and transportation) hit an all time high and continue to run higher than any other category."
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Vermont Public Radio reports that Barre resident William Noyes will become Vermont's acting Commissioner of Housing and Community Affairs when current acting Commissioner Molly Dugan steps down later this month. "Noyes joined the Department of Economic Development in June 2006 after serving nine years as second in command of the Vermont National Guard. Prior to working for the guard, Noyes spent more than 20 years working in the private sector."
Vermont Public Radio reports that " Vermont's homeless shelters worry that they'll be confronted by demand this winter that they might not be able to meet." Currently, many of these shelters "are at or near capacity, so they've started to raise money [to] pay for overflow space when the weather turns cold." At the Samaritan House in St. Alban's, for example, five families are already on a waiting list. Executive Director Linda Ryan added, "When temperatures fall, even more clients [will be] looking for help."
Meanwhile, "Burlington's Committee on Temporary Shelter sent letters to supporters last month [to] try to raise money so it can lease space for an overflow shelter for the winter" and "in Vergennes, the John Graham Emergency Shelter bought an apartment building for 'transitional housing.'" John Graham's Executive Director explained that "right now her clients can't even afford the meager costs of the transitional apartments." She concluded, "The shelter is basically sometimes facing some of the same issues that families face. We have to figure out how to pay the utilities, how to heat the units, how to make the mortgages. And what we had hoped is that people would have some income. And what we're finding is people just have none or very, very little.''
The Burlington Free Press reports that the "Vermont Housing and Conservation Board will receive $1,430,000 in federal funding to continue a statewide HIV/AIDS housing and supportive services program." The program "provid[es] long-term rental assistance and short-term housing units, develop[s] HIV/AIDS-designated affordable housing, and support[s] the delivery of basic services by regional AIDS service organizations." The funding will enable the program to "support 40 individuals annually with tenant-based rental assistance, and 171 households with short-term rent, mortgage and utility assistance. Also, 259 people with HIV/AIDS will receive support services each year."
The Burlington Free Press reports that two health clinics in Burlington — the Safe Harbor Clinic South Winooski Avenue and the Pearl Street Clinic — provide health care for the homeless. Notably, the two clinics "treat nearly all of Burlington’s homeless who seek health care — more than 1,200 patients last year." Both clinics also try to help their patients get out of homelessness and have started to see "a rise in the number of [their] patients."
"Safe Harbor’s space includes an examination room, a dental room, offices and a separate waiting room for families with young children. Most Safe Harbor patients do not pay for their care, and nearly all qualify for some kind of health insurance, according to Christine Barton," who staffs the clinic’s front desk. Barton added that "many insured homeless, being constantly on the move, lose track of their coverage." In turn, "staff work to keep their patients insured, and the center’s Health Care for the Homeless Program bails out patients without insurance."
"Pearl Street’s waiting room walls are adorned with photographs taken by its patients. The clinic has a supply closet full of donated personal-hygiene products — toothpaste, deodorant, shaving cream, shampoo — that it hands out to patients. A bowl of condoms sits on a coffee table in an office." According to Physician assistant Lee Orsky, who has worked at the Pearl Street Clinic for 17 years, "The clinic treats homeless youth and young people at risk of becoming homeless." She added, "'Many patients initially come into the clinic to check on a tattoo that might be infected or to get birth control pills.'She said she encourages them to return, establish a health plan and maintain a day planner."
The Rutland Herald reports that "in the midst of a declining housing market that's piling up with foreclosed properties on a national scale, Rutland's municipality is dealing with the after-effects of landlords who cut and run from their losses." In turn, Mayor Mayor Christopher Louras has "asked the aldermen to begin work on an ordinance that would help the city get paid for being the de facto landlord for abandoned properties." More specifically, Louras "hopes the [Aldermen] will pass an ordinance similar to one in Burlington that converts municipality property management expenses into tax liens."
According to the Mayor, "The city has incurred considerable costs dealing with everything from mold and mosquito-related public health hazards to situations involving tenants left in buildings where water and electrical utilities have been stopped." City city building inspector James Simonds commented that "so much of his time has been spent dealing with abandoned properties as of late that he believes his office is 'becoming a property management company.'" Simonds concluded, ""As more and more buildings are foreclosed on, this is only going to get worse."
The Brattleboro Reformer reports that "for the past six years, Brattleboro Area Drop In Center Director Melinda Bussino has been meeting with area social service staff every week to compare notes on the homeless population in Windham County." This group has found that "the number of homeless have been rising in the past few years." In addition, Bussino believes that "the price of fuel is only going to make it more difficult for those who are barely holding on to their places of residence to continue meeting their monthly bills." Bussino added, "I think we are in for a rough spell. The people who are least able to pay for their heat are going to be hit the hardest."
Vermont Public Radio reports that a "housing bill signed into law by President Bush this morning was inspired, in part, by a successful program in Vermont." Indeed, "a key provision of the new law establishes the Affordable Housing Trust Fund, a concept first tried in Vermont 21 years ago." With the establishment of the fund, the federal government will be able "to make grants totaling $500 million a year to states and cities. The local governments will then award money to various nonprofit housing agencies or private developers to build affordable housing." According to U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, the law will "address the very serious problem of homelessness" and will "act as an economic stimulus because home construction [and] rehabilitation create good-paying jobs."
Vermont Public Radio reports that the Champlain Housing Trust has been recognized by the United Nations' agency UN Habitat for operating an affordable housing program that "can serve as models in other parts of the world." The Trust "use[s] public subsidies to help lower-income people buy a house." Chief executive Brenda Torpy explained that "Champlain's homebuyers agree that when they eventually sell, they'll share part of their profit with future owners." She added, "To take our approach, which is give people a substantial support to get in, and then recycle some of that so you don't have to resubsidize every successive buyer. This has been a tremendous benefit to be proven both on behalf of how it works for people who are buying, but also how it works publicly, when we're all concerned about if you spend public money what's the benefit overall.''
The Brattleboro Reformer reports that the Rockingham Area Community Land Trust was presented with a $152,000 check that "will be used for [a] proposed $5.6 million renovation of seven affordable housing buildings in Bellows Falls." The money "will pay for a small piece of the ambitious project that will leverage a mix of state, federal and private money to totally rehabilitate 28 units of affordable apartments on Williams Street Extension, Pine Street and South Street."
The Bennington Banner reports that "U.S. Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vermont, hailed the passage of a major housing bill, which includes the designation of $500 million to help communities create more affordable housing." Welch believes that "a portion of the bill designed to create more affordable housing could have a positive impact on Vermont." Indeed, "the bill establishes a National Affordable Housing Trust Fund, which will provide $500 million in grant funds for states and local communities to distribute. The funding, which will be in place by 2012, will allow organizations and agencies — both non-profit and for-profit — that demonstrate the capacity to build and rehabilitate affordable housing to receive money." Notably, "the trust fund is modeled after programs such as Vermont's Housing Trust Fund, which has generated over 8,500 units of affordable housing statewide since its inception in 1987." Welch noted that "he worked with Financial Services Chairman Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., to develop a funding formula that ensures at least $3 million for Vermont."
The Burlington Free Press reports that "five houses are being built on Barnum Street in the largest effort conducted by Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity. Many of the volunteers who will build the Milton homes work for GE Healthcare Information Technology in South Burlington. The company, formerly known as IDX Systems, is deploying 700 of its 800 employees on four-hour shifts during a two-week period — generating 2,800 hours of labor."
The Addison County Independent reports that a new study by the Vermont Housing Finance Agency (VHFA) has found that "the number of homeless families in Vermont increased by 20 percent over the last seven years, from 429 families in 2000 to 516 families in 2007." Meanwhile, the report found that "from 2000 to 2007, the number of Vermonters who were able to find room in one of the state’s emergency shelters declined — just as the number of homeless families served by the shelters increased." These findings echo the results of the annual “Point-in-Time” homeless census which was conducted one day in January this year. The census found that "2,249 Vermonters had no place of their own to stay that night" and "nearly half of the homeless counted that night were in families, and 503 were children under the age of 18."
According to Elizabeth Ready, director of John W. Graham Emergency Shelter in Vergennes, "The trouble is that many Vermont families are teetering increasingly close to the edge of homelessness — and a single event can sometimes be enough to tip the scales against them." In addition, "homeless families in Vermont are faced with daunting challenges — including a lack of affordable housing."