RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) – Hundreds of homeless people are now eligible for 100 days of accommodation in Vermont hotels under the state’s newly expanded emergency housing program, but can they get a bedroom ?
Under pressure from advocates – and prolonged FEMA assistance – the state announced last week that it would open the doors to its emergency hotel program, but the state says there are at least six times more people in need of help than before the pandemic and at least some of the hotels that opened last year are unwilling to do so now.
A video on social media shows the condition of the Holiday Inn in Rutland as the hotel cleans up its stake in the state’s homeless hotel program. Hotel staff say rooms suffered severe damage during the months when hotels took government bonds that paid homeless people to live there.
Renovations are also underway at the Quality Inn in Rutland. The owner of both hotels said he won’t be accepting vouchers at the moment and is still working on a plan by next month.
“Please don’t host people here,” said Mary Ashcroft, Rutland Town Select board chair. In a letter to Vermont DCF commissioner Sean Brown, she said the board asked the state to reconsider its decision to house homeless people at the Holiday Inn. Ashcroft says the city denied the hotel a liquor license and the hotel had become an increased burden on the police department. “We had to send police to answer the Holiday Inn for things like drug overdoses, suspicious activity, thefts at the Green Mountain Plaza next door.”
The state canceled the hotel program in July with the intention of reverting to its pre-pandemic system of providing emergency vouchers during the worst winter weather conditions. This has led advocates to camp on the steps of Statehouse and pressure the state to continue housing up to 2,500 people without permanent housing at least as long as federal COVID relief funding remains available. “We are letting down the Vermonters – the very vulnerable Vermonters,” said Brenda Siegel, the activist who led the protest.
The state has twice extended the end of the program, then announced last week that it was opening the emergency voucher program regardless of weather conditions from November 22 until March 1 of next year.
“It has been a wonderful institution. Right now it’s going so in the wrong direction, ”Ashcroft said of the hotel. She says people need accommodation, especially as the cold weather approaches, but some of those who have been staying at the hotel need full services that are not provided at the hotel. “They shouldn’t just be stored somewhere. They should get the services they need to move into permanent housing for themselves and their families.
While the new non-weather specific program begins on Monday, the adverse weather policy went into effect on Friday, so people are staying this weekend. In an email, state officials say they have found rooms for those in need this weekend.
Many homeless people in Vermont may return to the hotel-motel program
City of Rutland closes homeless hotel over code violations
Copyright 2021 WCAX. All rights reserved.